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Eritrea Insists On UPDF Pullout
Asmara, March 20, 2007 – HOURS after foreign affairs minister Sam Kuteesa held talks with Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki, Asmara once again warned foreigners not to meddle in Somali affairs.
“The parties who want to help the Somali people and preserve the unity of Somalia should let them decide their own affairs,” a statement from the Eritrea information ministry warned, according to the AFP news agency.
Kutesa was in Asmara on Monday in what was widely seen as an effort to appease Eritrea, which is accused of arming Somalia’s now-vanquished Islamist movement, and to seek its support for the peacekeeping operation.
Asmara has warned that the African Union presence in Somalia would exacerbate the violence. Uganda with a contingent of 1,500 UPDF soldiers is heading the AU peace-keeping mission in the lawless state.
Yesterday, the Ugandan peacekeepers reinforced the security around the presidential palace, Villa Somalia, as AU security chief Said Djinnit arrived for a one-day visit. Djinnit was scheduled to meet Somali leaders and assess the progress of the AU mission.
Mortar shells crashed into Mogadishu’s port on Monday after a ship carrying the UPDF military hardware docked.
“They (insurgents) shelled the sea port but our ship managed to dock because we had taken precautionary measures. Nobody from the AU force was injured. Our doctors are currently treating some wounded children,” Ankunda said.
“We will not move an inch and our operations will go as scheduled,” he warned.
Meanwhile, the Africa Union on Monday commended Uganda for the deployment of UPDF troops.
“The Peace and Security Council welcomed the commencement of the deployment of AMISOM, following the arrival in Somalia of two battalions from Uganda. (It) commended the Government of Uganda for its efforts and commitment to the promotion of lasting peace and reconciliation in Somalia,” a statement from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said.
The council also commended the people of Somalia for having welcomed AMISOM.
The meeting observed that AMISOM has no other objective than “to support Somalia and its people in their efforts to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation in their country.”
But so far, the AU has managed to raise only about half of the required 8,000 troops. In addition to Uganda, Burundi has offered 1,700 troops and Nigeria 850, while Malawi and Ghana are also expected to contribute.
Factional bloodletting has wracked Somalia since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre, creating a platform for a civil war that has defied more than 14 peace-making attempts.
The AU mission is the first international peacekeeping venture since the United States troops led an ill-fated, UN-backed peace operation in the early 1990s.
Source: New Vision