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Somalians demonstrate against peacekeepers from neighboring countries


MOGADISHU, Somalia, Mar 6, 2005 (AP) — Hundreds of people demonstrated peacefully Sunday in support of the U.S. government’s stand against the use of peacekeepers from neighboring countries in efforts to end Somalia’s 14-year conflict.

On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher backed key Somali lawmakers, saying that the interests of Somalia’s neighbors - Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya - are best served by a stable and effective central government running Somalia and not by them being part of a peacekeeping mission.

Some 61 Somali lawmakers, including warlords-turned-Cabinet ministers, said on Feb. 27 that including troops from those three countries in a regional force to secure Somalia would undermine fragile efforts to end the conflict in the Horn of Africa nation.

Demonstrators went through the streets of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, chanting slogans and waving placards, some of which read, "America’s view is the correct one, "Somalia cannot accept Ethiopian troops," and "We want neutral forces for the disarmament of Somalia."

The self-declared governor of Mogadishu, Abdullahi Ganey Firimbi, organized the demonstration together with non-governmental organizations.

"We oppose the forces that would come from the front-line states," he said, using the commonly used term for Somalia’s neighbors.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Then they turned on each other, sinking the nation of 7 million into anarchy.

Some former soldiers, who became disabled from injuries sustained in a 1977-1978 war between Ethiopia and Somalia, said that they were ready to sacrifice their lives defending Somalia from any Ethiopian peacekeepers.

Firimbi said that Mogadishu’s former warlords should dismantle and disarm their militias, "so that they can create a peaceful environment for the new government to operate."

Last month Somalia’s transitional Cabinet asked the African Union and Arab League to send between 5,000 and 7,500 troops with a one-year mandate to protect the government as it organizes a police force and army.

The A.U. Peace and Security Council authorized deployment of an interim force ahead of a fuller A.U. mission.

Residents of Mogadishu and other southern towns have held several demonstrations against having troops from Ethiopia , Djibouti and Kenya included in a force. Some rejected troops from any country.

Kenya and Djibouti later said they would not send troops.

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