By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
February 6, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia on Thursday announced it will send more peacekeepers to Somalia, South Sudan and to Abyei, a disputed region claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
Ethiopian peacekeepers patrol the outskirts of the disputed Abyei town that straddles the border between Sudan and South Sudan on 16 September 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
According to the Ethiopian International Peace-keeping Training Centre, the Horn of Africa nation will deploy 600 additional peace keepers in the stated countries next month.
“Since the peacekeeping force has finalised its preparations, it will be deployed in March following the supervision of UN and the AU,” Centre head Major General Hassan Ibrahim told the state-run Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).
The new deployment of the Ethiopian troops to the countries, the military official said was per the request made by the respective countries.
Ibrahim said the peacekeepers will be deployed around Kismayo in Somalia and three helicopter gunships would be sent to South Sudan.
He added preparations to deploy half of the 1,069 troops that will be assigned to Abyei under the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) have also been finalised.
The extra Ethiopian peacekeeping force to Somalia will be deployed in Kismayo replacing a battalion of more than 800 troops from Sierra Leone whose mission has been cut short over Ebola fears.
In October, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia known as AMISOM blocked the deployment of a rotating group from Sierra Leone after one of the contingent’s member tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus.
Days later, Ethiopia which already has more than 4,300 deployed troops in Somalia expressed willingness to deploy more troops to replace Sierra Leone’s new contingent which had been waiting for deployment in Freetown.
It is not yet clear how many of the additional Ethiopian forces would be deployed to which country.
The Ethiopia peace forces are mandated to peacekeeping mission as part of the UN efforts to restore peace and stability in the war ravaged IGAD member states.
“The forces will also help the countries build strong defence forces by giving training,” Ibrahim said.
Currently there are over 12,000 Ethiopian peacekeepers serving in Somalia, South Sudan, Darfur in western Sudan and in the Abyei region.