Somali Islamists condemn plan to deploy troops
Fri 18 Aug 2006 11:47 AM ET
By Mohamed Ali Bile
MOGADISHU, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Somalia’s powerful Islamists on Friday condemned a plan announced by Kenya to deploy African peacekeepers to the anarchic country soon, saying its east African neighbour had now "joined Somalia’s enemies." Somalia’s fragile interim government requested foreign troops soon after it was formed at peace talks in Kenya in late 2004 and despite regional backing given last year, none has been dispatched.
Such a move is sharply opposed by the Islamists, whose control of the capital Mogadishu and a key swathe of the south has threatened the government’s authority.
"We thought of Kenya being one of the neighbouring countries taking part in mediating in Somalia’s conflict," the Islamists’ most powerful leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, was quoted by local media group Shabelle as saying.
"But Kenya has now joined Somalia’s enemies," the hardline cleric, on a U.N. list of al Qaeda associates, said.
Moses Wetangula, Kenya’s deputy foreign affairs minister, told reporters on Thursday the first east African troops would be deployed "in a couple of weeks or months"
Military chiefs from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan ad met in Nairobi on Thursday to discuss the plan urged by President Abdullahi Yusuf.
Yusuf’s administration is the 14th attempt at building national rule since Somalia plunged into anarchy with the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Any deployment requires U.N. Security Council approval which the United States has threatened to block.
With no true army of its own, the government has relied on Ethiopian military backing should the better-armed Islamists attack. Witnesses say Ethiopian troops are already in Somalia, which Addis Ababa denies.
The Islamists emerged in June as a new political and military force after routing U.S.-backed warlords in the Horn of Africa nation of 10 million.
Arab League-brokered talks between the Islamists and government in the Sudanese capital Khartoum were put on hold on Tuesday when the Islamists asked for a delay.
Many diplomats privately expect little to come out of the effort, as the Islamists have spent their time tightening their grip on power and territory.