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African Union Troops Woo Somalis Amid Attacks


There are mixed feelings toward the first batch of African Union (AU) peacekeepers in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The Ugandan forces that began deploying in the capital last week have been attacked twice but their response to the attacks seems to be different from the Ethiopian troops they are about to replace.

Mohad Elmi of Horn Afrika Radio has been following developments there. From Mogadishu he told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga that the Ugandan forces are beginning to win the trust of some Mogadishu residents because they appear friendly and so far have not taken sides among the warring factions.

He said “to stabilize the city is not an easy task for the African Union but the conduct of the AU peacekeepers is quite different. The first AU force to arrive in Mogadishu is from Uganda and as they settle down they appear different in many ways.”

Elmi noted, “The Ugandan forces are trying to talk to Somalis, to appear brotherly and friendly. And many Somalis welcome that. That is a good sign compared to the hostile behavior of the Ethiopian troops.”

“Of course not all Somalis will accept the AU forces, some will appreciate the role the forces will play in stabilizing the country but the militants who are opposed to this arrangement have vowed to fight and they are still active,” he said.

Elmi said that many Somalis have seen the fact that the Ugandan troops have made it clear that they will neither try to disarm the Somalis nor take sides as a good sign.

“Many Somalis have been saying that maybe the Ugandans will be different, maybe the AU forces may help the country stabilize unlike the Ethiopian troops whose only aim seems to be keeping the TFG (transitional national government) in power,” he said.

He explained, "there are still many insurgents and militias, especially in Mogadishu, who are determined to fight any foreign troops in Somalia. 'The only way the AU troops can succeed is to win the support of the Somali people."

The AU plans an 8,000-strong force that will replace Ethiopian troops backing the government.

So far, the AU has managed to raise only about half of the 8,000 troops required. Uganda has deployed 1500 troops and Burundi, Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to contribute.