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African Union summit: As leaders discuss Somalia, fighting rages there

Heads of state gathering at the African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda, pledged to strengthen the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia. Meanwhile, fighting in the past few days has killed scores in Somalia.

By Max DelanyCorrespondent / July 27, 2010

The Chairman of the African Union Commision Jean Ping (from l. to r.), Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and African Union Chairman President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi attend the opening the AU Peace Hub in Uganda's capital Kampala, July 24. Leaders at this week's African Union summit in Uganda pledged to strengthen the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia.

Xavier Toya/Reuters

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Kampala, Uganda

Leaders at this week's African Union summit in Uganda pledged to strengthen the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia. But fresh fighting there underscored the difficulties involved in any attempt to stabilize the war-wracked nation.

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Two weeks after suspected suicide blasts killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in Uganda's capital, Kampala, 35 African heads of state agreed to bolster the AU’s mission to Somali (AMISOM) by 2,000 to its full mandated strength of 8,000 troops.

The twin blasts were claimed by the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group, Al Shabab, as revenge for the allegedly indiscriminate shelling of civilians by Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. They prompted calls from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for Africa to unite and “sweep” those responsible out of the continent.

Despite hopes that other countries would come on board – and the announcement from AU chairman Jean Ping that Guinea and Djibouti would be sending troops to Somalia – the 2,000 troops will come from the only two nations already contributing to the force: Uganda and Burundi.

Delegates backed down from Ugandan demands to strengthen the mandate from peacekeeping to peace enforcement – which would have allowed the AU troops to actively pursue Al Shabab militants – but did agree to push for new rules of engagement for the mission that could see the force allowed to respond more forcefully to Al Shabab aggression.

New pledges from donors

The decision came after major donors – including the US and EU – pledged continuing support for both the AMISOM forces in the country and the beleaguered Somali Transitional Federal Government.

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