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AU reluctant to change role in Somalia

By Samson Ntale, For CNN
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Is AU facing Somalia trap?
  • Ping: Several countries have promised to send troops
  • Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab is currently battling weak transitional government in Somalia
  • They claimed responsibility for bombings in Uganda, citing its troops in Somalia

Munyonyo, Uganda (CNN) -- The African Union summit ended Tuesday without a resolution to change the mandate of its mission in Somalia from peacekeeping to peace enforcing, despite calls from some African leaders to do so.

"We have not made a resolution on the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, but it is an issue we are considering, given the resources required," Malawian president and AU chairman Bingu wa Mutharika told reporters at a joint news conference.

"There have been calls for a change in the mandate to a more robust approach to the insurgent attacks in Somalia by Uganda and Burundi, to go beyond Mogadishu, (which is) their current limit, but (we) did not decide on that," wa Mutharika said.

AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said that several conditions must be met before the mandate could be changed.

"We need equipment to match with the change in combat approach. We need helicopters for that. The United States and the UK are considering our request for these, but we need a firm reply," Ping said.

More funding is also needed for such a change, Ping explained, and certain diplomatic conditions must be met as well.

"It is necessary to reinforce the (United Nations-backed) transitional government in Mogadishu politically by being able to enter talks with groups willing to talk, and those which are radical will left to be dealt with the military option," he told reporters.

Video: More AU troops to Somalia

The summit, which opened Sunday, was originally slated to discuss health issues. However, security issues dominated the meetings, which came a little more than two weeks after bomb attacks at two sites in Kampala killed 76 people and injured more than 80. Many of the victims had gathered to watch the World Cup finals.

The al Qaeda-linked militant group Al-Shabaab, which is currently battling the weak transitional government in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying they were in retaliation for Uganda's contribution of troops for peacekeeping operations in Somalia. About 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops were deployed for the peacekeeping mission more than two years ago in the Horn of Africa nation, which has been at war for more than a decade.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni angrily told his counterparts Sunday they should beef up the peacekeeping operation in Somalia, and vowed his forces will retaliate with attacks on terrorist targets.

Ping told reporters that several countries, such as Nigeria, have promised to send troops. But South Africa said it could not yet send additional manpower due to overspending on its hosting of the World Cup games.

Also emerging from the summit was a request by African leaders that the United Nations postpone the period for the arrest warrants issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region.

The organization wants time to carry out its own investigations.

"We have decided to establish our own mechanism to approach the Sudan problem," wa Mutharika said. "We have to go there and approach the problem on the ground, interview people there and come out with our own report."

The Malawian president also criticized the International Criminal Court, which issued the warrants, saying such actions should not have been taken against a sitting head of state.

"Does the ICC have a right tell us what to do? Do they have a right to arrest the president of Sudan who is duly elected?" wa Mutharika asked. "It is an issue we cannot push under the table. We need to look at it again. That is why we are asking the U.N. to delay execution of the arrest warrant for 12 months, a period enough for us to verify the allegations."

"We are not condoning impunity, genocides or any forms of crimes either by individuals or by a head of state. But foreigners cannot decide on an issue concerning a head of state. We are sovereign states, and these states are recognized by the U.N. Anything dealing with a head of state must go through a process," he said.