June 12, 2007 / 12:07 PM / in 11 years

INTERVIEW-Ghana wary over sending peacekeepers to Somalia

By Orla Ryan

ACCRA, June 12 (Reuters) - Ghana would like to see moves towards a ceasefire in Somalia before it carries out a promise to send in peacekeeping troops, the foreign minister said.

Nana Akufo-Addo told Reuters a shortage of aircraft and vehicles was also preventing a Ghanaian military contingent from joining a beleaguered African Union force in Somalia.

Ghana was among a number of African countries which pledged troops to a planned 8,000-strong AU force in the east African state, where Ethiopian and Somali interim government troops are fighting a Somali insurgency.

But so far only Uganda has deployed 1,600 peacekeepers, who have suffered several casualties. Last month, four Ugandan soldiers were killed by a bomb in Mogadishu.

"We have not been able to send our troops to Somalia, largely for logistical reasons. We were promised assistance, logistical assistance, which has still not been forthcoming," Akufo-Addo said in an interview late on Monday.

Besides waiting for this logistical support from the AU and the international community, Ghana also hoped for a political solution to the Somali conflict, "when there is a clear understanding among the political forces there that they want a ceasefire or are committed to peace".

"In the present circumstances, where you have to enforce the peace, the whole business of equipment and everything becomes very much an issue. That is why for the time being, despite promising (to send troops), we are not having any clear way forward," Akufo-Addo said.

The 53-nation AU has often said it would like to police its own continent with African peacekeepers, instead of hosting international military forces such as the 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping contingent in Democratic Republic of Congo, the largest of its kind in the world.



"REINFORCE DARFUR TROOPS"

Current AU chairman Ghana, whose troops have served around the world with the U.N. from Liberia to Lebanon and are widely respected, also has soldiers with a hard-pressed 7,000-strong AU peacekeeping force in Sudan’s violent Darfur region.

Senegal and Rwanda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers from this overstretched Darfur mission unless it is quickly reinforced by the U.N..

Sudan has been resisting international pressure to allow the deployment in Darfur of a "hybrid" U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of more than 23,000, although Khartoum says it is now discussing details of this.

"I think that is the urgent issue right now, the need to replenish, strengthen and reinforce the troops (in Darfur), and have this hybrid force go in there as soon as possible," Akufo-Addo said.

Asked how long he thought AU troops could continue in Darfur without more support, he replied: "Clearly not very long."

The minister said an AU heads of state summit being hosted by Ghana on July 1-2 would have as the main item on its agenda the proposed creation of a "union government" for Africa.

This plan for an African federal government seems an ambitious enterprise for a vast continent carved up by artificial colonial borders and rent by ethnic, political and religious differences that have spawned wars and massacres.



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