IGAD to deploy peacekeepers despite opposition by faction leaders
"We are going to deploy with or without the support of the warlords," said Museveni, on the closing day of a meeting of IGAD defence ministers in the central Ugandan town of Entebbe.
"Why should the warlords for example reject Ethiopia and Kenya?", questioned the chairman. "If the two countries go there, what will happen? It is a shame for one of [the] ancient races in Africa to suffer for so long, as the rest of Africa looks on."
It was proposed at the meeting that up to 10,000 peacekeepers, as part of the IGAD Peace Support Mission to Somalia (IGASOM), be deployed from 30 April. The proposal, however, has to be endorsed by the IGAD Council of Ministers before it can be implemented.
"What are we waiting for? You should work out the deployment programme as soon as possible," Museveni told the defence ministers.
Uganda's military chief, Lt-Gen Aronda Nyakairima, said that IGASOM would be deployed throughout Somalia, with the exception of the self-declared republic of Somaliland.
"We shall deploy from Puntland all the way to the south," Nyakairima said.
However, according to a communiqué issued by the ministers on Monday, the IGASOM force is expected to be replaced by an African Union (AU) force after nine months.
In February, the AU authorised IGAD - which comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda - to send a peace mission to Somalia. Its purpose would be to help the country's transitional federal government (TFG) get a foothold there when it relocates from Nairobi, Kenya.
Although the TFG requested the peacekeeping force, opposition to troops from the country's immediate neighbours is widespread in Somalia. Some faction leaders, including those who are members of the TFG cabinet, have said they would not accept troops from neighbouring countries.
"We endorse the deployment of troops from the international community without the involvement of contingents from Somalia's immediate neighbours, Ethiopia and Djibouti," several faction leaders said in a statement recently.
Members of the TFG cabinet who signed the statement included: Hussein Mohamed Aidid, deputy prime minister; Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, minister of national security; Musa Sudi Yalahow, minister of trade; Botan Isse, minister for demobilisation; and Omar Mohamud "Finnish", minister for religious affairs.
The United States and a think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), have also expressed concern about including troops from neighbouring countries without the approval of the Somali people.
"It would be premature for foreign governments to send troops into Somalia when the [Somali transitional federal] parliament is yet to debate the issue," Matt Bryden, the director of the ICG's Horn of Africa project, told IRIN on Tuesday. "There is popular opposition to the peace mission within Somalia, and such a move could jeopardise the peace process."
IGAD defence officials held their meeting in order to thrash out a deployment plan for the peace mission, including logistics, funding, and the size of the force. The mission is expected to cost about US $500 million, according to an official at the talks.
On 2 March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country was ready to send peacekeepers to Somalia, if invited.
"The bottom line is our offer is still on the table, but we are not going to impose ourselves on Somalia," Meles told a news conference in Addis Ababa. "It is up to the Somali government and the Somali people."
Somalia had no central government between 1991 and October 2004, which was when the TFG was formed in Kenya, after two years of IGAD-sponsored peace talks between various Somali clans and factions.
However, the administration has remained in Nairobi because of security concerns, although officials of the new government have visited the country to build support for their return.