17/03/07 (B387-A) AFP en Anglais : le Ministre éthiopien des A.E. demande aux Somaliens de soutenir l’action des forces de l’Union africaine (AMISOM) (Info lectrice)

AU peacekeepers, Ethiopia tells Somalis

Mogadishu, Somalia

Ethiopia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Somalis to support African Union
peacekeepers deploying to boost a weak government in the face of deadly insurgency.
This comes as Ethiopian troops scale down operations.

I am urging the Somalis to work closely with AU troops to bring lasting peace, »
Seyoum Mesfin said shortly before leaving Somalia after a two-day visit to
Ethiopia’s war-fractured neighbour in the Horn of Africa.

Mesfin said Addis Ababa would go on helping Somalia President Abdullahi Yusuf
Ahmed and his government until they can exert control across the country,
where Ethiopia’s military went into action last December to help Somali fighters
rout a powerful Islamist movement.

The Ethiopian minister added that he was encouraged by the government’s efforts
to stabilise the blood-soaked capital, including the deployment of at least
4 000 Somali troops to bolster the efforts of AU peacekeepers who have begun
to arrive.

The situation in Somalia is very encouraging and most people are willing
to work together. Everybody I met promised to support peace, » he said
after two days of talks with top officials, including Yusuf.

Insurgents have increased attacks on the Somali and foreign troops since joint
Ethiopia-Somali forces ousted the Islamist movement in January. Violence since
in Mogadishu has killed dozens of civilians and driven thousands from their

The first contingents of AU troops from Uganda, who started flying in on March
6, have also been attacked, as insurgents have vowed to drive out the peacekeepers.

Ghana President John Kufuor, who currently chairs the AU, said on Wednesday
in London that the pan-African organisation was disturbed that such violence
greeted its first peacekeepers in Somalia.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ugandan troops on Thursday claimed they had
now secured the support of Somalis in Mogadishu, where armed militias serving
rival clans have a reputation for shifting loyalties.

We have the support of the Somali people, » Captain Paddy Ankunda

About 1 200 Ugandan troops arrived in Mogadishu last week.

The AU aims to deploy about 8 000 troops with a six-month mandate to enable
Ethiopian forces to leave and Somali forces to take over security.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi deployed his forces into neighbouring
Somalia late last year, accusing the Islamist movement that had taken control
of Mogadishu in June of threatening his own country’s national security.

Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator
Mohamed Siad Barre. —