Somali army's training delayed due to confilt within

Published on Wednesday 21st May 2008

Somalia: Plans to train 1,000 Somali soldiers in Tanzania have hit a snag because of power struggles in the transitional Somali government.

According to The Citizen lack of funds to pay for transportation and allowances for the soldiers has also been identified as another reason behind the one-year delay.

Sources in the diplomatic cycles confided in The Citizen that Tanzania halted the initial deployment of the troops mid last year over leaked information on the tribal composition of the soldiers.

"There was inside information from within the Somali government that influential tribal chiefs were lining up own people to be trained," the source that requested for anonymity said.

By then, the source noted, a serious power struggle had broken out between Somali president Abdulahhi Yusuf and his former Somali Prime Minister, Mr Ali Mohamed Gedi, who went on to resign in October last year.

Mr Gedi who clashed with his President over separation of executive powers was immediately replaced by Mr Salim Aliyow Ibrow, a former deputy prime minister in the interim.

"A top leader in the Somali government raised alarm over massing of people from one region to attend combat training in Tanzania," the source explained.

Tanzania's Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe confirmed this information on Monday when contacted by The Citizen.

"It is true we intervened to temporarily halt any deployment after it emerged that there were internal differences in the Somali government over the training," Mr Membe said in an interview in Dar es Salaam.

He said the government was privy to the information that some individuals wanted to send their preferred candidates for the training, a factor he cautioned could enhance creation of warlords in the war torn country.

It could have been dangerous to allow anybody to use the opportunity to train people who could later become personal armies, he added.

Mr Membe said the Tanzanian government, has however, not withdrawn its offer to train the 1000 soldiers in three batches of 330, 330, and 340 when the Somali government agrees on their composition.

He said concerns raised by the parliamentary committee on security and defence that was critical of the intended exercise was amicably solved, to show the readiness of the government to help.

But Mr Membe said the inclusion of all Somali people in the troops will be one of the criteria for use by Tanzanian to commence any military training.

"We have also devised our means to screen the soldiers to ensure the benchmark is adhered to. Specialists will be involved in the exercise," said Mr Membe.

Meanwhile, the said the Somali government has also indicated it had not enough money to send the soldiers to Tanzania over allowances and transport.

"They say they have no means to airlift the soldiers to Tanzania but we cannot also risk sending our planes due to the fluid security situation. There is also the matter to do with allowances that is out of our mandate."

Tanzania offered in February 2007 to train Somali troops in response to a call by the African Union to put together an international peacekeeping force for the war-torn nation.

The soldiers were to be trained in Manyara, northern Tanzania at the Monduli Military Academy in efforts to assist in the peacekeeping operation without sending troops into Somalia.

The AU called for 8,000 troops to be sent to Somalia to replace Ethiopian soldiers who teamed up with the government to fight Islamic insurgents but the response from countries has been dismal, with only Uganda responsing to send in 1500 soldiers from the very beginning.

Many African nations are said to be nervous about committing troops to one of the world's most dangerous countries - closely tailing Afghanistan and Iraq - where warlords and their gunmen have ruled unchecked for 16 years.