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No decision yet on SA troops to Somalia
By Louis Oelofse
Pretoria, South Africa. 17 January 2007 - South Africa has again stressed that its defence force is over-stretched and is still considering troop contributions to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad told journalists in Pretoria on Wednesday that no decision has been made on possible troop contributions.
"It is both the situation in Somalia and our own capabilities that will influence our decision," he said.
This comes after Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi reportedly named South Africa as one of five countries that had agreed to send troops.
Ghedi named the countries who had agreed to send troops as: Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi and Senegal.
But thus far only Uganda has publicly offered to contribute to the proposed 8, 000-strong AU peacekeeping force.
In the meantime, Ethiopia indicated that it wants to pull its soldiers out of Somalia within weeks, after recently helping interim government forces oust Islamists who controlled much of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.
"The reality is that there has been literally no effective governance in Somalia. We had conflict between clans and tribes and, added to that, external involvement. It is a very complex situation," Pahad said.
He avoided several questions on when South Africa would decide on possible troop contributions.
"We are also, of course, constricted by the fact that we are heavily stretched; as one country we are carrying four or five operations,"
He was referring to South African troops deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping operation in that country.
The government is also planning to increase its troop contribution to the AU peacekeeping operation on Sudan to over a thousand troops.
South Africa is almost the sole contributor to the AU Special Task Force that took over peacekeeping duties from the UN in Burundi.
"This is a matter that we keep watching and we will wait for the report of the AU mission -- which has a South African on it -- who are currently in Somalia," Pahad said.
The AU delegation, which arrived in Somalia on Saturday, is expected to make recommendations on how the planned 8,000-strong AU-force should be composed.
The Cabinet will decide on the issue and is expected to hold a lekgotla (meeting0 next week. Pahad, however, did not want to say when a decision could be expected.