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Somalia Expected to Contribute to African Peacekeepers - 2004-09-14

A spokesman for the former, but little-recognized, Somali government is confident Somalia's new government will uphold a pledge of troops and equipment to the African Union's standby peacekeeping force. Somalia is on record as being one of 13 eastern African countries that earlier this year pledged to contribute peacekeeping troops to the African Standby Force.

Despite Somalia being embroiled in conflict, the then-Transitional National Government's offer to make available 150 troops plus 10 gun-mounted vehicles was well received by the other countries.

A seven-nation regional grouping called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD, is organizing the 4,500 troop Eastern Africa Standby Brigade that will be available for African Union peacekeeping operations.

IGAD's Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution Chief Peter Malwa explains why Somalia's offer was welcomed. "We took it in good faith that here is a country that expresses interest first of all. It rightly belongs within Africa," he says. "Secondly, it [Somalia] was invited by us who are coordinating the structure. We saw it just as a statement of good intent."

The Transitional National Government was formed following a peace process that took place in 2000. The T.N.G., as it is known, was supposed to rule the whole country but was rejected by many, so that it actually only ended up having control over certain sections of the capital, Mogadishu.

According to the terms of the peace process, the T.N.G.'s mandate expired in the middle of 2003. But it continued performing certain government functions.

Mr. Malwa says his organization and the other countries viewed the T.N.G. as being Somalia's legitimate government. It has now been replaced by a new 275-seat parliament that is in the process of selecting a speaker and president.

T.N.G. spokesman Ahmed Isse Awad says he is confident the new government will uphold the promise made earlier this year. "Somalia has been away from the international scene, from the African scene for a long time so this, for them, will be another sign that Somalia is back," he says. "They will be very much willing to contribute."

Mr. Awad says it is important for the new government to be an active member of the African Union and regional initiatives, in part to establish its legitimacy. He calls the troop and vehicle pledge a symbolic gesture. But it is not known where these troops will be drawn from. Mr. Awad adds that Somalia needs outside forces to secure peace in his country.

Somalia has endured 13 years of anarchy and bloodshed, with clan-based factions controlling specific areas of the country.