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Donors pledge millions to Somalia
UN-sponsored conference sees $250m pledged to help strengthen security forces.
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2009 09:16 GMT
Ahmed and Ban said restoring stability was vital to Somalia, which has suffered civil conflict [AFP]

A group of international donors have pledged at least $250 million to help Somalia build up its security forces to fight piracy and restore stability to the Horn of Africa nation.

Donors made the pledges on Thursday at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Brussels, after Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Somalia's president, appealed for funds.

The money aims to support the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country, as well as provide 10,000 personnel to strengthen Somalia's fledging police service and create a 5,000-strong security force.

"Restoring security and stability in Somalia is vital to the success of the reconciliation effort and the survival of the unity government," Ban told delegates at the conference.

Ahmed, who is seen as the best hope of restoring stability to Somalia, said that progress could only be made if order was returned to the country.

"We are firmly determined to undertake reforms ... to try to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people," he said.

Political instability

Somalia, which has suffered from unrest since 1991, is trying to restore calm under a transitional government led by Ahmed, which aims to assert authority over opposition fighters in the southern and central regions.

But in a politically significant development, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a prominent opposition figure, returned to Somalia after spending two years in neighbouring Eritrea.

In depth

 Profile: Sharif Ahmed
Timeline: Somalia
Restoring Somalia
A long road to stability
Al-Shabab: Somali fighters undeterred
 Somaliland: Africa's isolated state
Aweys, who is on the US list of "terrorism suspects" for his alleged links to al-Qaeda, arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia's main city, on Thursday, according to Hizbul Islam, an umbrella group of four organisations, including the one that Aweys heads.

Aweys, head of the Islamic Courts Union, which took control of large parts of the country in its battle against the transitional government, still wields significant influence over some fighters.

More than one million people have been uprooted by fighting in the past two years and one-third of the population survives on food aid.

Somalia has also been the home ground for a wave of piracy attacks on ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, which has driven up insurance rates and other costs in sea lanes linking Europe to Asia.

In his speech at Thursday's Brussels conference, Ban called piracy "a symptom of anarchy and insecurity on the ground".

He said "more security on the ground will make less piracy on the seas".

Source:
Agencies
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