Burundi, Uganda troops want to fight Islamists in Somalia
AU officials say financial and logistical obstacles have so far prevented them from effectively replacing the departing Ethiopian soldiers.
Burundi and Uganda said on Sunday they wanted their troops serving in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia to be allowed to take action against insurgents.
Soldiers from the two countries form a 3,200-strong AU force known as AMISOM that is propping up Somalia's government.
An estimated 3,000 Ethiopian troops have also been aiding the transitional Somali administration but Addis Ababa has said it will withdraw them from the anarchic nation.
"First, we want AU to revise AMISOM's mandate so that our troops can lead offensive attacks against any insurgent group preparing to attack our positions," said Burundi's Defence Minister Germain Niyoyankana.
"We also want AU to persuade all countries which had accepted to supply troops to do so," he told reporters after a meeting with his Ugandan counterpart in Bujumbura.
AU officials say some 2,500 soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Nigeria are ready to deploy but financial and logistical obstacles have so far prevented them from effectively replacing the departing Ethiopian soldiers.
Somalia's Western-backed government -- headed by Abdullahi Yusuf for four years until he resigned last week -- has failed to bring order and security to a country pummelled by violence since 1991.
Islamists control southern Somalia and are camped on the fringes of the capital. The government has only Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat of parliament, while feuding warlords hold sway elsewhere.
Islamist has rejected the secular government anad fighted against its forces besides outgoing Ethiopian forces.
Niyoyankana said the two eastern African nations asked the AU to update the force's military equipment and increase its financial support. Failure to do so could force them to consider withdrawing their troops, he said.
"We are not saying that we are quitting Somalia because this could lead to a disaster, but this is an urgent request," he said. "We hope AU will quickly give a positive response to our demands."
Somalia has become the epitome of a failed state and the chaos onshore has fuelled rampant piracy in the busy shipping lanes off the coast.
More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in two years of Islamist insurgency, a million people have fled their homes and a third of the population rely on emergency aid.
Diplomats say the departure of Ethiopian soldiers may take the sting out of the raging insurgency.
Reuters Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2009, 13:26