African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping says he cannot
envision A.U. peacekeepers abandoning Somalia, even after Ethiopian troops
Africa’s top diplomat says he wants more, not fewer, A.U.
troops to stabilize Somalia after Ethiopia pulls its forces out of its lawless
Horn of Africa neighbor in a few weeks.
A day after returning from a visit to Arab capitals for talks on
Somalia, A.U. Commission chief Jean Ping was optimistic about finding
sufficient international funding and African troops to reinforce the badly understaffed
A.U. force in Somalia.
“We are asking our own member states to increase their
participation, to send more troops in Somalia, not only Uganda and Burundi but
more Nigerians and others,” Ping said. Simultaneously, A.U. is asking the U.N. Security Council to take responsibility.
Mr. Ping’s comments come a day after Ethiopia’s prime
minister said African Union troops would want to leave Somalia as Ethiopia
withdraws, and that he had agreed his troops would provide security as the A.U.
But Mr. Ping told reporters an A.U. withdrawal is out of the
question. “Do you think that it is something which we can accept, not only the
African Union and the African governments but the rest of the world? Because
you know the world is targeted by the problem of piracy. All the world. It is a
threat to world peace, not only world peace,” he said.
Mr. Ping said a pullout of the 34-hundred strong
peacekeeping mission would only be considered in the worst-case scenario, in
which the United Nations turns its back on Somalia’s pleas for help, and
efforts by Somali political leaders to enact a power-sharing agreement end in
collapse. “I think that this is the scenario, which is called the ‘catastrophic
scenario’, which we expect this scenario will not happen.”
To underscore the urgency of Somalia’s crisis, the U.N.
Security Council is holding an extraordinary foreign-minister level meeting on
Somalia next week. The meeting is ostensibly to discuss preventing piracy off
the strategic Somali coast. But Chairman Ping says A.U. Peace and Security
Commissioner Ramtanee Lamamra intends to argue that the problems on land and
sea are closely linked.
“Everybody is preoccupied by the subject of piracy, and
preparing a reaction against piracy. But we said the root cause of that is on
land, the disorder in Somalia, so we’ve sent the commissioner there to the
Security Council to request it formally and insist on the necessity of having
troops there,” he stressed.
In another hopeful sign, the parliament of Somalia’s U.N.
backed Transitional Federal Government has scheduled a meeting Saturday in the
provisional capital, Baidoa. It would be the legislature’s first meeting in
The session is aimed at adopting a power sharing deal with a
moderate opposition faction. The agreement signed in October in Djibouti calls
for create a unity government followed by presidential elections next month.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since