African leaders meeting recently in Kampala, Uganda, recommitted themselves to international efforts to bring stability to strife-torn Somalia, agreeing to send more peacekeeping troops to confront militants battling the country's Transitional Federal Government. The United States commends their resolve, and pledges to continue its support for the African Union peacekeeping mission there to counter the threat posed by terrorist organization al-Shabaab to Somalis, Somalia's neighbors, and the broader international community.
At least 21,000 Somalis have been killed in fighting since early 2007 and more than a million others displaced from their homes, many fleeing to Kenya, Yemen, and other nearby countries.
Representing nations across the continent, the African Union pledged to send 4,000 more troops to bolster the 6,300-man force operating in and around the capital, Mogadishu, to back up government troops and protect civilians. The current force is made up of soldiers from Uganda and Burundi, and officials in Guinea indicate they may contribute additional peacekeepers. In what al-Shabaab leaders described as retaliation for Uganda's peacekeeping efforts, the militants staged bomb attacks in Kampala that killed 71 people watching the World Cup finals on television at a popular restaurant and sports club.
The Kampala bombings were a wake-up call about how fragile the situation in Somalia has become and how broad a threat the instability there poses. Gangs operating out of Somali ports attack and highjack cargo ships traversing its coast, one of the world's busiest shipping channels. Illegal arms and contraband move almost freely across its borders along with the thousands of refugees. And now international terrorist attacks have been added to the list.
Somalia deserves greater attention by the international community. After nearly 20 years of conflict, Somalis deserve stability and peace. The United States, working with its Somali, African and international partners, is working to answer this call through the provision of urgently needed humanitarian and development aid, assistance to the AU and the transitional government, and support for advancing the Djibouti Peace Process.