The approval last night of a United Nations resolution that authorises the deployment of an 8,000 strong African peace force in Somalia, also modifying the embargo in force since 1992, sparked predictably conflicting reactions.
The resolution also calls on the interim authorities to resume dialogue with the Islamic Courts.
“The UN authorizing new weapons is like adding fuel to the fire”, stated to Reuters Abdirahman Ali Mudey, spokesman for the Islamic Courts that for months control Mogadishu and a large part of the south of the nation.
“We welcome this decision and we are thanking all the members of the Security Council, especially the American government which tabled the resolution”, said Salad Ali Jelle, Deputy Defense Minister of the fragile Somali interim government, which despite international support has no control of the territory with the exception of the south-western city of Baidoa.
The Islamic Courts have rejected the idea of a peacekeeping force in Somalia, claiming it would offer cover to Ethiopia’s expansionist objectives.
“We are disappointed that the UN passed this resolution. It is unfortunate to add more weapons while the weapons that caused havoc are still in Somalia”, said Ali Mudey.
The resolution approved unanimously by the UN Council authorises the deployment of a contingent of the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority for Development), the regional block created in 1986 that comprises seven East African nations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia.
The peace force will have to guarantee support to the interim government headed by President Abduallhi Yusuf (considered close to Ethiopia).
Actually, mediation efforts had never interrupted and in the past weeks the interim Parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Skeikh Aden reached an accord with the Islamic Courts of Mogadishu, which however, was rejected by the President and Prime Minister.
With Arab League mediation, the sides had also agreed to a new round of talks in mid December in Khartoum (Sudan).
The two UN peace missions in the 1990’s (known as UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II) ended in 1995 with the anticipated withdrawal of the peacekeepers, defeated by local militias of the warlords that were battling over power, spiraling Somalia into chaos and violence from which it has still not entirely lifted.