Sunday, March 21, 2010

Enough's report re LRA in S. Darfur, Sudan may not be true

FROM Peter Eichstaedt's blog
Sunday, 21 March 2010:
The widely publicized report from Enough that Joseph Kony had found safe haven in south Darfur as guests of the Sudan government, may not be true.

A story last Friday by Nairobi-based reporter, Alisha Ryu of the Voice of America radio, titled, "
Reports That LRA's Kony is Hiding in Darfur Alarm South Sudan," quotes an Enough researcher as saying no one really knows where Kony is.

As I and others have warned for several years now, the story adds that officials in South Sudan are worried that Kony is being equipped and preparing for attacks in advance of the south's elections next month and next year.

Additionally, as reported in this blog last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said that his military intelligence officials suspected that Kony, who had fled the Central African Republic, had joined LRA units in south Darfur.

However, when Ryu contacted Ledio Cakaj, the Kampala-based researcher for Enough, Cakaj said Kony's whereabouts is unknown.

"Kony could be anywhere," Cakaj told Ryu. "Having spoken to the Ugandan military intelligence services, I have found out that the military intelligence is not sure what happened to Kony," said Cakaj.

"There was a belief that he tried to go into south Darfur," the researcher added. "But it is very likely that he turned south. And we have heard - I would say fairly credible reports - he might have even crossed into Congo last week, close to Bas-Uele in Province Orientale," Cakaj added.

If Kony had crossed into the Congo when Cakaj suggests, it was within days of when Enough announced that it had confirmed that Kony was in Darfur.

As I showed last week, the Enough announcement was very old news. But more worrisome is that the announcement raises questions about both the veracity, motivation, and timing of it, since so many people look to Enough for guidance.

By contrast, comments made by Enough's Cakaj have the clear ring of truth.

Assuming that Cakaj's comments are correct, it means trouble is on the move. If Kony has already "moved south," and could be in northeastern Congo, he mostly likely has been resupplied.

If that is true, it would make sense for Kony to return to the Congo and regroup his forces for strikes into South Sudan. These strikes could come as early as the next couple of weeks and certainly by next month's general elections.

This eventuality is sadly the worst, but most likely of all.

By
Peter Eichstaedt at 3/21/2010.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ugandan LRA finds safe haven in troubled Darfur

From Sudan Tribune, Thursday 18 March 2010
Ugandan LRA finds safe haven in troubled Darfur
Opinion piece by Steve Paterno
March 17, 2010 — Finally, collaborated reliable sources have confirmed the arrival of a notorious Ugandan rebel armed group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the Sudanese troubled region of Darfur. Since late last year, the LRA attempts to relocate into Darfur has been the subject of speculations. The LRA, known for its brutalities against civilians, is a terrorist outfit that originated in Northern Uganda and found sponsorship in a dictatorial Sudanese regime in Khartoum. However, by 2005, after a landmark agreement signed between the Sudanese regime in Khartoum, and the Southern based, Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the relationship between the LRA and Khartoum regime was somehow in jeopardy, as both could not have a direct geographical link with one another and to continue on with their cozy relationship. The LRA, which was left without bases or direct support, resorted into survival instincts. It bought time by a phony negotiation of a peace deal with Ugandan government under the auspicious of South Sudan government; and that period of peace negotiation (2006-2008), the LRA managed to regroup, kidnap, recruit, and then went on killing and looting spree, theorizing civilians in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with occasionally foray into Central African Republic (CAR). In December of 2008, the armies of Uganda, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo launched joint-operations against the LRA hideouts and positions in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. The offensive destroyed all of their bases, disrupted command and structure, and decimated much of their fighting forces, whereby the ruminants of its ragtag fighters split into smaller units.

The LRA remnants, led by its top leadership, moved-on with aim to establish bases in Central African Republic. However, the Ugandan army, permitted by the authorities of Central African Republic continued chasing the LRA, deep inside the country. By late 2009, the sightings of LRA, marking their brutal modus operandi, were reported in Western Behr al-Ghazel region of South Sudan, the region, which borders, Central African Republic and South Darfur. In statement issued by spokesperson of South Sudan army, the LRA encountered the South Sudanese army at Kor Medina in Raga County. In that incident, the LRA were reported to have made away with a bunch of loots, killing several, and kidnapping unidentified number of civilians. By then, the Ugandan army admitted that the LRA internationally indicted leader, Joseph Kony was believed to be somewhere on a move in Western Behr al-Ghazel region. Even though all the information was denied by both Khartoum regime and LRA, a recent report by a Washington advocacy based group, Enough Project—citing field research, confirms that indeed, “LRA units have reached South Darfur.”

The recent news about LRA linking-up with its longtime sponsor in Khartoum through Darfur region, has drawn a fury of rebuttals from both LRA's and Khartoum's camps. Despite the denials, a lot is left to be desired. A news report by AlertNet, attributed to a one LRA Colonel Michael Anywar—purportedly acting as LRA liaison military officer—describes the news of LRA presence in Darfur as a “fabrication.” The Khartoum regime through its missions abroad even went wilder. Its embassy in the USA blamed those who believe that the LRA are in Darfur to have lacked common sense and understanding “of fundamental knowledge of the geography of the region.” And, this talking point sounds exactly as if it is picked right from the pages of army's spokesperson in Khartoum. In his statement, the regime's army's spokesperson in Khartoum, Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad, indicated that the LRA are used to fighting in the forest, therefore, they could not be in Darfur as there is no forest in Darfur.

The repudiations from Khartoum missions abroad and its army spokesperson are not just wrong in many respects, but playing ignorance to fool everyone. First, there are forests in parts of Darfur, specifically the areas where the LRA are currently located: that includes the vast biosphere region of Radom National Park in South Darfur state. The LRA presences in the region extend to areas such as Kafia Kingi and Dongo. According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Radom National Park can host about any kind of creatures on this planet earth, including LRA and armies from Khartoum. The region contains two permanent rivers, perfect for sustaining livelihood. Currently, it is none other than Khartoum military, which is supporting the LRA in the places mentioned above. Secondly, as a professional soldier, one expects that the Khartoum army spokesperson knows that soldiers and armed rebels are trained to fight and survive or adapt to any weather, climatic conditions and terrain. Thirdly, the reason of LRA trek to Darfur is to connect with its sponsor in Khartoum, mainly the Khartoum armed forces. Fourthly, LRA has been a proxy force to fight against Khartoum's enemies, and that mission has not changed. There are many enough reasons to invalidate the rebuttals put out by Khartoum.

Locally, the South Sudanese army, which has been for long reluctant to take on LRA seriously, has recently put an alert out in an event of possible LRA disruptive activities in South Sudan region, as the country prepares for the upcoming elections. Hopefully, any would be LRA activities in South Sudan will be stopped. Internationally, the LRA ongoing atrocities has caught the attention of the USA government. The USA Senate has just passed a bipartisan legislation intended to deal away with the LRA menace once and for all. The legislation is yet to pass the USA House of Representative, in order for it to become an effective tool to fight off the LRA. Of course, the Ugandan army, which has been in a hot pursuit of the LRA, cannot cross into Darfur region. It also remain to be seen if a coordinated strategic approach—involving the UN peacekeeping in the region, and the regional governments, including Khartoum—could be drawn to stop the LRA terrorist activities in the region. In all, it seems, the LRA will continue with its terrorist mission, this time, using an already troubled region as a launching pad.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Children sold on the slave market? Sudanese planes deliver arms and supplies to LRA outposts?

HERE is a shocking story, if true:
Sudanese planes have been spotted delivering arms and supplies to LRA outposts. A witness reported watching a plane full of weapons being unloaded, after which children were brought out of the bush and put on the plane. Presumably the children were flown back to northern Sudan to be sold on the slave market.

After the LRA attacked a Central African village in Obo, they took three hundred children. I spoke to a UN rep who described the silence of the childless village, interrupted by the sound of weeping parents.
The full story is here below.

Khartoum Regime Hosts the World's Most Barbaric Militia: The Lord's Resistance Army
From The Huffington Post
By Mia Farrow, Saturday, 13 March 2010
It is common knowledge that, despite their denials, the Sudanese government has long provided material support to the world's most stunningly brutal militia, the Lord's Resistance Army ( LRA).

The LRA is Ugandan cult army without any current political agenda. It was founded by Joseph Kony in the 1980s. Since then Kony and his followers have been moving through deepest brush in Uganda, Congo, south Sudan and CAR, emerging only to plunder villages and to murder, rape, abduct and mutilate people. They abduct children to use as sex slaves, porters and to replenish their fighting forces.

Sudanese planes have been spotted delivering arms and supplies to LRA outposts. A witness reported watching a plane full of weapons being unloaded, after which children were brought out of the bush and put on the plane. Presumably the children were flown back to northern Sudan to be sold on the slave market.

After the LRA attacked a Central African village in Obo, they took three hundred children. I spoke to a UN rep who described the silence of the childless village, interrupted by the sound of weeping parents.

In the 1990s and early 2000s the LRA served as a proxy army for the Sudanese government in its war against south Sudan -- just as that same regime would later work in tandem with the marauding Janjaweed militia.

In the past year alone the LRA have killed thousands and sent almost a half a million traumatized people fleeing from their homes. The militia has now moved into south Darfur -- an area controlled by the Sudanese Government.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir have a thing or two in common. Both are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Ugandan Army has pursued and killed some members of the LRA, but in Sudan they have been offered a safe haven by their patron, Omer al-Bashir.
Click here to read comments, 112 so far. Here is my favourite, posted 16 March 2010 by bones 1955:
I was traveling through Italy a few years ago and saw a program by BBC regarding how the money we send these nations is actually used. I remember asking if this program aired in the US, there would be extreme outrage from everyone. Stop throwing cash, weapons at the issues in Africa. We need to change our perception and approach. These countries are ravaged by AIDS, extreme poverty, lack of potable water, no education, no health care, incredible changes in environment. Sorry Mia, this article left me wanting much more than sending an army to halt Joseph Kony. Please visit www.invisiblechildren.com.
- - -

What Falls Away: A Memoir by Mia Farrow

In this memoir, Mia Farrow takes us on a journey into her life. She covers childhood and motherhood and explores her spiritual journey, with a candid examination of her marriages to Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn and her close but troubled 12-year relationship with Woody Allen.

What Falls Away: A Memoir

Click here to look inside the book, courtesy Amazon.com.

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LRA plans attacks in South Sudan to disrupt elections?

LRA plans attacks in South Sudan to disrupt elections
From Sudan Tribune, Wednesday, 17 March 2010 by James Gatdet Dak:
March 17, 2010 (JUBA) – The Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are planning to carry out attacks in Southern Sudan during the April elections, says the spokesman of the Southern Sudan army.

[Photo] LRA soldiers keep guard at the assembly point in Ri-Kwangba on the Sudan-Congo border, Western Equatoria, April 10, 2008. (Reuters)

Maj. Gen. Kuol Deng Kuol said the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has confirmed that LRA has planned for massive attacks in Western Equatoria state and Greater Bahr el Ghazal region to coincide with the elections in the region.

Speaking to the UN-sponsored Miraya FM radio based in Juba, Kuol accused the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of supporting the LRA to destabilize Southern Sudan.

He said the SPLA forces are ready to repel such attacks and provide security to the people during the elections.

Kuol also echoed the recent statement by the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni that LRA forces are based in Darfur region.

He added that LRA forces have already been spotted in areas of Western Bahr el Ghazal state in their preparation for the attacks.

Earlier Sudan Armed Forces denied the claim that the LRA forces are based in Darfur, describing it as “baseless.”

LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, had been supported by SAF during the war time and his forces were established or roaming in the three states of Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria before the signing of the CPA that ended the North-South civil war in 2005.

In 2006, the Government of Southern Sudan and Uganda agreed on the initiative to talk peace with the rebels in an effort to end the more twenty years of conflict which began in 1986.

After two years of successful Southern Sudan-mediated talks in Juba that resulted to relative peace in northern Uganda, nearly two million people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda were able to leave IDP camps and returned to their villages.

However, after concluding the talks by signing several protocols between Uganda government and the rebels including the timetable for implementation of the agreement, Joseph Kony in the last minute refused to sign the compiled Final Peace Agreement document with President Museveni, citing ICC’s arrest warrant for his indictment as an obstacle.

Southern Sudan’s Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, who was the Chief Mediator in the negotiations between the two parties had to shuttle between Juba and Sudan-DR Congo border looking for Joseph Kony in the wild jungles of thick forests in that region to find him for face-to-face talks in order to convince him to sign, but to no avail.

Kony has since then instead continued with the cross-border international rebellion which affects Southern Sudan, DR Congo, Central Africa Republic and the native country, Uganda. (ST)

Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) denies presence of Kony in Darfur or Khartoum

SAF Denies Presence of Kony in Darfur or Khartoum
Report from SRS (Sudan Radio Service) Tuesday, 16 March 2010:
16 March 2010 - (Khartoum) - The official spokesperson of the Sudan Armed Forces, Khalid al-Sawarmi has denied a report by the French news agency AFP that members of the Lord’s Resistance Army are in Darfur.

Speaking to SRS on Tuesday from Khartoum al-Sawarmi strongly denied the presence of LRA rebels in the region.

[Khalid al-Sawarmi] “They are not in Darfur, that is not true and it is not right, the information did not come from a credible source. You can investigate to find out whether the issue is true or false. And we are going to also find out although Darfur is very far away from Uganda. Saying that the LRA can go up to there is not true.”

Khalid al-Sawarmi added that Uganda and Sudan enjoy good bilateral relations, saying that GONU is now looking for Joseph Kony and his hideouts.

[Khalid al-Sawarmi]: “It is not true at all to say that Joseph Kony ran to Khartoum. Kony is neither in Khartoum nor in Darfur and we don’t have any relationship with the LRA, we are even looking for Kony by all means. He can not hide in Khartoum or in Darfur. The relationship between the Sudan Armed forces and Ugandan Army is very excellent and we have somebody that’s in charge of our military affairs in Kampala and there’s also a Ugandan official here in Khartoum who handles all the affairs of the Ugandan Army and anything to do with armies of the two countries is alright.”

Sudan Armed Forces spokesman Khalid al-Sawarmi was speaking to SRS from Khartoum on Tuesday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Malicious Rumors of LRA in Darfur Undermine Peace in Sudan

Press Release
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan:
Malicious Rumors of LRA in Darfur Undermine Peace in Sudan

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 /via PRNewswire-USNewswire
Outrageous rumors about Uganda's "Lords Resistance Army" (LRA) apparently relocating to South Darfur to establish a safe haven in the region have suddenly cropped up. The source alleges that the Sudanese government is abetting the embattled group, which is purportedly in need of regrouping. The intention of these malicious speculations isn't in the least bit difficult to discern. It's a desperate and feeble attempt at yet again maligning the Sudanese Government and undermining the progress made towards peace. It is indeed convenient and most opportune for the enemies of peace in Sudan to peddle such alarming news, for it is clear they've lost the battle of Darfur as peace is at last dawning in that region, and now are in frantic search for a novel pretext that allows them to perpetuate their military-interventionist campaign in Sudan.

Foremost, they should remember that the Sudanese Army has long signed a protocol with the Ugandan Government that enables the latter to freely pursue the rebel group within the Sudanese territory where the border with Uganda lies. This is a clear and unequivocal declaration of support by Sudan to the Ugandan Government in this urgent matter of security, and hence perplexing to read the statements attributed to President Musevini. Secondly, the Sudan People's Liberation Army has been actively engaged in military operations against the LRA in that region, including one operation in which it coordinated efforts with Ugandan and Congolese forces. It is therefore utterly absurd to claim that the Government is sustaining the very problem it is clearly plotting to eradicate.

Moreover, to believe that the LRA trekked all the way to Darfur to establish itself is an insult to common sense and betrays a lack of fundamental knowledge of the geography of the region. The LRA is a rebellion force primarily against the Ugandan Government, not Sudan. Its operations target Uganda, a country situated nowhere close to the area of Darfur it is alleged to have moved to. The risks in launching its operations from such an extensive distance are profound given the many forces going after it, including international ones. It would be nothing short of a fatal error for the group to commit to such an elementary course of action. Besides, Darfur is the site of a vigorous campaign for peace where effort to pacify all armed groups is underway and therefore isn't the ideal region for any such malignant groups.

Sudan has made a vow to combat terrorism in all its forms and has accordingly marshaled the necessary resources to fight it. Its record, which continues to be noted by the U.S., with which it has joined forces in this effort, speaks to the level of its commitment. Having identified and defined the LRA as a rogue and outlaw group that terrorizes citizens, including some incidents with our own, Sudan has an obligation to pursue the dismantling of this group and has so been doing. And any rumors that insinuate otherwise are simply malicious and detrimental to the wider peace efforts in the country and the region.

CONTACT: Embassy of Sudan Press and Information Office, phone: +1-202-338-8565, or fax: +1-202-667-2406

SOURCE Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan

Sunday, March 14, 2010

While Kony may be in South Darfur, the LRA has divided into three independent factions, one headed by Dominic Ongwen

From Peter Eichstaedt's blogpost Sunday 14 March 2010:

Deja-vu, all over again


The famous New York Yankees baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja-vu all over again," the kind of statement that makes you pause, clear your throat, then chuckle.

That was my reaction to last week's flurry of statements from various corners that Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the vicious Lord's Resistance Army, was settled somewhere in south Darfur.

Curiously, that information has been published and commented on for about six months, going back to an attack first reported last October: "
Ugandan rebels attack Darfuris, kill five - army."

The story was reported by intrepid journalist Skye Wheeler, a Reuters correspondent in Juba, who rips around the gritty capital of South Sudan on a dirt bike.

The LRA attack was in the border regions of South Sudan and Darfur, targeting displaced Darfuris, and quoted South Sudan's army spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol.

Subsequent reports fueled speculation, including mine, that Kony had taken up refuge inside Dafur, helping himself to Sudan's hospitality just as he had done a decade earlier while fighting in northern Uganda.

Then Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said Friday that Kony had apparently "
disappeared into Darfur," quoting his military sources.

Museveni then made his typical bravado comments about how the Uganda army has all but eliminated Kony, again revealing a short-term memory of his army's botched attack on Kony's camps in the Congo in December 2008.

That failed operation is largely why the world is still dealing with the Kony problem.

Museveni went on to say that while Kony may be in Darfur, the LRA has divided into three independent factions, one headed by Dominic Ongwen, who like Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Leadership and location of the third unit is unknown.

Just a day before Museveni spoke, the tireless people at
Enough, also announced that Kony had found a safe haven in Darfur.

Now doing something about Kony and the LRA has only become more difficult due to the inexcusable delays to a
bill regarding Kony that was finally acted on this past week by the U.S. Senate.

These needless delays in the bill, which requires the Obama administration to develop a plan to stop Kony, are the kind of inaction that has allowed Kony to survive and keep on killing, looting, abducting and mutilating.

With Kony now in Darfur, any overt action against him becomes all the more complicated, unless and until Kony decides to venture from his safe haven into South Sudan to disrupt the country's coming elections.

It will require constant pressure from groups like Invisible Children, Enough, and Resolve Uganda to keep up the pressure and insist that a plan and then action be taken to capture Kony and his marauding rebels.

--
Posted By Peter Eichstaedt to
Peter Eichstaedt at 3/14/2010 12:19:00 PM

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Uganda’s Kony may have moved to Darfur, Musevini says

Uganda’s Kony may have moved to Darfur, Musevini says
Report from Sudan Tribune, Saturday, 13 March 2010:
March 12, 2010 (KAMPALA) — The notorious leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) Joseph Kony may have relocated to Sudan’s Western of Darfur, the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni said at a press conference in Kampala today.

"Central African republic allowed our troops to operate there. Our troops have been successfully hunting the LRA rebels and a good number of them have been killed. The rebels have been operating there in three small groups. The Ugandan troops operating there have told me that the group comprising Kony has fled into Darfur," Museveni according to local media.

The Ugandan leader further said that he is not concerned if the intel turns out to be true because it means that the LRA figures have settled in Darfur far away from his country and sparing it the havoc they are known to create.

The fugitive LRA leader has been on the run since December 2008 when regional states launched a hunt to nab him after he refused to sign a peace deal with Kampala.

Since the operation, remnant LRA fighters have been moving in the jungles of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, south Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Kony and two of his lieutenants have been charged with atrocities in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, which under international law requires they be turned over immediately upon capture or surrender. Past attempts to ink a peace deal between LRA and Kampala has failed primarily because the rebels wanted to persuade the Hague based court to drop the case.

The Ugandan president vowed today that he would see that Kony gets hanged once he is captured despite a legal obligation as an ICC member to send him to the Hague.

"If our troops get a chance of capturing Kony, he will be tried here and be hanged. We will not take him to ICC court in Hague court because there they take such people in hotels. Here, we will hang him" Musevini said.

He also did not rule out the possibility that LRA are receiving support from Khartoum as the case was in the past during the civil war years between North and South Sudan.

"If the Sudanese want to accommodate him in Darfur, that makes no difference to us" Musevini said.

"It makes no difference because they supported him much more in the past but whatever they gave him, we captured," he added.

Earlier this week, the Washington-based Enough Project said today that a contingent of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has taken refuge in areas of South Darfur controlled by the Government of Sudan.

Accordingly, an LRA reconnaissance team in late 2009 sought to make contact with the Sudanese army at their base in Kafia Kingi, near south Darfur’s border with CAR, according to Enough Project. Now, based on field research and interviews with government and United Nations officials in several countries, Enough says that it can "confirm that LRA units have reached south Darfur."

A similar claim was voiced by the official spokesman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, who asserted last year that LRA leader Joseph Kony himself was in Darfur. This was denied by Salah Gosh, presidential advisor and ex-chief of the intelligence and security service.

However, senior members of the rebel group’s political wing in the Kenyan capital Nairobi dismissed the claims.

"This is part of continued fabrications and guesswork about LRA whereabouts and we would like to dismiss this baseless report with all the contempt it deserves," Colonel Michael Anywar, who acted as LRA military liaison, told Alertnet in Nairobi.

"It’s true that Khartoum once supported LRA but that kind of support stopped in 2002 after which we chose cut those ties," said Justine Labeja, who said he is the head of LRA peace delegation.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir is also wanted by the ICC for war crimes he allegedly masterminded in Darfur.

According to the U.N. refugees agency, the LRA caused most of the displacement in central Africa in 2009 with hundreds of thousands uprooted.

The rebels have looted, killed civilians and abducted children from three countries, forcing many to flee their homes, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. (ST)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Somalia: AU wants country declared no fly zone

World Food Programme has reported that Al Shabaab militants are stopping convoys of food reaching more than 360,000 displaced people in Somalia.

Al Shabaab says World Food Programme is ruining local farming by forcing Somalis to rely on imports. But the UN says Somali farmers cannot supply enough food.

Source: Somalia: AU wants country declared no fly zone
From New Vision (Uganda) -March 1, 2010 (via Afrika.no)
Kampala (Uganda) - The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) has asked the UN to impose a no-fly zone on Somalia and block sea ports through which foreign groups supply logistics to the insurgents.

Eritrea, in particular, has been accused of serving as a conduit for arms, logistics and foreign fighters to the Islamist group Al Shabaab in Somalia.

On December 23 last year, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and vowed to slap financial and travel restrictions on its leaders for arming Al Shabaab.

The resolution, which was introduced by Uganda, passed by a vote of 13 to 1 in the 15-nation council, with Libya voting "no" and China abstaining.

At its meeting held in Addis Ababa on Thursday, the council hailed all the countries and institutions providing support to the AU peace keeping mission, especially Uganda and Burundi, calling on other member states to join.

Uganda and Burundi are the only countries that have contributed soldiers to the AU peace keeping force, known as AMISOM, but the 5,000 strong force falls short of the 8,000 soldiers required to secure the capital Mogadishu alone.

The AU council stressed that the deterioration of the situation in Somalia is proof of the increased internationalisation of the conflict.

It, therefore, called for the deployment of UN staff to help stabilise the situation and support the reconstruction of the country.

"The council noted that the current support remains below what is required on the ground and called for more mobilisation of the international community," an AU release said over the weekend.

The group reiterated its support to the Somali government and asked for more support, including military, to enable the government neutralise the armed element and deliver basic services.

In that respect, it welcomed the recent commissioning of eight battalions of the Somali security forces, who had been trained by AMISOM.

It also welcomed the completion of the induction course for the AMISOM police trainers from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda who will in turn train the Somali police.

The council again condemned the acts of violence and terrorism by Islamist militant groups Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam "with the active support of foreign elements in defiance of the peace overtures of the government and the international community".

It reiterated its call to all the Somali parties to join the peace process without any precondition and delay.

It also demanded that armed opposition groups ensure unrestricted access and assistance to needy civilians in areas under their control.

Meanwhile, World Food Programme has reported that Al Shabaab militants are stopping convoys of food reaching more than 360,000 displaced people.

Al Shabaab says World Food Programme is ruining local farming by forcing Somalis to rely on imports. But the UN says Somali farmers cannot supply enough food.

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