New York - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday voted to extend for another six months the mandate of African Union (AU) peacekeepers in war-torn Somalia as South Africa pressed for greater UN involvement.
The 15-member body adopted a British-sponsored resolution endorsing the extension and authorizing the under-funded AU force known as AMISON "to take all necessary measures" to provide security for key infrastructure and to help create the necessary security conditions for delivery of humanitarian aid.
South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said he went along with the consensus, even though he would have preferred to delay the vote until after the release of a UN report on possible alternatives to the AU mission, including deployment of a UN force.
He told reporters that under a compromise deal, the council committed itself to considering UN chief Ban Ki-moon's report on alternative options when it is released on March 10.
Kumalo accused UN peacekeeping planners of dragging their feet "when it comes to Somalia".
"The people of Somalia have suffered long enough," he said, adding that it was time for the United Nations to play a more prominent role to bring peace to the East African nation reeling from sectarian strife.
British's UN Ambassador John Sawers, who sponsored Resolution 1801, pledged that the council "will look again immediately at the question of Somalia once we have the (Ban) report".
Burundi has pledged to deploy a total of 1 700 soldiers in Somalia, alongside around 1 600 troops from Uganda who have been in the capital Mogadishu since last March. So far, a battalion of 850 Burundian soldiers has been sent.
AMISOM will ultimately number around 8 000 soldiers tasked with stabilising the Horn of Africa country which has been wracked by civil war for more than 16 years.
The council resolution urged other AU countries to contribute troops to AMISOM to facilitate the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops shoring up the wobbly Somali interim government.
The Somali capital, Mogadishu, has seen almost daily gun battles between Islamist insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian security forces.
Last December, the Security Council renewed its call for the UN to pursue contingency planning for deploying a peacekeeping force in Somalia.