Somalis at odds over foreign troops

The Somalian government has approved the deployment of at least 5000 foreign troops to help restore the first national administration in 14 years, officials said.

    Some Somalis are concerned by the prospect of the deployment

    But they added that powerful tribal chiefs are balking at the proposal.

    The plan to send between 5000 and 7000 troops to stabilise Somalia was put to a vote at a cabinet meeting chaired by President Abd Allahi Yusuf Ahmad in the Kenyan capital. The decision will have to be taken to the country's parliament for final approval.

    Thirty-eight out of 47 ministers voted in favour of the deployment, but nine of them voted against, including powerful tribal leaders in the cabinet, a minister said.

    African Union mission

    The African Union (AU) last month agreed in principle to deploy a peace support mission.

    The plan was approved by a 
    cabinet chaired by Ahmad

    At the AU summit in Nigeria last week, leaders said the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which groups Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Djibouti and Sudan, will initially provide troops and equipment for the mission.

    "The contentious issue in the deployment plan is the participation of troops from neighbouring countries that have geopolitical interests in Somalia," the government minister, who asked not to be named, said.

    Somali factions have repeatedly accused neighbouring states of supporting their rivals in the past. Ahmad, himself a former tribal leader and president of the northeastern region of Puntland, is backed by Ethiopia, a fact that irks Mogadishu tribal chiefs.

    The timetable for deployment will be prepared after parliament approves the decision, according to Somali officials.

    Deployment rejected

    The mission, which will be the first multinational force in Somalia since the end of a failed UN-mandated intervention in 1995, is expected to help install the country's transitional government, so far based in neighbouring Kenya for security reasons.

    "Please do not create reasons for the need for outside forces to
    pacify Mogadishu"

    Tribal leader Muse Sudi Yalahow

    A team of Somali lawmakers this week rejected the planned deployment when they travelled to the war-torn capital Mogadishu to ease the way for the government's eventual relocation from Nairobi.

    "We reject the deployment of foreign troops in Mogadishu. Therefore you should create a peaceful environment for the relocating Somali government," faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow said on Wednesday, voicing a position widely held by faction leaders, even those in cabinet.

    "Please do not create reasons for the need for outside forces to pacify Mogadishu," he added.

    Yalahow's faction controls areas of southern and northern Mogadishu.

    War-torn country

    Ordinary Somalis, who have borne the brunt of years of bloodshed, have expressed discomfort at the prospect of foreign troops patrolling their neighbourhoods.

    President Ahmad, elected last October, and his government led by Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi, have been based in Nairobi amid continued fears of instability in post-anarchic Somalia.

    The country has been torn apart by battling tribal chiefs for 14 years, since the 1991 fall of the government of Muhammad Siad Barre. 

    Ahmad has faced mounting pressure from Kenya and the international community to return to Somalia and has mounted three cabinet-level missions to arrange the relocation.



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