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Burundi joins Somalia peace force

 

Burundi has offered to contribute to the proposed African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, following an AU appeal for soldiers.

Foreign Minister Antoinette Batumubwira told the BBC that Burundi could send up to 1,000 troops.

The AU has struggled to raise the 8,000 troops it wants to send to Somalia, to replace Ethiopian soldiers, who have started to withdraw.

Earlier, Malawi denied reports that it had agreed to contribute.

Meanwhile, a protest against their deployment has been held in an ex-Islamist stronghold in the capital.

Analysts fear that unless the growing insecurity in the country is contained quickly, Somalia will slip back to the anarchic misrule which has prevailed in the country for the past 16 years.

Ethiopia says it is still seeking an early withdrawal, despite slow progress in drumming up enough peacekeepers.

Confusion

The AU says it has 4,000 of the 8,000 peacekeepers needed for Somalia but it is not clear if that figure includes the Burundi offer.

Uganda has offered 1,500 troops, subject to parliamentary approval expected next week.

POSSIBLE PEACEKEEPERS
Nine battalions proposed - 7,600 troops:
Uganda: 1,500 troops offered, subject to parliamentary approval
Nigeria: Troops offered
Ghana: Troops offered
Burundi: 1,000 troops offered
Malawi: Considering
Benin: Considering
Tanzania: Considering
Rwanda: Considering
South Africa: Not sending troops


Nigeria and Ghana have also both agreed to contribute, although exact numbers are not known.

Malawi's defence minister had said the country was willing to send troops but this has been denied by President Bingu wa Mutharika

"A decision has not been taken," the president said.

"We have not discussed this in the cabinet, neither have we consulted the various stake-holders in Malawi like the opposition and others who must be consulted in an issue like this one."

In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan said some 200 people demonstrated against a peacekeeping force on Thursday morning in the north-east of the city.

They shouted angry and slogans and placards read: "We don't want foreign troops" and "Down with Ethiopia", reports the AP news agency.

Other have also protested about the detention in Kenya of Islamist financier, Abukar Omar Adan, 72.

Meanwhile, the former speaker of the parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan - sacked two weeks ago - has told the BBC that the election of his successor was illegal.

Mr Adan, who is currently in neighbouring Djibouti, was removed for having unauthorised talks with the Islamists, who ruled much of Somalia until last month.

He had also opposed Ethiopia's military intervention to help the government drive out the Islamic group.

His dismissal was criticised by the United States saying it went against the spirit of reconciliation needed in Somalia and it was likely to have a negative impact on dialogue.

Our correspondent says that because of increasing insecurity martial law is being imposed country - putting all powers into the hands of the president for the next three months.

Hundreds protest in Somali capital over foreign peacekeeping force

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Hundreds of supporters of Somalia's ousted Islamic group demonstrated in the capital Thursday against an imminent deployment of foreign peacekeepers.

The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and burned tires, a day after the African Union said three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria were ready to be deployed in Somalia and will be airlifted in as soon as possible.

"We will not tolerate foreign troops coming to our country," demonstrator Saida Hussien said. "We will show the world that we are against the foreign troops."

Another demonstrator, Abdiqadir Hassan Diriye, said, "As long as I'm breathing, I will fight with the foreign troops who are coming to our country."

The demonstrators, who protested in northern Mogadishu - an area known for its strong support of the Islamic group - carried placards that read, "We don't want foreign troops," and "Down with Ethiopia," referring to Ethiopia's military intervention that routed the Council of Islamic Courts.

The protesters called for the return of the Islamic movement, which was credited with restoring some order in the violent country.

Factional violence has again become a feature of life in Mogadishu since last month when Somali government troops with crucial support from Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and war planes ousted the Islamic movement. Mortar and grenade attacks have also been launched against Ethiopian and government troop garrisons in the city.

Ethiopia, whose continued presence is deeply unpopular among Somalis, says it does not have the resources to stay and already has begun withdrawing, presenting the possibility of a dangerous power vacuum.

The African Union was pressing ahead with its peacekeeping mission to Somalia despite securing only half the 8,000 troops needed at a key summit of African leaders that ended Tuesday. Five nations - Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Burundi and Ghana - have pledged around 4,000 troops so far.

Somalis are wary of a foreign peacekeeping force following the disastrous UN intervention in the early 1990s, a bloody period even by Somali's turbulent history.

On Tuesday, extremists in Somalia said they would try to kill any peacekeepers. In a videotape posted on the official website of the Islamic movement, a hooded gunman read a statement saying that any African peacekeepers would be seen as invaders.

The United States has accused the Council of Islamic Courts of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Osama Bin Laden has said Somalia is a battleground in his war on the West. The U.S. launched two air strikes against fleeing Islamic fighters, although details of the attacks are unknown.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.


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