An African Union panel called for international forces to deploy in Somalia, a day after Ethiopia said it would pull out thousands of soldiers sent in to support the country's Western-backed interim administration by the year's end.
AFP - An African Union panel on Saturday urged the United Nations to form a stabilisation force for Somalia, a day after Ethiopia announced it would withdraw its troops from the Horn of Africa state.
The Panel of the Wise urged the UN to authorise "without any further delay the establishment of an international stabilisation force which will build on an enhanced AMISOM (AU force in Somalia) and further the cause of peace".
The move is to "avoid a security vacuum that would compound the situation on the ground and seriously undermine the efforts towards lasting peace and reconciliation," the panel said in a statement
Ethiopia announced Friday it would pull its troops from Somalia by the end of the year, ending an ill-fated two-year occupation but raising fears of a security vacuum in the war-ravaged country.
The government in Addis Ababa said it was "inappropriate ... to maintain its troops in Somalia" and lamented that the international community failed to back them.
"We have done our job and we are proud of it, but the expectations that we had from the international community were never fulfilled. But that said, we will withdraw in a responsible manner," foreign ministry spokesman Wahide Belay said.
Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for Somalia, called Friday for urgent talks with Ethiopia after it announced plans to pull out troops.
AU Commission chief Jean Ping said Ethiopia's hasty withdrawal presented a "disaster scenario," explaining that the 3,600 African peacekeepers have also threatened to pull out as well unless a smooth transition is guaranteed.
Last year, the AU started deploying peacekeepers in Mogadishu, but the force -- comprising Ugandan and Burundian troops -- has failed to curb the daily fighting which has killed thousands of civilians this year alone.
Burundi's Defence Minister Germain Niyoyankana said talks will take place next week with Ugandan officials on the situation in Somalia in the wake of Ethiopia's announcement. Burundi has 1,700 soldiers in Mogadishu.
Ethiopia deployed troops to Somalia to prop up an embattled transitional federal government in 2006 against an Islamist movement that had gained control of much of south and central Somalia.
But since toppling the movement early last year, the Shebab -- a radical wing of the Islamist movement -- has fought relentlessly with the Ethiopian and government forces and gained control of much of Somalia in recent months.
A recent agreement between the more moderate members of the Somali opposition and the transitional government was reached in Djibouti for a gradual withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, but no deadline had been announced.
However, Somalia's insurgent Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who has pegged peace talks on Ethiopia's withdrawal, was sceptical.
"There is no difference between Ethiopian troops and AMISOM, they both kill women and children, displace hundreds of thousands of people," Sheikh Aweys told AFP Friday.
The stabilisation force is to "facilitate the urgent deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation that would take over from AMISOM and support the long-term stabilisation and reconstruction of Somalia," the panel said.
The panel comprises the former presidents of Algeria and Sao Tome and Principe, Ahmed Ben Bella and Miguel Trovoda respectively, plus former AU secretary general Salim Ahmed Salim, South Africa's electoral chief Brigalia Tbam, and Elisabeth Pognon, Benin's former constitutional court chief.
Date created : 2008-11-29