NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union peacekeeping force inSomalia has arrested six of its own peacekeepers after two civilians were killed in a burst of indiscriminate gunfire, African Union officials said Wednesday.
The killings happened a day earlier. According to witnesses, a convoy of heavily armed peacekeepers was rumbling through central Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, along the same road where two minibuses had just collided. A small crowd was standing in the middle of the road, and the peacekeepers may have thought the civilians were forming a roadblock, witnesses said.
As the convoy approached the crowd, the peacekeepers opened fire. Several children were also wounded.
“We are not certain whether the soldiers were responding to a perceived threat,” the African Union force commander, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha, said in a statement. “However, all the soldiers involved have been arrested and taken into a military custody while a full inquiry is launched into the precise circumstances that took place.”
He added: “We understand people may be angry. But it is an isolated incident.”
Residents of Mogadishu said that Ugandan soldiers, who make up the bulk of the 7,000-member peacekeeping force, routinely fired their weapons into the air to disperse crowds.
Civilian casualties are increasingly problematic in Mogadishu, turning residents against the peacekeepers and by extension the transitional government they are protecting. Many residents are furious at the peacekeepers for firing artillery shells into crowded neighborhoods, though the peacekeepers say they are simply returning fire from insurgents. The leading insurgent group, the Shabab, took credit for a suicide bombing in Uganda in July that killed more than 70 people, saying it was revenge for the innocent Somalis killed by Ugandan peacekeepers.
According to the city’s main ambulance service, more than 2,100 civilians have been killed in Mogadishu this year, with 80 percent in indiscriminate shelling, The Associated Press reported.
Somalia has struggled for nearly 20 years without a functioning central government. A weak transitional government has received millions of dollars from the United States and the United Nations to establish a semblance of order, but it has succeeded in controlling only a few city blocks of Mogadishu.
Somali politicians seem to be mired in haggling over positions, hobbling any moves to deliver services or expand security. This week, members of Parliament threatened to scuttle appointments for a new cabinet of ministers that was whittled down to 18 from 39. Western diplomats had praised Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Somali-American who was appointed last month, for trying to shrink the bloated cabinet. However, it seems the proposal ran headlong into clan politics, and many Somali politicians are now complaining that he is excluding their clans.
Making matters worse, an important militia commander held a news conference on Wednesday in Mogadishu to announce that he was no longer part of the government, which he said was not serious about fighting the Shabab. Several Somalia analysts said that if the commander, Sheik Yusuf Mohamed Siad, withdrew his fighters from the front lines, the government’s zone of control would almost certainly shrink even farther and the Shabab could soon be at the gates of the presidential palace.
Fonte: NY Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/25/world/africa/25somalia.html?_r=1&ref=world)
Nota: Enviado pelo Major Wesley.