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Lack of AU troops hindering Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia - Condoleezza Rice
By Bonny Apunyu.
Washington DC, October 29, 2007 – Ethiopia has not been able to withdraw from Somalia because the African Union (AU) has not been able to provide the peacekeepers needed to replace its troops, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday.
"I don't think there's any doubt that the Ethiopians don't want to stay in Somalia. And one of the things that we're trying to do is to work with the African Union to get that security force, the peacekeeping force, ready for Somalia," Rice testified in Congress.
Rice said problems in Sudan, Cote d'Ivore and other parts of Africa had made it "challenging" for the African Union to raise troops simultaneously.
"The A.U. has its challenges because they're trying simultaneously to raise forces for Sudan, for Somalia, to keep efforts going in Cote d'Ivoire and in other places. So it's a challenge. But we are very attentive to what needs to be done in Somalia," Rice responded to a question which was particularly raised by Congressman Donald Payne.
Payne last month managed to have congress pass a controversial bill [HR 2003] which has had supporters and critics.
The Democrat from New Jersey also inquired regarding the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea and asked the Secretary of State Rice what the United States was doing to pressurize Ethiopia to accept the boundary commission's ruling.
"...the Ethiopia-Eritrean situation and bottoming the demarcation of the borders had not been accepted by Ethiopia, our big ally in Africa. And I wonder if our administration is urging Ethiopia to accept the agreement that they said they would accept from The Hague as relates to the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia?"
In answering that question Rice said that while the US is "saying to the Ethiopians that certain things need to be done," it had however been difficult to get Eritrea to cooperate.
"It has been difficult to talk to Eritrea, frankly. We've had trouble getting them to talk to us. And I sent our assistant secretary to talk with Mr. Isaias, and he didn't see her," Rice said.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for restraints two weeks ago between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as both countries are trading blames and reports are indicating that there has been an increase in troop deployment in and around the Temporary Security Zone.
The Secretary-General, who called on the two countries to exercise "utmost restraint" and maintain their commitment to the Algiers Agreements, also said they should preserve the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), where UNMEE is deployed as peacekeeping mission.