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Al Shabab terror attacks dominate African Union summit

The African Union summit got underway Sunday in Kampala, Uganda, amid calls for greater cooperation on terrorism following the city's deadly July 11 bombings by Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked militant group, Al Shabab.

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Despite previous pledges to contribute troops from Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi, the only two countries to have actually sent troops are Uganda and Burundi.

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More troops to Somalia

In the aftermath of the bomb attacks, Museveni pledged to send an extra 2,000 troops to the mission, finally boosting it to full strength. Museveni also backed calls from east African regional body the Intergovernmental Agency for Development, or IGAD, to raise final troop numbers to 20,000.

Now there seems to be some movement from other African countries.

Guinea and Djibouti will likely send troops to supplement the AMISOM force, and eventual troop strength could top 10,000, AU President Jean Ping announced late last week. A battalion of Guinean troops is ready to go to Mogadishu, Ping said. They are just waiting for transport to be provided, a series of research trips to be completed, and Guinea to be reinstated to the African Union after it was suspended following a military coup in 2008.

Backroom chatter at the conference has been that other countries could follow suit and AU commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra said South Africa is “considering” a request to send troops to AMISOM.

When asked about that, however, the country’s president Jacob Zuma – in Kampala for the summit – laughed off repeated questions from journalists.

Money, but no troops from the West

Despite a high attendance by delegations from outside Africa and an admission by UN deputy secretary general Asha-Rose Migiro that the crisis in Somalia impacts global security, there is almost no political will to send in peacekeepers from beyond Africa. Money, not manpower, is being promised from donor nations in the West.

President Obama’s envoy to the summit, Attorney General Eric Holder, promised in a speech to the African leaders to “maintain” – but not increase – support for the AU’s Somali mission. Since 2007, the US has given support worth over $176 million to the mission and intends to give Ugandan and Burundian troops “enhanced pre-deployment training” to help tackle Al Shabab, the state department says.

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