UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council members support the idea of increasing the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia to help support the country’s fragile government, Britain’s U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
The AU mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, would like to increase its upper limit of 8,000 troops to 12,000, provided it receives a green light and financial and military aid from the 15-nation Security Council.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said no council member had raised any objections to the idea of raising the limit on the number of AMISOM troops during a closed-door meeting.
The lawless Horn of Africa nation has been mired in violence and awash with weapons since the ousting of a dictator in 1991. In addition to an Islamist insurgency raging across the country, pirates have become the scourge of the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.
Although AMISOM is an AU mission, it has a Security Council mandate and receives support from the United Nations. Burundi and Uganda are the sole suppliers of troops for the mission.
Before the council can approve an expansion, it will need to sort out the extra costs, U.N. diplomats say.
African countries have asked the United Nations to fund AMISOM troop’s salaries to make them equal to those of U.N. peacekeepers, who get just over $1,000 per month, envoys say.
AMISOM soldiers are currently paid around $700 per month.
Council diplomats said the extra troops should enable AMISOM to secure Mogadishu from Islamist al Shabaab rebels, who seek to topple the government and impose a harsh form of sharia law.
Western security officials say Somalia is a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militants and is attracting increasing numbers of foreign jihadists.