Monday, June 29, 2009

African Union Should Investigate 'Peacekeepers' Actions in Somalia

JOHANNESBURG 26 June 2009 Sapa-dpa


Human Rights Watch called Friday on the African Union to set up
a commission to investigate allegations of indiscriminate use of
force by peacekeepers in conflict-ridden Somalia.

An AU peacekeeping force of 4,300 troops from Uganda and Burundi
is propping up the Somali government, which is wobbling under a
fierce onslaught by Islamist insurgents.

The peacekeepers have faced repeated accusations of responding
to roadside bombs and other attacks by randomly opening fire on

"The Somalia peacekeeping mission is the AU's toughest and most
dangerous undertaking in Africa today," Georgette Gagnon, Africa
director at HRW, said in a statement. "The AU should ensure that
its troops are not drawn into the abuse that surrounds them."

HRW alleged that peacekeepers in February killed at least 13
Somalis, most of them civilians, when they opened fire wildly
following an attack.

The body, which sent its request to AU leaders in advance of a
the upcoming AU summit in Libya on July 1-3, said that all such
incidents should be investigated and those responsible held to

Civilians have borne the brunt of Somalia's bloody insurgency,
which broke out in early 2007 after Ethiopia invaded to kick out an
Islamist regime.

An estimated 18,000 civilians have died, while over a million
have fled. Millions more are dependent on food aid.

Insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam launched a major
offensive in early May aimed at toppling President Sheikh Sharif
Sheikh Ahmed, who was appointed this year as part of a
United-Nations backed peace process.

The Somali government has unsuccessfully appealed for foreign
military intervention as it clings to power.

However, the United States on Thursday confirmed it had sent an
unspecified amount of weapons and ammunition to the Somali

The US is concerned about the consequences for regional security
if al-Shabaab, which has links to al-Qaeda, takes over Somalia.

Somalia has been embroiled in chaos since the 1991 ouster of
dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

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