AU approves request to boost Somalia peacekeeping force

2010-07-27 11:58

The African Union (AU) has approved a plan to send an extra 2 000 peacekeeping troops to Somalia weeks after rebels launched bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Leaders at an AU summit in Uganda late yesterday approved the plan proposed by the East African bloc to increase the number of troops to 8 000 and authorise peacekeepers to shoot first.

Previous pledges by AU states have not been met. Only Uganda and Burundi currently provide troops.

Jean Ping, the chairperson of the AU commission, said in Kampala on Friday that Guinea and Djibouti were ready to send soldiers.

Leaders gathered for a three-day summit in the Ugandan capital two weeks after two suicide blasts killed 76 people watching the football World Cup final in the city on July 11.

The attack was the first on foreign soil by al-Shabaab, which claims links to the al-Qaeda network. It said the bombings were retaliation for the presence of Ugandan peacekeepers in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he wants to send as many as 20 000 troops to Somalia.

Some analysts question the wisdom of sending more troops to a country where foreign intervention – including an invasion by Ethiopia in late 2006 – has only deepened the crisis.

The theme of the AU summit, which enters its final day on today, is maternal, infant and child health and development in Africa.

But the main topic has been overshadowed by the regional threat posed by Somalia, where analysts say foreign fighters are setting up camp.

Peacekeepers are propping up Somalia’s weak Western-backed government, while al-Shabaab and its allies control much of the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, which has been without an effective central government since 1991.

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