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International Crisis Group Warns Against Quick Deployment Of Peacekeepers In Somalia

Last month, two African organizations said they would send 75-hundred peacekeeping troops to Somalia. The African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development said the aim was to support the peaceful relocation of the interim Somali government from Nairobi to Mogadishu.

But the International Crisis Group, an international non-profit organization, warns that sending troops may worsen tensions in Somalia. Matt Bryden is the director of the ICG’s Horn of Africa Project. From Nairobi, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about why the group is concerned about sending peacekeepers to Somalia.

He says, “The major concern is that the decision to send troops into Somalia hasn’t yet been taken by the Somali leadership. It’s a very divisive issue. Members of the cabinet have got deeply opposing views, the parliament likewise, not to mention the Somali public. And we’re concerned that any deployment should have the full support of the transitional government and of the transitional parliament. And that’s not the case with the proposed IGAD deployment.”

Asked what the consequences might be if troops were sent in at this time, Mr. Bryden says, “It would first and foremost aggravate the divisions within the transitional institutions. We could see possibly the division of the government and the parliament and potentially the derailment of the entire peace process. This is a highly inflammatory issue…We’d also expect to see on the ground some groups oppose the peacekeepers by force. And we would risk a return to the kind of conditions that the United States and the United Nations encountered in Somalia back in 1992, 1993.”

The International Crisis Group has a number of recommendations. Mr. Bryden says, “We are recommending first that no deployment be taken until this issue has been taken up, debated and agreed upon by both the full transitional cabinet and the transitional parliament. We’re also recommending that Somalia’s neighboring countries, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, not take part in a peacekeeping force because that would stir up Somali sensibilities.

And thirdly, we are proposing there should be a force, but it would be supportive of Somali-led efforts for demobilizing, cantonment of heavy weapons and the training of new security forces.”