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Burundi Prepares to Send Peacekeeping Troops to Somalia


Burundi says it is ready to deploy troops as part of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia in July. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is giving $6 million in development aid to Somalia. Some of the money will be used to support the upcoming National Reconciliation Congress, which was delayed once again this week. Katy Migiro in Nairobi has more on the latest efforts to bring peace to war-torn somalia.

Burundi's army spokesman Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza said it has been agreed that a battalion of Burundian peacekeepers will be airlifted to Somalia next month following a visit to Burundi by African Union officials.

"There was a mission of AU our country and they accept that we could send troops at the end of July," he said.

Despite promises from numerous African countries, Uganda is the only one so far to have sent troops to Somalia to serve under the African Union Mission to Somalia.

The United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force for Somalia in February. It conceived a 8,000-strong force with a mandate to help stabilize Somalia, where insurgents are fighting Somali and Ethiopian government forces.

Although Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi pledged troops, only 1,500 Ugandans have actually been deployed.

On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council will meet with the African Union Peace and Security Council to discuss why African countries have been so slow to send troops.

The U.N.-AU meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, is the first stop on the U.N. Security Council's five-nation tour of Africa in support of ongoing peace efforts across the continent.

Meanwhile, the United States is giving financial assistance to the Somali peace process.

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, signed a two-year development aid agreement for Somalia. This includes $1.25 million specifically for a National Reconciliation Congress.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the Congress would be postponed until July 15.

Despite the delays, Ambassador Ranneberger is optimistic about Somali peace efforts.

"The United States really believes this is an unparalleled opportunity to achieve peace and a stable future for Somalia which has suffered from chaos and civil war for almost two decades," he said. "I think we are seeing the Somali people rally around the theme of national reconciliation. We are seeing outreach by the transitional federal government to broad cross sections of clans and sub-clans."

If the political situation in Somalia improves, the U.N. Security Council said Thursday, it may authorize a U.N. peacekeeping force to take over from the African Union.

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