has agreed to a brief delay in its troop pullout from Somalia to allow the
international community time to organize a replacement force. VOA's Peter Heinlein
in Addis Ababa reports the African Union is issuing an urgent appeal for
manpower and funding to strengthen its badly understaffed AMISOM peacekeeping
Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping and Peace and Security Commission chief
Ramtane Lamamra were in Cairo for talks with leaders of the League of Arab
Commissioner Lamamra is to fly on to New York later this
week to consult with the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban
The hastily-arranged trip is aimed at generating
financial support for a rapid increase in the size of the AU AMISOM
peacekeeping mission. AMISOM has worked alongside Ethiopian troops to prop up
Somalia's fragile U.N.-backed transitional government.
In a letter sent to potential donors this week,
Commissioner Lamamra said Uganda and Burundi, the two nations that supply
almost all the 3,400 AMISOM troops in Somalia, had each offered to supply an
additional battalion of 850 troops. Military analysts said such a manpower
surge would just about make up for the departing Ethiopian contingent of about
AU officials said one country, Norway, has given a
tentative positive response, while others promised to have an answer within a
day or two.
An Ethiopian foreign ministry official, who asked for
anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said Addis Ababa has
agreed to push back its self-declared December 31 troop-withdrawal deadline by,
at most, a few weeks, to allow time for the AMISOM replacements to arrive.
But the official emphasized that Ethiopian policymakers
are losing patience with the international community's seeming lack of concern
at the possible collapse of Somalia's fragile transitional government, and the
likelihood it would be replaced by an administration led by religious
extremists hostile to the West.
Ethiopia and other countries in the East Africa regional
group IGAD have also expressed frustration at the failure of the transitional
government's leadership to settle internal feuds that are undermining stability
in the Horn of Africa.
Last month, IGAD ordered sanctions against anyone
considered an obstacle to peace. The order did not name anyone, but officials
said it was clearly aimed at transitional president Abdullahi Yusuf.
Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia in December, 2006. They
drove out an Islamic group that had imposed Sharia law over much of the lawless
Horn of Africa nation, and installed a U.N-supported government. But in the two
years since, the troops have become bogged down in fighting with an
increasingly potent mix of Islamist and clan-based militias. The transitional
government, meanwhile, has been unable to extend its authority outside of parts
of the capital, Mogadishu and the central town of Baidoa.
An agreement signed in Djibouti in October between the
transitional administration and an opposition faction called for a ceasefire
that would pave the way for Ethiopia's withdrawal. But violence has continued,
along with a surge in piracy off Somalia's strategic seacoast.
The United Nations describes Somalia as possibly the
world's worst humanitarian disaster. The U.N World Food Program estimates 3.2
million people, or 40 percent of the country's population are in need of
emergency humanitarian assistance.