February 21, 2007

Somalia Gets AU Forces, UN Next

The UN has approved the deployment of 8,000 troops from the African Union to Somalia, replacing the Ethiopian contingent for peacekeeing now that the Union of Islamic Courts has been driven from the country. The Security Council also will consider a contribution of peacekeepers under their own flag:

The United Nations Security Council has approved the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force to Somalia.

Somalia has been beset by the heaviest fighting between insurgents and government troops since the withdrawal of Islamist militias last year.

The 8,000 strong force has a mandate to help stabilise the situation, but only 4,000 troops have been pledged so far.

A resolution has urged all AU member states to contribute troops. Moreover, a UN force may arrive in six months.

The fighting erupted again yesterday, as the Washington Post reports:

Mortar rounds and rockets hit Somalia's capital early Tuesday in a series of attacks that killed 15 people and wounded more than 40, doctors and witnesses said.

The violence was among the worst since a two-week war in December, in which Ethiopian troops helped government forces drive out an Islamic militia that had taken over much of the country. Somalia's weak interim government then moved into the capital.

The Ethiopians still remain in Mogadishu, hoping to wait for their AU replacements. Unfortunately, the AU has taken its time pulling together the necessary troops, which is why the UN Security Council pushed them yesterday with its resolution. The exchange between the Ethiopians and the UIC remnants was serious enough to prompt Ethiopians to use artillery on their positions, a significant engagement.

It won't take much more for the Somalians to lose confidence in the transitional government. With Ethiopia's help, it broke out of a small pocket of control in Baidoa last December to capture Mogadishu and take control of most of Somalia. The transitional government holds the best prospect for establishing some sort of representative government, but it needs troops to hold its gains and to gather enough strength to fend off the UIC and the warlords in the Somalian free-for-all.

AU deployments will help in that regard. UN peacekeepers will likely do more harm than good. They will not engage as the Ethiopians have done. Their history shows that they will either sit and do nothing, or run and do worse, Even when they do nothing militarily, they tend to molest young women under their protection thanks to a systemic lack of discipline. Perhaps the UN's consideration of a deployment is meant to send a signal to all sides of the conflict that further fighting will result in terrible consequences.


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