The U.N.'s top envoy for Somalia warned Thursday that more international peacekeepers are needed there because of the growing threat from insurgent groups. Augustine Mahiga told the U.N. Security Council that the 6,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia - known as AMISOM - needs as many as 20,000 troops in the coming months to support the fragile Transitional Federal Government.
Augustine Mahiga told the Security Council that he is concerned by the deteriorating security situation in Somalia and its potential impact on the entire region. He said foreign fighters and weapons are entering the Horn-of-Africa country through the southern port city of Kismayo.
He welcomed a decision by the African Union and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) to deploy 2,000 additional troops to Mogadishu to enable AMISOM reach its authorized strength of 8,000, saying this decision must be quickly implemented. He added that those organizations would seek a substantially larger increase in peacekeepers.
"The threat level in Mogadishu and the southern central Somalia has actually increased, therefore IGAD and the African Union foresees a new AMISOM troop level of up to 20,000 in the coming months. The African Union Peace and Security Council will soon submit to the U.N. Security Council a request for authorization for increased troop levels for Mogadishu and other strategic locations in Somalia," he said.
However, he did not say which countries would contribute the additional troops. Currently, Uganda and Burundi supply the bulk of the 6,000-strong force.
In July, the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab - which controls much of central and southern Somalia - claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Uganda's capital that killed 70 people.
Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda, who sits on the U.N. Security Council, said his country is also very concerned about the large influx of foreign fighters into Somalia. "Al-Shabaab's activities and methods are increasingly mirroring al-Qaida in nature and objectives. There is, therefore, an urgent need to reinforce the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions dealing with spoilers and terrorist groups," he said.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Washington agrees with the U.N.'s assessment that the situation in Somalia is "exceedingly dangerous" and called on the Transitional Federal Government to work out its internal differences. She said since AMISOM deployed in 2007, the United States has committed more than $185 million to providing logistics support, equipment and training to its forces and she encouraged other countries to increase their support to the force.
The Council also expressed concern about the dire humanitarian crisis in Somalia, where some two million Somalis are in need of international assistance due to the conflict.
Next week, the U.N. secretary-general will host a high-level meeting on Somalia in the margins of the General Assembly's annual meeting.