African Union (AU) ministers pressed the United Nations Monday to lift an arms embargo on Somalia to allow neighbouring countries to deploy peacekeepers to protect an interim government there.
Ministers from the 53-member AU echoed calls made last month by east African ministers, but added that urgent action was required to secure the new Somali Government and set the country on the path of lasting peace and democracy.
"The decision is that the ministers want the arms embargo removed immediately. The Somali Government itself feels let down by Africa, which it says asked it to relocate from Kenya and go to a lawless country without any basic help to set up security apparatus," said an AU official.
The government has settled in the town of Johwar pending the tackling of security concerns in the capital Mogadishu.
"Peacekeepers cannot deploy unless the embargo is lifted because they cannot be allowed to move in heavy military gear," said the AU official, who helped draft the resolution.
The draft resolution circulated among ministers urged the United Nations to "lift the arms embargo immediately."
"The timing of issuing the resolution is right. The UN secretary general is here, and the feeling is that he will see that Africans want the UN to help them complete the process of returning Somalia to peace," the AU official said.
Somalia's new government returned home last month after a nine-month delay caused by a dispute within the cabinet over where the administration should be based a key security issue for a region long destabilised by Somalia's insecurity.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere said the entire Somali Government had now relocated.
Without foreign peacekeepers, the government of President Abdullahi Yusuf fears militia rule in Somalia will prevent ministers and their teams from carrying out their work in safety, free from violence, corruption and extortion.
The regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a conflict resolution body, says AU troops from Sudan and Uganda were ready to deploy but had been stopped by lack of funds and the UN arms embargo.
IGAD has pledged to deal decisively with "spoilers" keen to derail a return to a proper government in Somalia and threatened to refer them to the International Criminal Court.
Kadafy urges unity
Meanwhile, Libyan leader Moammar Kadafy urged African leaders yesterday not to go begging to this week's G8 summit of leading developed countries, telling them to embrace self-reliance and reject conditional aid from the West.
"Begging will not make the future of Africa, (instead) it creates a greater gap between the great ones and the small ones," he told the opening session of the summit.
Kadafy's message is unlikely to set the tone of the gathering, which is due to adopt a broadly favourable stance on a British-backed drive for more help for Africa to be presented to the coming G8 summit.
While Kadafy is the host of the meeting and a founder of the three-year-old AU, it is currently chaired by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo will be a key influence behind the wording of a message that African leaders are expected to send to the G8 summit later this week about rescuing the continent of 800 million from poverty, war and disease, diplomats say.
AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako said: "We have requested Western partners to expedite debt cancellation for the whole of Africa by 2007.
"They should also improve the quality of the aid so that it is really helpful to poor African people."
Many critics of Western aid say it suffers a number of defects, principally that much of it goes to pay expensive Western consultants or that it is conditional on African governments doing business with a donor country's companies.
Source: China Daily