Somalia’s Ahmed in Djibouti for peace force talks

Source: Reuters

* Somali government wants mission strengthened * Visit comes ahead of U.N. General Assembly meeting By Abdiaziz Hassan NAIROBI, Sept 9 (Reuters) – Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed held talks with his counterpart in Djibouti on Wednesday to discuss strengthening a peacekeeping force based in the anarchic Somali capital Mogadishu. There are just over 5,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi helping Ahmed’s government battle a stubborn insurgency by Islamist militants. Somali officials want the AU mission replaced by a tougher U.N. force. “Before the upcoming U.N. General Assembly (Sept 15-30), we need to get the region’s support for our proposed future U.N. peace mission to Somalia,” Abdulkadir Osman, Ahmed’s spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from Djibouti. The AU troops have been able to do little more than guard the Somali capital’s presidential palace, sea port, airport and a few streets in between. They have frequently been targeted by insurgent mortar shells and roadside bombs. Ahmed has repeatedly called for the AU mission to be strengthened and given a tougher mandate, and Osman said he would discuss that with Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh. “The two presidents will discuss boosting the number of the African mission, and changing their mandate to engage in a more active role,” the spokesman said. AID EMERGENCY Osman said Ahmed would also attend the passing-out of more than 1,000 Somali troops who have been trained in Djibouti. Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel, was elected in January at U.N.-hosted peace talks in Djibouti the 15th attempt to restore central government to Somalia since 1991. Western security agencies say the lawless Horn of Africa nation has become a safe haven for militants including foreign jihadists who are plotting attacks in the region and beyond. Violence has killed more than 18,000 Somalis since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.4 million from their homes. That has triggered one of the world’s worst aid emergencies, with the number of people needing help leaping 17.5 percent in a year to 3.76 million or half the population. [ID:nLP151380] Sirad Anod, a university graduate who fled the fighting with her two children to the outskirts of Mogadishu, told Reuters she did not expect the United Nations to help much. “It’s the same United Nations that left us behind in 1993. They can’t return us to our home,” she said. “Somalis need to discuss their differences …and come up with a local solution.” (Editing by Daniel Wallis and Ralph Boulton)

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