Saturday, December 22, 2012

Call to extend Amisom mandate

Amisom soldiers in Karan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, February 17, 2012. Photo/FILE

Amisom soldiers in Karan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, February 17, 2012. Photo/FILE  Nation Media Group

By AGGREY MUTAMBO [email protected]

Kenya and Somalia have asked the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of African Union troops in the war-torn Horn of Africa country.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) should also be given more authority to sustain the fragile Mogadishu government in the road to stability, President Kibaki and his Somalia counterpart Hassan Mohamoud said on Friday in Nairobi.

Mr Mohamoud is in the country for a two-day state visit.

Two leaders said Amisom had already contributed to Somalia’s pursuit of peace and that it would be important for the forces to continue staying in Somalia.

In November, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of Amisom by four months, meaning that the troops would pull out of Somalia by March 7 next year. There were calls to keep the African forces in the war-ravaged country for another year.

At the time, the UN top organ argued that it needed more time to allow for a review of operations by the forces, including whether to lift an arms embargo and the resumption of trade in charcoal in the newly liberated Kismayu.

The combined AU mission in Somalia is now made up of 17,600 peacekeepers, who are helping the Mogadishu government fight al-Qaeda inspired Al-Shabaab militants.

On Friday, the two leaders released a joint communiqué after a one-and-a-half-hour meeting at State House, Nairobi, in which they stated 10 points they argued would help Somalia rebuild itself.

“The two leaders noted with appreciation the role of Amisom in liberating Somalia from Al-Shabaab militants,” the statement delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri said in part.

“They called on the UN Security Council to consider favourably the extension of the mandate of Amisom so that it can continue helping in the consolidation of peace and security in Somalia.”

Somalia recently voted in a national assembly for the first time in 20 years and elected President Mohamoud to lead the country.

On Friday, President Kibaki told reporters Kenya will continue working with Somali security forces to see an uninterrupted return to peace.

“Kenya and Somalia will continue to work closely so that we can send out a clear message that negative and destructive forces have no place in the region,” he said.

President Mohamoud, who was in the country for the first time since he took office, paid glowing tribute to Kenya for its role in helping stabilise Mogadishu. “Somalia has received unwavering support from Kenya especially through sending military forces to fight the threat of Al-shabaab and hosting of refugees,” he said.

The two leaders also said they would work with the international community to return refugees to Somalia.

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