December 22, 2010 / 9:40 PM / in 7 years

U.N. council OKs big boost in AU Somalia force

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday authorized a boost in the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia from 8,000 to 12,000 troops to shore up the country’s government against Islamist insurgents.

The force, known as AMISOM, currently consists of soldiers from Uganda and Burundi. Uganda is expected to provide the extra 4,000 troops.

African nations had been calling for an increase to 20,000 troops to rout militants from the capital Mogadishu, but major powers on the Security Council called that excessive. AMISOM’s costs are largely met by the international community.

The lawless Horn of Africa nation has been mired in violence and awash with weapons since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Largely due to the anarchy, pirates have become a scourge of shipping off the Somali coast.

Western security officials say Somalia is a breeding ground for Islamist militants and is attracting increasing numbers of foreign jihadists.

Security Council diplomats say the extra troops should enable AMISOM to secure Mogadishu from Islamist al Shabaab rebels, who seek to topple the fragile government and impose a harsh form of sharia law.

Wednesday’s resolution asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to go on providing equipment and services for AMISOM, which receives its mandate from the Security Council. It also urged U.N. member states and international bodies to contribute “generously and promptly” to a U.N. trust fund for AMISOM.

The force already receives about $130 million a year in outside funding, diplomats say.

The resolution also extended the U.N. mandate for AMISOM, which had been due to expire on January 31, until September 30, 2011.

Uganda’s U.N. Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda told the council the resolution would improve AMISOM’s ability to carry out its mandate, but said it was crucial the force received “the requisite resources.”

Rugunda urged the Somali government “to remain cohesive and continue its efforts to reach out to those (opposition) groups that are willing and ready to cooperate in a spirit of reconciliation.”

African countries and the Somali government have long urged the Security Council to send a full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping force to Somalia to replace AMISOM, but the council has said it will not do so until the security situation improves there.

Editing by Xavier Briand

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