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UN faces calls for action in Somalia

As violence mounts, the Security Council is to consider helping an overwhelmed African Union force.

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Pressure is growing on the United Nations Security Council this week to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force in Somalia, as fresh evidence of human rights abuses and an impending humanitarian catastrophe emerge.

The Horn of Africa nation has been a focus of violence and humanitarian crises since the ouster of its military dictator in 1991. But Somalia has reached a breaking point, say analysts and aid organizations, and international action is now crucial.

Without rapid moves toward political stability, the country's fragile, UN-backed Transitional Federal Government risks fragmenting along clan lines, says an official within the government.

Two battalions of Ugandan soldiers, under the auspices of the African Union (AU), have failed to make an impact in the capital Mogadishu, where Islamic insurgents and clan-based militia have clashed repeatedly with Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies. The fighting amplified sharply on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in the deaths of some 30 civilians.

"The Ugandan troops have had almost no impact, and it is time for the UN and the international community to use its influence to get a genuine peace and reconciliation process moving," says Mohamed Guyo of the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi.

The UN Security Council began discussions Monday on the future of the undermanned AU mission with the intention of drafting a fresh resolution on Somalia. UN officials say the international organization is committed to replacing the 1,600-strong AU force once a negotiated peace is in place – an eventuality that observers say looks increasingly unlikely in the near future.

Other African countries have failed to send the forces they promised – obligations that, if met, would bring the total to 8,000 troops.

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