By Cyprian Musoke
THE Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) has asked the UN to impose a no-fly zone on Somalia and block sea ports through which foreign groups supply logistics to the insurgents.
Eritrea, in particular, has been accused of serving as a conduit for arms, logistics and foreign fighters to the Islamist group Al Shabaab in Somalia.
On December 23 last year, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and vowed to slap financial and travel restrictions on its leaders for arming Al Shabaab.
The resolution, which was introduced by Uganda, passed by a vote of 13 to 1 in the 15-nation council, with Libya voting “no” and China abstaining.
At its meeting held in Addis Ababa on Thursday, the council hailed all the countries and institutions providing support to the AU peace keeping mission, especially Uganda and Burundi, calling on other member states to join.
Uganda and Burundi are the only countries that have contributed soldiers to the AU peace keeping force, known as AMISOM, but the 5,000 strong force falls short of the 8,000 soldiers required to secure the capital Mogadishu alone.
The AU council stressed that the deterioration of the situation in Somalia is proof of the increased internationalisation of the conflict.
It, therefore, called for the deployment of UN staff to help stabilise the situation and support the reconstruction of the country.
“The council noted that the current support remains below what is required on the ground and called for more mobilisation of the international community,” an AU release said over the weekend.
The group reiterated its support to the Somali government and asked for more support, including military, to enable the government neutralise the armed element and deliver basic services.
In that respect, it welcomed the recent commissioning of eight battalions of the Somali security forces, who had been trained by AMISOM.
It also welcomed the completion of the induction course for the AMISOM police trainers from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda who will in turn train the Somali police.
The council again condemned the acts of violence and terrorism by Islamist militant groups Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam “with the active support of foreign elements in defiance of the peace overtures of the government and the international community”.
It reiterated its call to all the Somali parties to join the peace process without any precondition and delay.
It also demanded that armed opposition groups ensure unrestricted access and assistance to needy civilians in areas under their control.
Meanwhile, World Food Programme has reported that Al Shabaab militants are stopping convoys of food reaching more than 360,000 displaced people.
Al Shabaab says World Food Programme is ruining local farming by forcing Somalis to rely on imports. But the UN says Somali farmers cannot supply enough food.