SOMALIA has urged the early deployment of a UN peacekeeping or stabilising force on its soil but key Western countries said concrete planning options were needed first.

UN peacekeeping

Halkaan ka akhri

July 24, 2008 (AFP) SOMALIA has urged the early deployment of a UN peacekeeping or stabilising force on its soil but key Western countries said concrete planning options were needed first.

“We are hoping that the (UN Security) Council will make a decision in the coming weeks … (and that) the UN will order some kind of international presence, either a peacekeeping force or an international stabilising force,” Somali Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Jama said.

He said that once the UN-brokered truce deal initialed in Djibouti on June 9 by the Somali Government and its main political foes went into into effect, “we are hoping that violence will go down and a climate conducive to deployment will be created”.

He said he expected the Djibouti accord to be formally signed “within three weeks at the most”.

The Djibouti agreement was initialed by the Somali transitional government and several top leaders from the main Islamist-dominated opposition alliance. However, other leading Islamist officials and military commanders have rejected it, insisting that Ethiopian troops propping up the Somali Government unilaterally pull out of Somalia before peace talks can start.

After attending council consultations on Somalia, Mr Jama said many countries were willing to contribute to a peace force and noted that he was “encouraged” by the conversations he had with many council members on this point.

The Horn of Africa country has been in the throes of a brutal civil war since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre.

UN special envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah warned those who have violated human rights in Somalia that they cannot hide and will face justice.

“People who have killed over the years, who continue to kill … should know they are accountable and there is no way and nowhere to hide,” he said.

Mr Ould Abdallah renewed his call for the deployment of an international force in Somalia to help security, reconciliation and humanitarian aid delivery.

He said the Security Council should consider rehatting the underfunded African Union (AU) force currently deployed in Somalia into a UN force. The AU force known as AMISOM has been in Somalia since March 2007 and is to ultimately number 8000 troops. It is currently made up of 2600 Ugandan and Burundian troops.

Another option, Mr Ould Abdallah said, was sending an international stabilisation force as proposed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon or even a full-fledged UN peacekeeping force.

But France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert dismissed the proposal to turn the AU force into a UN operation as “not necessarily the best solution”.

“We must not hurry things. We all agree on sending a stabilisation force. When that force has accomplised its task, then we can look at the deployment of a real peacekeping force. But there is still a lot of planning to do,” he said.

“We hope that by August 15 we will have that planning done by the (UN) secretariat and then based on that planning and looking at the options, there can be a serious discussion,” US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.

Asked whether Washington might be willing to contribute to a force, Mr Khalilzad replied: “There are other capable powers. This is not a huge mission necessarily”.

“We are willing to help, we are already helping with the training of Somalis, with logistics,” he added.

South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said he was very concerned that there was “no naval protection for the humanitarian (convoys)”.

“That’s very worrisome because not only are the humanitarian workers being targeted and killed, now the humanitarian groups are not protected so we hope that will be addressed.”

Earlier, Somalia’s insurgent Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys called for a halt to the killing and kidnapping of aid workers in the violence-riven country facing an acute food shortage.

A total of 19 aid workers have been killed in Somalia this year while 13 others have been abducted, according to the UN.

Agence France-Presse

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