16 June 2006, Source: UN humanitarian news and information service IRIN.
Somalia’s transitional parliament has voted in favour of the deployment of an African peacekeeping force in the country to support the interim government in its efforts to restore law and order and re-establish state institutions after 15 years of anarchy.
Some 125 of the 197 members of the Transitional Federal Parliament present when the vote was taken on Wednesday cast their ballots in favour of the government-sponsored motion, compared to 72 against. “They [the government] have been lobbying very hard for this, and they won,” said Abdulkadir Shaykh Muhmmad, an MP from Baidoa, the south-central town where both the parliament and the government are currently based.
The African Union has already mandated the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to deploy a peace-support mission to Somalia. IGAD, which sponsored the reconciliation process that culminated in the creation of the Transitional Federal Government(TFG)in 2004, has given Sudan and Uganda the responsibility of mobilising troops for deployment in Somalia. IGAD comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
The proposed deployment of foreign troops in Somalia initially divided Somalia’s fledgling transitional government, with a group led by the speaker of parliament, Sharif Hassan Shaykh Aden, bitterly opposed to sending in troops from the country’s immediate neighbours. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Muhammed Gedi, on the other hand, insisted the peacekeeping force include soldiers from neighbouring states.
On Wednesday, however, the president, prime minister and speaker all supported the motion, according to sources in Baidoa.
“No one was opposed to the idea of peacekeepers, but I and others who voted against it were objecting to bringing any troops from the frontline states,” said Muhammad, the Baidoa MP. The approved motion – which allows the deployment of foreign forces in Somalia “no matter what country they are from” – would make it difficult for the TFG to engage in dialogue with the Islamic courts that control a number of regions in southern Somalia, which believe their militia could provide the necessary security, he said.