Djibouti to Send Peacekeepers to Somalia
By JOSH KRON
Published: November 2, 2011
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The tiny country of
ibouti/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Djibouti will send about 850 soldiers to
an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia this month, a spokesman for
the mission said Wednesday. It is only the third country to do so after a
series of unmet promises from a number of African nations.
The troops from Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, will join roughly 9,000
soldiers from Uganda and Burundi, which have been supporting Somalia's weak,
American-backed, transitional government since 2007. The government, which
has been fighting Islamist insurgents known as the Shabab in Somalia's
capital, Mogadishu, has virtually no influence outside of the city, and
despite a nationwide mandate, neither does the African Union.
But the peacekeepers have largely pushed the Shabab from Mogadishu, though
the rebels still carry out
at-base-in-somali-capital.html?_r=1> hard-hitting attacks. For a
peacekeeping force trying achieve an objective that no entity has
accomplished in nearly 20 years - pacify Somalia - the Djiboutian troops
will be welcome. The peacekeeping force is currently set at 12,000 troops,
but peacekeeping officials hope for at least 20,000.
"Our forces have been very adaptive, adapting to the terrain, fighting in
built-up areas," said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the
peacekeeping force. "But it's been difficult."
More and more, countries in Africa are joining the battle in Somalia. Kenya
sent hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers backed by tanks and gunships
across the border
ion-far-in-advance.html> to clear out the Shabab from a number of
strongholds in southern Somalia. A high-ranking East African official said
Tuesday that the heavily militarized country of Eritrea, which borders
Djibouti and Ethiopia, had
somalia-for-militants-kenya-says.html> sent cargo planes loaded with weapons
for the Shabab to southern Somalia, an accusation Eritrea rejects. Ethiopian
troops have been spotted occupying Somali territory near a Shabab
stronghold, and Uganda is sending 2,000 more of its own soldiers to join the
peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.
The governments of South Africa, Rwanda and Tanzania have voiced support for
Kenya's operation, and this week Kenya and Somalia asked for "big
countries," including the United States and European nations,
in-somalia-was-hit-by-airstrike.html> to help in a naval blockade of the
highly coveted Shabab-controlled seaport of Kismaayo.
But as bad weather has bogged down Kenya's troops, the Kenyan Air Force has
delivered a number of damaging strikes. The International Committee of the
Red Cross said an airstrike on Sunday hit a camp for thousands of displaced
Somalis suffering from the effects of a famine, killing a number of
On Tuesday, Kenya's military issued a chilling warning to residents in 10
towns under the Shabab's influence, warning that further strikes were
"imminent" and that the towns would be under attack "continuously."
On Wednesday, there were reports that hundreds of civilians were fleeing
their homes in advance of the threatened attacks. "I have only two kids and
I cannot see myself dying," said Aisha Ali from the town of Elasha Biyaha.
"I have to go to the safe zone."
But in some areas, the bad weather that was bogging down Kenya's army was
bogging down civilians, too.
"They do take the warning very serious, but with the rainy season and the
roads being as bad as they are now, it is very difficult for people to
move," said an official with a humanitarian organization operating in one
Shabab-controlled area. "There is a certain level of fear amongst the
Mohammed Ibrahim contributed reporting.
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Received on Wed Nov 02 2011 - 17:31:53 EDT