UNITED NATIONS, Feb 22 – Kenyan troops already in Somalia will now operate under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) command after the UN Security Council increased the AU force there by nearly 6,000 troops to 17,731 and gave it explicit mandate to go on the offensive against Islamist militants.
The 15-nation Council unanimously agreed on a resolution that will more than double international funding for the Somalia military operation to about $550 million a year.
Resolution 2036 was prepared by Britain ahead of an international conference in London that is being attended by among others President Mwai Kibaki to deliberate the need to boost support for efforts by Somalia’s Transitional Government to re-establish control in the country.
“Security is not in itself a sufficient answer to the multiple crises in Somalia,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant after the vote.
Ethiopian troops, who took control of the Al Shabaab stronghold of Baidoa on Wednesday, will however not be part of the force. Baidoa was the seat of Somalia’s transitional parliament until the hard-line militant group captured it three years ago.
“But it is a key element of the overall strategy that the international community is now developing towards Somalia.”
The London conference hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron was to deliberate on the political process that must be initiated in view of the expiry of the term of the Transitional Federal Institutions later this year.
It will also seek to identify ways of enhancing security and justice and exploring ways and means of promoting stability and recovery at the sub-nation level.
The conference will also deliberate on piracy and terrorism as well as the humanitarian situation in Somalia.
The London conference will be seeking to reach consensus on the political future of Somalia when the current mandate of the Transitional Federal Institutions in August this year.
Somalia has had no effective government for more than two decades and in recent years Al Shabaab rebels, who are linked to Al-Qaeda, and other militant groups, have taken an increasing hold on large parts of the country.
The African Union force, AMISOM, has been helping the government to fight back over the past year, however and has retaken most of Mogadishu.
The force now mainly made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti had an upper limit of 12,000 but can now call on the extra troops as it seeks to take on new Al Shabaab strongholds.
The Security Council explicitly set a date of August 20 for Somalia’s weak transitional government to agree details of a new constitution and elections for a new parliament.
It also ordered AMISOM to move into new parts of Somali and gave it a direct mandate to go on the offensive against the Al Shabaab.
AMISOM was “authorized to take all necessary measures” with Somali forces “to reduce the threat posed by the militant group and other armed opposition groups in order to establish conditions for effective and legitimate governance across Somalia,” said the resolution.
AMISOM is run by the African Union but paid for by the United Nations.