More troops to be sent to Somalia

African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military tanks patrol the streets of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 9, 2009. Photo/REUTERS

Uganda and Burundi are this month expected to send additional soldiers to Somalia, bringing to 5,100 the number of foreign troops deployed to the war-torn country.

According to African Union Special Representative for Somalia Nicolas Bwakira, the two countries have already agreed to send an additional two battalions of 1700 soldiers to Somalia by the end of this month.

Nearly two decades

Nigeria is expected to boost this number and the AU Commission has already approached Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi to send soldiers to the country that has not had peace for nearly two decades.

Speaking at the start of a training workshop for civilian and military staff from the AU and a South Africa-based NGO, Accord, at the Hilton hotel in Nairobi, Mr Bwakira said the recent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu has created a ‘security vacuum.’

He said the AU has confidence that newly-elected Somalia President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed will fulfil his pledge to ensure security in Somalia within the next six months.

“Somalia has gained momentum since the signing of the Djibouti agreement in August last year and we expect the new government of national unity to be in place by the end of this week,” he added.

The UN-sponsored agreement was signed between the Transitional Government and the Somali opposition on August 19 after talks in Djibouti.

Mr Bwakira said the AU commission had allocated $1 million (Sh77m) for the training and allowances of some 2,700  police officers for Somalia, a move, he said would boost the security situation in the country.

The police force is expected to increase to at least 10,000 officers in the coming months. Mr Bwakira described the humanitarian situation in Somalia as critical and said the new government would be expected to deal with it as its first priority.

Last Saturday, the newly-elected president was greeted with mortar attacks at the presidential palace in Mogadishu.