Huffpost WorldPost

African Union Extends Somalia Mandate, Will Impose Sanctions

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The African Union will keep its peacekeeping force in Somalia for two more months, an official said, but there was little hope of deploying extra soldiers before Ethiopian troops pull out at the end of the year.

Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande said late Monday that Nigeria, Burundi and Uganda will send 850 soldiers each to strengthen the current force of around 3,400 A.U. peacekeepers, but international funds were needed to help them deploy. The 53-member A.U. has a mandate to deploy 8,000 soldiers but has been unable to find countries willing to send troops. That had been due to expire in February.

The current force is limited to guarding the seaport, the capital's main airport and government buildings, all in Mogadishu, where there are daily battles between the strengthening Islamist insurgents and unpaid and ill-disciplined pro-government forces. The U.S. State Department says some Islamist leaders have links to al-Qaida.

Ethiopian troops had originally entered Somalia in December 2006 in support of the transitional Somali government. They chased the Islamists from power, but the Islamists launched an Iraq-style insurgency the next year. The Somali government, weakened by corruption and infighting, has been unable to secure the country or provide basic social services for its people.

In recent months, different Islamist forces have seized control of most of southern and central Somalia. The U.N.-backed government is riven between feuding factions. Both sides are divided over a peace deal signed earlier this year between the government and some elements of the Islamists.

The A.U. said it will impose targeted sanctions on government officials undermining the peace process, but did not identify specific individuals. It also contrasted the eagerness of the international community to tackle piracy off Somalia's lawless coast with the reluctant response to ensuring security for Somalis on land.

More than 40 ships have been hijacked off the Somali coast this year, the latest manifestation of lawlessness that has claimed the lives of thousands of Somalis this year.

There are over a dozen warships guarding Somalia's waters. Countries as diverse as Britain, Iran, America, China, France and Germany have naval forces off the Somali coast or on their way there.

But the U.N. has said it has been unable to find any countries willing to contribute to a peacekeeping mission on land.

Half of Somalia is dependent on aid and a generation has grown up with no memory of central government or the rule of law. The last time Somalia had a functioning administration was 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictator then turned clan-based militias on each other.