UNITED NATIONS, Mar 21 – The UN Security Council gave a stamp of approval on Friday to Somalia’s new unity government and urged increased international aid to African Union (AU) peacekeepers trying to contain the violence in the lawless country.
After a briefing by Somalia’s new foreign minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, the 15-member body adopted a non-binding statement that welcomed "the positive political developments and progress" since the UN-brokered national reconciliation talks in Djbouti last year.
These, it noted, included the election earlier this year of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist cleric, the establishment of an inclusive parliament and the subsequent formation of a unity government led by Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Shamarke.
The statement said council members "encourage the international community to extend financial and technical support to the government in its efforts towards rebuilding vital institutions, especially in the areas of security and the rule of law."
It praised "the valuable contribution" made by the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and called on the international community to provide the mission "additional resources for it to better fulfill its mandate."
Earlier, Britain’s UN Ambassador John Sawers said London would give an additional 10 million pounds (14.4 million dollars) to an UN trust fund for AMISOM.
"This is in addition to the five million pounds (7.2 million dollars) that we have already given directly to the African Union for AMISOM," Sawers said. "We encourage others also to contribute."
Omaar meanwhile asked the AU to deploy three additional battalions of Ugandan and Burundian troops to beef up its mission.
"This needs to be undertaken immediately with improved equipment, logistics and medical facilities," he added.
AMISOM comprises Ugandan and Burundian contingents totaling around 3,400 men in Mogadishu, but has been unable to contain the violence that has raged since it was deployed in 2007. The AU had initially pledged 8,000 troops.
Omaar also urged the Security Council to lift its 17-year arms embargo to help Somali forces properly equip in their bid to defeat hardline Islamist fighters.
The Security Council embargo imposed in January 1992 has been constantly violated with weapons mainly coming from Yemen and financed by Eritrea as well as Arab and Islamic donors, according to a recent UN report.
Omaar hailed the integration of transitional government troops and a faction of the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) into the Joint Security Forces (JSF) following UN-brokered reconciliation talks in Djibouti last year.
"If the JSF is to be equipped by the international community to partner with AMISOM and to secure peace, the embargo on the government has to be re-addressed," he added.
"The JSF is not funded, resources or equipped up to now. Yet it is the essential partner of AMISOM for peacekeeping."
Meanwhile the UN special envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, hailed the fact that the president, the prime minister, the cabinet and parliament had all moved back to Mogadishu, the capital. "Somalia is back from the brink," he said.
He also focused on the issue of rampant piracy off the Somali coast and welcomed the international naval presence to deter it as "a show of solidarity with the country and the whole region."
Omaar also stressed the importance of the April 22 Brussels conference, sponsored by the AU and the UN to raise funds for AMISOM and Somali security forces.
"Without these resources, visible and effective demonstration of the authority of the state and the rule of law will not be achieved and peace will not be secured," he noted.
Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president of the war-ravaged African state only in January following UN-brokered reconciliation talks but faces a tough task to bring peace to a country wracked by civil war since 1991.
Islamist fighters including the hardline Shebab militia have waged battles against the government and its allies since before Ahmed came to power, vowing to fight until all foreign forces withdraw and sharia law is imposed.
Somalia has had no effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre.