Somalia's joint security committee has agreed to deploy AU troops to areas of central and southern Somalia captured recently from militant group al-Shabab by Ethiopian forces. The announcement came Wednesday at a meeting in Mogadishu.
The decision to replace Ethiopian troops with African Union forces was agreed to by Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, and representatives of the U.N., the African Union, the European Union and regional Somali factions. Ethiopian troops recently re-entered Somalia and helped Somali government forces capture the town of Baidoa.
The Ethiopian forces have faced a strong backlash from local Somalis, however, and fighting has been heavier in areas where they are active.
Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman told VOA the priority is to have Ethiopian forces replaced by forces from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government [TFG] and troops from the African Union peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM.
"AMISOM provided the current plan that they have with the TFG forces, which is within April we aim that two battalions from Uganda and Burundi will be moving to Baidoa, one battalion from Djibouti will be going to Beledweyne in order to allow Ethiopian forces to go back to their country,” said Osman.
In late February, the U.N. Security Council authorized an increase in troop strength for AMISOM, raising troop strength from 12,000 to nearly 18,000. Funding and logistical support to the force also was increased, more than doubling U.N. member state contributions for the mission from $250 million to about $550 million.
Osman said the international community has acknowledged the security gains made across the country and is increasing assistance.
“International community were discussing with us on the current level of assistance they provide. For example, the Americans and Italy are providing stipends or allowance for our TFG forces and Japan is also providing some sort of stipends for our police forces," said Osman. "After discussion, we agreed that they will continue the level of support they provide to TFG, as well as ensuring the future of Somalia depends on how we build our institutions, in particular our security sector.”
AMISOM also expects to welcome troops from Sierra Leone into the mission in June.
Osman said they will be deployed alongside Kenyan forces, who currently are operating in the southern Juba regions of Somalia, and will allow some Kenyan forces to leave.