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African Union Troops Claim They’re Ready to Maintain Peace in Mogadishu

The African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM) say they are prepared to ensure stability in Mogadishu now that Ethiopian troops have completed their troop withdrawal from the Somali capital. City residents reported seeing scores of AMISOM troops coming into the capital, ostensibly to maintain peace. Some Somali political analysts believe yesterday's completion of the Ethiopian withdrawal would leave a power vacuum, which Islamic hardliners, including al-Shabab could take advantage of to seize control of the capital. So far, the al-Shabab insurgent group have reportedly ambushed the departing soldiers and also clashed with other militias in a deepening power struggle between rebel factions. AMISOM spokesman Major Barigye Ba-Huko tells reporter Peter Clottey the African Union would add troops soon to augment the peacekeeping efforts of AMISOM.

"What we know from Mogadishu is that the African Union Commission has been discussing the matter with the troop-contributing countries. The two that already have troops on the ground, plus some other countries that had previously pledged troops, and the general trend and the general idea is that there should be more troops coming into the mission area -- two battalions, one each from Uganda and Burundi, and possibly another one from Nigeria in the not far future," Major Ba-Huko said.

He said the agreement between the government and the opposition in Djibouti made provisions to ensure stability after Ethiopia withdraws troops from Mogadishu and other areas in Somalia.

"You know that the Djibouti agreement stipulated clearly that the Ethiopian troops had to withdraw within 120 days after the signing of the agreement. And so the troops have been aware of this, and the commanders have been aware, and they are preparing their soldiers to fit into the places that Ethiopians are leaving," he said.

Major Ba-Huko said the Djibouti agreement laid the down the grounds to take care of a possible power vacuum after the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

"The agreement also stipulated that the gaps or the vacuum left by Ethiopian troops would be filled by of the troops of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). And so as we speak today, what is going on in Mogadishu is that ARS and TFG on one hand, and AMISOM on the other, are coordinating and are consulting to ensure that each group knows where it should go to control. And sooner rather than later, we should be able to get out of that, and the deployments would be done," Major Ba-Huko pointed out.

He said although many people have been pessimistic about the Djibouti agreement, the agreement seems to be working.

"I am not only hopeful, but I think it is the reality. The agreement, initially there were many skeptics and pessimists, but eventually Sheik Sharif and the delegation arrived in the country in early December, and since then, they have been moving around. They have been holding meetings and consultations. And therefore to me, this agreement is a reality. And what remains is the good will of all of the people of Somalia to ensure that their will is established," he said.

Major Ba-Huko said there are some elements who are opposed to a stable Somalia.

"Obviously, it is understood that there are some factions that would possibly resist the peace process. There are those who have been benefiting from this chaos, and they are scared of peace. So those detractors, over a period of time need to be convinced, and they need to be persuaded to embrace peace," Major Ba-Huko pointed out.

He said most Somalis are tired of the absence of an effective government, which had culminated in instability in the country.

"I think most importantly, the people of Somalia are tired of war. The population is very tired of this war that has lasted for the last 18 years. And that is the premise on which to build because with a tired population, I think they would support the peace process with all their heart for peace to return to Somalia," he said.