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Nigeria: 700 Troops Head for Somalia
Abuja, 14 November 2007- Nigeria is preparing to send troops to Somalia as part of a peacekeeping force.
A battalion of 700 troops is ready to fly into the volatile Horn of African state when the president gives the order, the army said yesterday.
The plans were revealed by US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte before he returned home from a visit to Abuja yesterday morning. He had been in discussions with the Defence Ministry.
The Director of Army Public Relations Col U.S.A Giwa-Amu said: "We are preparing vigorously for that. There is a battalion ready for the direction of the Commander in Chief on when they are going to be deployed." The battalion is currently training in a north-east Nigerian state, the spokesman said.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte revealed he discussed the possibility of sending Nigerian troops to Somalia for a peacekeeping mission there. Speaking to journalists at Abuja airport he said: "We agreed on the need to deploy peacekeeping forces to Sudan as soon as possible. We also discussed how Nigeria can contribute to the African Union's peacekeeping efforts in Somalia. Nigeria is an important friend and strategic partner of the U.S, as well as a leader on the continent. The U.S is committed to sustaining a robust bilateral partnership with Nigeria which advances our mutual interests. We welcome Nigeria's leadership role in Africa".
Somalia has been without a fully-functioning government for much of the last 15 years. US forces pulled out from a peacekeeping task-force in 1993 after 18 US soldiers were killed.
In 2006 the Islamic Courts Union defeated warlords in control of Mogadishu since the collapse of the state in the early 1990s. The ICU accused the US of funding and arming the warlords against them. The US government accused the ICU's leadership of being in league with the ideology of Al-Qaeda. The Transitional Federal Government, backed by Ethiopian troops, drove the ICU out of the capital in December 2006.
Secretary Negroponte yesterday reaffirmed US support for reform, increased transparency, and principles of good governance. He urged the Nigerian government to implement electoral reforms to fix the problems of the last election. He also applauded the president for the commitment to strengthen rule of law and fighting corruption.
The US deputy secretary said "The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is a key in promoting good governance and democracy in Nigeria by pursuing corruption wherever it is found. Transparency is one of the most powerful tools available to fight corruption".
"We discussed the government's effort to address longstanding issues in the Niger Delta. We support Nigeria's efforts to stabilize and improve governance in the Niger Delta. I assured both the national security advisor and the defence minister that the United States would do what it could to help Nigeria stamp out criminality in the Niger basin," he said.
He expressed sadness over the deaths of Nigerian troops in Darfur, and commended the Nigerian armed forces for their support of the peacekeeping effort there. Secretary Negroponte added that Nigeria has played an important role in international peacekeeping. He said there is no country that has done more in trying to give assistance to people of Darfur. The Sudanese government has agreed to allow a UN force made up of troops from African nations to enter the region and help the African Union maintain the peace.
Mr Negroponte said one of the difficulties is that Sudan government has refused to accept AU and EU forces in certain units and there are certain issues that need to be sorted out by the government of Sudan and the secretary general of the U.N, he also urged government of Sudan to formally accept forces that have been offered as soon as possible.
Somalia has been torn apart by war since 1991. Since last year the Transitional Federal Government of interim president Abdullahi Yusuf has been fighting rebel clan militia groups for control of the capital Mogadishu. Currently 1,600 Ugandan troops are stationed in Mogadishu under the banner of the African Union. An AU force of 8000 had been agreed with the Interim Government but no other country has put forward its troops.
Yesterday interim president Yusuf said the mainly Ethiopian military was cracking down on rebel groups in the capital. At least 70 people have been killed in the last.
Source: Daily Trust