AMISOM leader would like 8,000 troops for mission
April 24, 2009
BRUSSELS — The security situation in Somalia is so dire and his peacekeeping force is so small, the military commander of the African Union Mission to Somalia, or AMISOM, said, that his forces can’t venture much beyond Mogadishu.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes late Wednesday, Ugandan army Maj. Gen. Francis Okello said there currently are 4,350 African Union troops in the Somali capital. The troops come from Uganda and Burundi.
"The situation is still a little dicey," Okello said. "There is still fighting."
Okello said he would like to have an AMISOM force of 8,000 working in conjunction with a Somali force of 5,000 soldiers and 8,000 police. A security force of that size would allow AMISOM troops to step away from the capital city, Okello said.
Currently, Somalia has no professionally trained army and has a rudimentary police force of 2,700, according to Tariq Chaudhry, a U.N. political affairs officer based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Other populated areas, such as the picturesque coastal city of Kismayu, are not under the control of the transitional federal government led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Kismayu, the third largest city in Somalia, is under the control of al-Shabaab, a Somali Islamic group that has imposed a particularly harsh interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic, law. The group has other strongholds as well.
"It’s from [Mogadishu] you can spring out into the countryside and cities," Okello said.
"The answer to Somalia is not the number of soldiers (in AMISOM)," he said. "It’s helping them develop their own security capacity."