Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today to call on the African Union (AU) to increase the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) from 12,000 to 17,000 troops to deal with continued insecurity in the impoverished country.
Since 2007, AMISOM has been trying to bring peace to a country that has had no functioning central government for the past 20 years, during which to time it has been torn apart by factional fighting and has faced a series of humanitarian crises.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Council’s decision, stressing the expansion is critical to provide support to the transitional government and degrade the insurgency’s military capabilities across the country.
The London Conference on Somalia will be held tomorrow at which representatives of various Member States will meet to strengthen the international effort to tackle some of the country’s most pressing issues.
Currently, one of the key challenges in Somalia is piracy. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), "in 2011, pirates received about $170 million in ransoms for hijacked vessels and crews. The figure has risen since 2010, when ransoms paid amounted to over $110 million." The Executive Director of UNODC was quoted as saying,“The money is causing steep price rises in the Horn of Africa and is also being used for drugs, weapons and alcohol smuggling, as well as human trafficking." He also expressed concern regarding strong evidence of cooperation between the militant group Al-Shabaab and pirate networks.
The UNSC resolution today also calls on Somali authorities to “take the necessary measures” to prevent the export of charcoal from the country, where the destruction of trees for charcoal has contributed to devastating droughts and served as a significant source of revenue for Al-Shabaab. It also asks other UN Member States to take steps to prevent the direct or indirect import of charcoal.