Ethiopia’s foreign minister on Monday called for the U.N. to deploy peacekeepers to neighboring Somalia, where Islamic militants appear to be gaining strength.
Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin’s comments came just days after an attack on an African Union peacekeepers’ base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killed at least 11 civilians.
Mesfin urged the U.N. Security Council to deploy a U.N. peacekeeping mission “as soon as possible,” or provide resources to strengthen the current AU mission, which includes about 2,600 peacekeepers.
He praised the AU peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, who arrived in Somalia last year.
“It is never too late for others to follow their example,” Mesfin told world leaders during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
Ethiopia, whose troops helped push the Islamists from the Somali capital in December 2006, says that it wants to withdraw.
Within weeks of being driven out of Mogadishu, the Islamists launched an Iraq-style insurgency that has claimed more than 9,000 people, most of them civilians.
Many in overwhelmingly Muslim Somalia resent the U.N.-backed Somali government’s reliance on Ethiopia, a traditional rival with a large Christian population and one of Africa’s largest armies.
Ethiopia and Somalia fought a bloody war in 1977, and many Somalis see the Ethiopians as abusive and heavy-handed.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991.
A U.N. peacekeeping force including American troops met disaster in Somalia in 1993, when militiamen shot down two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters and battled U.S. troops, killing 18. The battle was recounted in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”