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AU team to Somalia


14/02/2005 - (SA)

Nairobi - African Union officials will fly into Somalia on Monday to assess security ahead of the deployment of African troops to help restore a working administration after 14 years of chaos.

The trip had been scheduled to start on Friday, but was delayed amid security fears after the slaying of a BBC journalist in the Somali capital Mogadishu last Wednesday.

The 15-member team is composed of representatives from the AU, the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Arab League, AU special envoy for Somalia, Admor Kambudzi, told reporters on Sunday. They will be in Somalia for 10 to 12 days.

"We will visit a number of places starting with Mogadishu," Kambudzi said, declining to name other areas to be visited in the Horn of Africa nation of approximately 10 million people.

Last month the AU agreed in principle to send troops to Somalia to assist the new government get a foothold in the deeply divided country. But African leaders asked IGAD, which includes Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Djibouti and Sudan, to deploy an interim peace mission in Somalia ahead of a proper AU force. Somalia's transitional government, now based in Nairobi but due to begin relocating to Mogadishu on February 21, has approved the decision to deploy a regional force but this will have to be approved by the country's parliament

Some Somali clans and Islamic court leaders have vowed to resist the deployment of foreign troops in the shattered African nation, whose government collapsed after Mohammed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991. Asked to comment on their opposition, the AU's Kambudzi said: "We are not aware of armed groups opposing the deployment of the troops."

A previous foray by United Nations and United States to restore peace between 1993 and 1995 in Somalia ended disastrously when the missions were drawn into inter-clan fighting, resulting in the death of about 140 UN peacekeepers, 18 US special forces and thousands of Somalis.

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