Friday November 26 2010

Somalia still needs 12,000 more troops

By John Njoroge

The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has received a boost in strength after Burundi, the only other African country working with Uganda, deployed an additional battalion to push the number of peacekeepers to 8,000.
More than 800 Burundian peacekeepers arrived in Mogadishu, the Somali capital on Monday, to join the country’s contingent of 2,600.
A combined force of more than 4,500 UPDF troops are on ground in Somalia.

More troops needed
In an interview with Daily Monitor on Wednesday evening, Uganda contingent commander, Col. Michael Ondonga, said although Amisom was effectively holding its positions, the force is still deficient of manpower.

“We need 20,000 men,” Ondonga said. “In 2007, the projected troop levels by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the AU was 8,000 men to stabilize this region. This was before foreign fighters joined local insurgents al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. Now the need has increased significantly. We are no longer facing local insurgents alone but fighters from other countries here,” he said.

Tough times
Col. Ondonga said with 20, 000 men, Amisom would function even more effectively. He also revealed AMISOM had been facing stiff hostility since June this year, but has held its positions.

“The situation has been hectic with hostile forces determined to take over State House and the sea port. They have failed,” he said.

He said since the Muslim fasting period of Ramadhan, intelligence reports had shown that the two insurgent groups in the country had moved to join forces but that had since not materialised because of ground work by the Amisom.

Col. Ondonga said the African Union mission troops have been successful because they are vigilant and have mastered a firm grasp of and tracking of the movements, intelligence and war techniques of the insurgents through effective intelligence mechanism.