The African Union has sharply condemned
Sunday's insurgent attacks on its peacekeeping forces in Somalia (AMISOM) that
led to deaths of at least three civilians.
Islamic insurgents attacked African Union forces and government troops in the capital,
Mogadishu a day after newly elected President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed first
arrived in the capital after his election. Fierce fighting broke out between
the Somali national army and the insurgents in southern Mogadishu after the
rebels ambushed the AU's Burundian contingent base and a nearby Somali forces
billet. The African Union forces, however, refused to retaliate. AMISOM
spokesman Major Barigye Ba-Huko tells reporter Peter Clottey that the attacks
are a desperate publicity stunt for recognition.
attacks are expected and they are attacks from the forces that are opposed to
the peace process. But at this stage, what we are talking about is they have
realized that they are on the losing end with the arrival of the new president,
and so they are trying as much as possible to cause chaos. They are trying to
use AMISOM as a pretext, and we are determined that whatever provocation that
they push along our throats, we would not swallow the bait because we know that
they want us to retaliate and possibly wound ordinary people, and then they use
that as an excuse to ask the withdrawal of AMISOM at this important stage," Major
Ba-Huko pointed out.
said the African Union force in Somalia would not be bamboozled by the Islamic
insurgents into fighting back to the detriment to the ordinary Somali.
know that is their plan, and so we are acting very carefully to ensure that
first of all, we do not respond to their useless attacks. Secondly, we will
continue to work with the positive forces on the ground to mobilize the
population to support the peace process, and that is exactly what is happening.
And yesterday, as soon as the president arrived and went to the presidential
palace, they (insurgents) attacked the palace. But we ignored them. Today,
(Sunday) they have repeated the same thing and as you called me earlier they
were shelling one of our smaller detachments at a place called Shakara," he
Ba-Huko said the
African Union forces in Somalia would be working closely with Somalis to
embrace the ongoing peace process to establish stability after 18 years of
think our focus now is to sensitize the population and to explain to the people
that first of all Somalia is not the only country that is undergoing such a
process of having peacekeepers. Somalia is not the only country that has had
fractures for such a long time, and eventually such fractures have been
overcome by dialogue and reconciliation. Secondly, we would explain to the
population that we shouldn't be regarded as a foreign force because first of
all, this was a decision by all the leaders of Africa, and we know that the
culture of Somalia is that they respect their elders," Major
He differed sharply from
critics who claim that the method of nonaggression towards the Islamic
insurgents would strengthen their resolve to continue attacking the African
Union forces as well the national army.
"On the contrary, I think
our method of restraining ourselves has been very useful. It's useful in the
sense that people are able to see that we had always been right in spite of the provocation with the
insurgents continuing to lose significant points. So obviously, a few Somali
civilians would lose their lives. But that is what the peace process is all
about. It's not easy to achieve peace without losing some lives," he said.
Ba-Huko said AMISOM has chosen nonaggression as a method, despite having the
right to protect itself using lethal forces.
we reserve the rights to self defense, we are restraining ourselves because
first of all, the attacks from these guys are not what you would typically call
conventional attacks," Major Ba-Huko pointed out.
He said there has always
been coordination between the African Union forces in Somalia and the Somali
authorities to help maintain peace and stability.
"We had started the program
of coordination much earlier, even before the expansion of the Somali
parliament and the formation of the government of national unity. And we hope
and believe that we will continue to work with the leadership of the new
government. We have been working with the new president for seven months now,
and all the indicators are that we are at a much better stage than we had previously
had," he said.
Last week, the Islamic insurgent group Al-Shabab, described
by Washington as a terrorist organization, called on its fighters to
intensify their holy war against the African Union peacekeepers after the
peacekeepers were accused the previous day of killing at least 18 civilians
when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb.