Pages Navigation Menu

Breaking news in Uganda and around the world

Museveni’s trip exposes Somalia’s teething problems

When three heads of state, a foreign affairs minister and a top diplomat from the East African region gathered in the Somalia capital Mogadishu on September 13 for a regional conference, it was supposed to be a moment of pride for the hitherto war-torn country.

Indeed, the 28th extraordinary session of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Assembly of Heads of State and Government, ended
without a hitch, with the help of a security blanket over Mogadishu.

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud beamed in pictures as he played dutiful host to presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dasalegn of Ethiopia, Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Yousif Abdelmannan of Djibouti and Sudan’s ambassador to Somalia Mahboub Mohamed Maalim.

At the end of the conference, the IGAD leaders signed a declaration of renewed commitment by its member countries to continue support towards stabilizing Somalia and an endorsement of an upcoming electoral process.

However, pictures circulated by the press unit of Uganda’s president showed curious incidents. In one picture, it looked like the soldiers who welcomed Museveni with a guard of honour were not of Somali origin.

President Museveni inspecting a guard of honour in Somalia

Eyebrows were further raised by the fact that while marching through the guard of honour, Museveni only had his military aide and a Somali official beside him, despite the fact that the soldiers mounting the guard of honour had bayonets attached to their ceremonial guns.

Uganda provides the highest number of soldiers to the 22,000-strong African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom), which has worked since 2007 to stave off the al-Shabab terror group and pacify major cities of the volatile country.

An Amisom soldier based in Mogadishu, who cannot be named so as not to compromise his security, revealed to this writer that Ugandan soldiers had, indeed, participated in the parade, dressed in Somali’s national army uniform.

“Those were Uganda soldiers. Somali soldiers don’t know how to organize a parade,” the Ugandan military source told us.

However, Maj Chris Magezi, the spokesperson of Uganda’s Special Forces Command, which guards President Museveni, said not a single Ugandan was in that guard of honour.

“That is the most cynical observation I have heard. I was there myself and those guys were Somalis. They did not only welcome President Museveni but also the president of Kenya and the prime minister of Somalia,” he said.

Maj Magezi explained that during Museveni’s two-day stay in Somalia, he inspected two separate guards of honour, which he said should not be confused. The president was welcomed at the airport by the Somali army and he was also welcomed at the UPDF base camp by a guard of honour mounted by UPDF soldiers, Magezi explained.

He nevertheless admitted that the Ugandan military did not allow the Somali army any involvement in making the security arrangements for the first high-profile conference in Somalia in 25 years.

“The UPDF Special Forces Command was in charge of security at the airport and at the venue of the meeting. You see we provide security even at State House, Mogadishu. We are the ones who guard the president of Somalia, alongside his security team,” Magezi said.


President Museveni addressing Amisom soldiers

The fact that the Ugandan military guards the Somalia president, and the possibility of Ugandan soldiers donning the Somali army uniform to welcome foreign leaders show the teething problems that regional forces are likely to face if they begin to wean the country’s security forces of foreign support.

Without foreign support, al-Shabab could still overpower the Somalia National Army, which is factionalized alongside clans. In June, the UPDF chief of defence forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, announced plans to withdraw Ugandan troops attached to Amisom by December 2017.

Gen Wamala cited frustration with the Somali army and military advisors from US, UK and Turkey as the reason behind the decision. Ugandan soldiers in Somalia have gone for at least six months without pay, after the EU cut its funding support to the mission by 20 per cent due to Amisom’s constantly-rising operational costs and operational disagreements.

This post was syndicated from Breaking and latest news, analysis, comments, business, lifestyle, entertainment and sports from Uganda. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

Follow us on twitter @theugandatoday

Also, Like us on facebook

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of