Rebel fighters continue to battle police and peacekeepers from the African Union in an effort to disrupt the peace process in beleaguered Somalia. They have stepped up their attacks since the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops last month and the installation of a new unity government, indiscriminately killing both soldiers and civilians. They say their aim is to end corruption, bring stability and impose Islamic law on the long-troubled East African nation, but instead they bring only instability and death.
February 22, suicide bombers attacked an AU peacekeeping base in Mogadishu, killing 11 soldiers from Burundi and wounding 15. Meanwhile, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed since the insurgency began 2 years ago, one million people have been driven from their homes and sections of the capital lie in ruins from frequent shelling.
The A.U. force, comprised of soldiers from Uganda as well as Burundi, is a key element in the effort to stabilize Somali as the new government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke takes hold. The United States whole-heartedly supports the mission for the benefits it can bring the Somali people, and it will continue to do so with equipment, training and deployment.
The U.S. also supports the political process playing out there now in a Somali-led effort to bring stability to the nation. Attacks on the government at this stage are an attack on stability, the acts of desperate extremists who would deny the Somali people the opportunity to determine their own future. With their attacks on foreign aid workers and the AU peacekeepers, they are also hindering the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance.
Now more than ever is the time for all Somalis to reject such violence and give the new government the proper chance to do its work so the nation may regain political and economic stability.