A group of Somali members of parliament Tuesday said they would not accept a peace support mission that includes troops from Ethiopia and other neighboring states. Their rejection follows comments by Uganda's president that a regional peace support mission will be deployed to Somalia with or without the consent of the factional leaders opposing it.
A member of parliament for Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Hassan Dimbil Warsame, tells VOA he and his colleagues are not against African or other troops coming into the country to restore peace. But, he says, parliament will not allow troops from Ethiopia, Djibouti, or Kenya to be part of a peace support mission in Somalia.
Mr. Warsame blasts Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for saying Monday that the seven-nation regional organization he chairs, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, will deploy a proposed peace support mission with or without the support of factional leaders.
"Museveni said that he [will] send troops if Somali want it or not want it, and that's against international law, against Somali sovereignty. [The] Somali parliament is yet not decided the problem of deployment, and we are confident that the parliament will not accept Ethiopian troops to come in Somalia," said Mr. Warsame. "We are against the statement of Museveni."
Mr. Warsame and other members of parliament told reporters in Nairobi Tuesday that, in their words, "troops from neighboring countries of Somalia, or frontline states, will not be part of the force to be deployed in Somalia."
President Museveni was reported Monday as asking why factional leaders, most of who are now in government, should reject Ethiopian and Kenyan troops, and what would happen if troops from the two countries were to go into Somalia.
Many parliament members and other Somalis adamantly oppose the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. They say Ethiopia supplied arms and other support to certain factions in Somalia during the 14-year civil war, and is therefore not a neutral force.
There are also lingering bad feelings between the two countries ever since the war of 1977, when they fought to control the Ogaden region, which now belongs to Ethiopia.
Mr. Warsame says he and his colleagues have nothing against Djibouti and Kenya, but included their names so as not to isolate Ethiopia. He says, within the next few days, parliament is expected to vote against a peace support mission that includes Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
"If, after that, Ethiopia is going to Somalia, that will be [an] international problem, like Syria and Lebanon," said Mr. Warsame. "And we'll see the idea of [the] international community."
Mr. Warsame did not specify what action his government would take if the neighboring countries are included in the peace support mission.
Ugandan army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza, who was at Monday's IGAD meeting, tells VOA neighboring countries are best placed to help Somalia because they have a lot at stake. For instance, he says, when there is trouble in Somalia, Somali refugees flee to the adjacent states. He rejects the factional leaders' and other members of parliament's arguments that Ethiopia is not a neutral force and therefore should not be included in Somalia's peace support mission.
"First of all, it's not Ethiopia that is going to take charge of Somalia. It is IGAD countries deploying and we are going to be there for only nine months, after which the African Union's going to raise other forces from elsewhere, and they will take charge from there in order to have the Somali government relocate back home," said Mr. Banrariza. "There's the question of Ethiopia not being neutral. Who is neutral, after all?"
Major Bantariza says the factional leaders, in his words, "have held Somalis hostage for 14 years," and should not continue to be allowed to do so.