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NAIROBI - With a series of international peace conferences planned to boost peace and stabilization efforts in Somalia, Kenya's Foreign Ministry officials hope the New Year will yield good results.
"We are optimistic in the New Year 2012. We see renewed enthusiasm in terms of conferences to stabilize Somalia," said Anthony Safari, a diplomat at the Kenyan Foreign Ministry's Horn of Africa Directorate, overseeing Somalia.
Kenya's ambassador to the African Union, Monica Juma, is currently chairing the AU's Peace and Security Council. Juma has convened a meeting of East African defense ministers in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, to discuss a new military plan in Somalia.
Safari, the Second Secretary, said the stabilization of Somalia is on top of Kenya's leadership agenda this month at the PSC.
He said the United Arab Emirates will also host a meeting in February aimed at seeking a local solution to Somalia's instability.
Safari said Kenya will discuss key issues at the upcoming AU summit, including the establishment of civilian administrations in Somalia and the fight against piracy.
The defense ministers have approved a peacekeeping plan that increases troops to 17,731 on the ground in Somalia, including the Kenyan soldiers currently there to battle the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab.
Safari said the new force strength remains a proposal until authorized by the UN Security Council, but there was optimism that the council would approve the reinforcement based on progress made on the stabilization front.
Kenyan Operations Commander, Col. Cyrus Oguna, said although the troops are prepared to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the mandate would remain peace enforcement, not a peacekeeping mission.