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Uganda to Send More Peacekeepers to Somalia
Mogadishu, Aug 16, 2007 - Uganda announced plans on Thursday to send 250 extra soldiers to a peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu—but Somalia's government warned they were not enough and urged other African nations to commit troops.
Uganda sent 1,600 men to the Somali capital in March as the vanguard of a planned 8,000-strong African Union force. But no other countries have deployed to support the mission to bolster Somalia's interim government against an Islamist-led insurgency.
"We are waiting for the troops to arrive," AU spokesman Paddy Ankunda said. "The country needs to be empowered."
A spokesman for Somalia's interim government, Abdi Haji Gobdon, said the soldiers would be "useful" but insufficient.
"We remain hopeful that other African countries who promised to send troops will do so soon to help restore peace," he said.
Ugandans were surprised when African nations rushed this month to pledge forces for an expanded peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region while their troops in Mogadishu waited in vain for their promised support.
Several African countries, including Burundi and Nigeria, had last year vowed to join the AU mission. But a lack of funds and unrelenting violence has weighed heavily.
Uganda 's defence forces chief, General Aronda Nyakairima, was quoted in state media as saying the troops would train government soldiers. "We are ... to send a team of about 250."
Challenges facing the overstretched Ugandans include treating hundreds of patients at their ill-equipped hospital.
At a Ugandan makeshift clinic composed of a series of green tents, four Somali soldiers wounded in a landmine attack on Wednesday lay writhing in pain with freshly bandaged limbs.
"The situation is pathetic. We treat over 2,000 per week ... government, insurgents and civilians: we treat everybody," Ankunda said at the AU base, as hundreds waited in sun for help.
Somalia 's interim government is desperate for more firepower to help quell a conflict that has killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands since December when allied Somali-Ethiopian troops ousted Islamist leaders.
Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers remain in Somalia and have become a lightning rod for Islamists who vowed to continue their insurgency until they leave.
The Ugandans have been left guarding Mogadishu's sea port, airport and presidential palace alone. Five have been killed.
Kampala 's decision to send reinforcements came as Somalia's interim parliament prepared to discuss a draft law paving the way for oil companies to restart exploration.
Somalia is separated from the Arabian Peninsula and its huge energy reserves by the narrow Gulf of Aden. Local geologists say there is much untapped energy potential.
But oil majors such Chevron have indicated they are reluctant to re-enter Somalia, deprived of effective central rule since the ouster of its last national president in 1991.
Officials said the government signed a wealth-sharing pact this week with the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, giving it rights to revenues, including any oil found there.
"Natural resources will be managed by the government," government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon told Reuters. "The government will get 40 percent of Puntland's indirect taxes."