Janaale attack on Ugandan troops: the conflicting figures out of Somalia shouldn’t be ignored

Above: Lt. General Jonathan Rono, the Force Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the AMISOM Ugandan Contingent Commander Brigadier Sam Kavuma visit AMISOM front-line troops at the Janaale base in Lower Shaballe region, Somalia on September 05 2015. AMISOM Photo

On September 1, Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants briefly seized control of an African Union after ramming a suicide car bomb into it.The attack took place at the AMISOM base in Janaale.

First diplomatic sources reported over 50 soldiers had died and then Somali military sources said 37. More than 48 hours after the attack on September 03, Uganda’s army spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda tweeted that the estimates of more than 50 was a lie.Finally he told the nation that only 10 Ugandan soldiers had died in Somalia.

Continue reading “Janaale attack on Ugandan troops: the conflicting figures out of Somalia shouldn’t be ignored”

The African solution that hasn’t worked for Ivory Coast will not work for Libya

President Museveni’s 3000+worded article on the situation in Libya, analyzing Gaddafi’s regime his successes and failures has been hitting headlines around the world. He joined the critics of the current bombardments against Gaddafi that were sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

To a Ugandan, the article was catchy right from the start.  My president who just bought an election at such an exorbitant price to stretch his time in power into a 3rd decade was at university when Col. Muammar Gaddafi took over Libya. I posed a bit and figured out that my mother was just a teenager when Gaddafi took over power.

The article started like a reading from the Old Testament about kings. The longevity of the regimes of both Museveni and Gaddafi hits you right at the start. Thereafter I found the President Museveni’s arguments most contradictory on the whole. But I guess it is not surprising when one spends more than two decades in power.

While he criticizes Gaddafi and others for meddling in internal conflicts of African countries pointing to Gaddafi’s backing of Idi Amin in particular, he praises Gaddafi for supplying his rebel movement with arms against what he calls “criminal regimes” in Uganda.  So he draws a line between Gaddafi’s support for Idi Amin and Gaddafi’s support for Museveni.

“At the time we were fighting the criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, we had a problem arising of a complication caused by our failure to capture enough guns at Kabamba on the 6th of February, 1981.  Gaddafi gave us a small consignment of 96 rifles, 100 anti-tank mines, etc., that was very useful.  He did not consult Washington or Moscow before he did this.”

To Museveni, Gaddafi going sole and supporting his rebellion is great achievement we should recognize. But I am seeing the same feelings in Benghazi towards the current intervention that Museveni sets out to criticize.

President Museveni might sound close to right to many when he says “External meddling and the acquiescence by Africans into that meddling have been responsible for the stagnation in Africa.  The wrong definition of priorities in many of the African countries is, in many cases, imposed by external groups.” But this is the same man who has played the meddling in Rwanda, DR Congo and Somalia.  In Uganda we say a kettle cannot accuse a pot of being black.

In this article he puts out areas where he strategically has an advantage. He mentions south Sudan where America sees him as critical to the stability having engaged with SPLM for decades. Then UN refusal to put a no-fly zone over Somalia which Uganda pushed hard for last year when it was at the UN Security Council. He goes ahead to ask , are no human beings in Somalia similar to the ones in Benghazi?

But he has been part and parcel of the failed interventions in Somalia for the last eight years. Anyone who has followed the war in Somalia knows the route of the weapons is not by air and therefore a no-fly zone would never upset the power of opposition groups like Al Shabaab.

President Museveni who criticizes foreign intervention stood by as Ethiopia went into Somalia with the support of George Bush. He later jumped into the boat to make Uganda the first country to deploy troops in Somalia even before the Ethiopians left. Four years down the road the AMISOM is there backing a weak, non- representative government in Somalia.

While many in Uganda and Africa will jump to agree with the president, I see him as part of the meddling he talking about. He’s therefore in no good position to judge. The article brings in the question of oil in Somalia not being in the hands of the western companies as being the reason behind the inaction on the Somali conflict.  The worry about western interests in the wars around the globe in genuine given the history but for Museveni to say “if the Libyan opposition groups are patriots, they should fight their war by themselves and conduct their affairs by themselves” can only show that there’s little his involvement and that of AU would have done to stop Gaddafi butchering his own people.

In Museveni’s article I read feelings of a man, a big man, who together with the toothless AU have been blocked from entering Libya. The west may be wrong in the way they conduct the intervention in Libya but President Museveni together with his group of mostly African dictators cannot be trusted to bring a solution fast enough.

When Gaddafi was declaring genocide on his own people saying he would “cleanse Libya house by house”, no one stood up to him. When we heard stories about Gaddafi ferrying young Africans into Libya to work as mercenaries which escalated racist attacks on African immigrants, no African president came out to call for investigations. So many Africans stuck in Libya including Ugandans have been at the mercy of aid groups and some few government rescue missions.

Let’s not forget for the last four months this group of men who rule the continent have failed to resolve the situation in Ivory Coast which we may as well say has slipped back into a civil war. So far more than 400 people have died in Ivory Coast and all they do is hop onto planes meet in Addis Ababa.

No wonder we have heard no calls on the AU from Libya’s opposition. But these African leaders were so anxious to enter Libya to bargain with Gaddafi who has bought his way around the continent over years.  Gaddafi has personally supported rebellions that brought some of these leaders to power and provided them money to buy subsequent elections to appear democratically elected.  I don’t understand the African solution neither do  leaders like Museveni explain that solution that they peddle around to make Africans believe we are all on the same page.

President Museveni briefly looked at the socio-economic conditions within Libya and says they have nice roads and there’s no unemployment.

“In Tunisia and Egypt, some youths immolated (burnt) themselves because they had failed to get jobs.  Are the Libyans without jobs also?  ”

He also says that governments have a right to deal with protesters emphasizing that those who don’t seek police permission to demonstrate. This is a rule he has put in Uganda so we basically have no right to stage a protest against him peacefully. It’s his police, headed by his military men, that is in charge of sanctioning such a peaceful protest.

In the Libyan situation President Museveni sort of asks, what more did these protesters want? He seems to imply that those whose material needs have been met shouldn’t pursue freedom from dictators. I am not surprised this coming from a leader who has decentralized corruption in his own country to satisfy the would-be challengers.

Of course he went on to point out Gaddafi’s weakness but mostly those which contravened with his own standing like the cultural leaders project. A man who has banned cultural leaders and church from engaging in politics –for whatever meaning of politics is- Museveni has been at loggerheads with Gaddafi over the cultural leaders issue. This is not to say Gaddafi was right.

He talks of South Sudan which many Arabs didn’t pay much attention and he’s right but when he calls on Gaddafi to accept opposition and talks I say you should have given that advise 20 years ago. But wait! he had just got money and weapons from Gaddafi so forget the advice.

Africans want an African solution but current leaders like President Museveni who stifle freedoms in their own borders will not deliver us the much needed African solution. And that’s what North Africa has realized and therefore moved to rid their countries of these leaders.  Like Desmond Tutu has said Libya wouldn’t be seeing these strikes if African leaders were answerable to their peers and the  populace. But which Gaddafi’s peers would have kept him in check?   Museveni, Biya or Mugabe?

Battle for Mogadishu; Ugandan family learns of son’s death from Internet

Mogadishu Skyline 2006
Image via Wikipedia

For the last two days, I have been trying to figure out the fate of one Ugandan peacekeeper in Somalia. Today is the sixth day of intense fighting in Mogadishu where the many soldiers from Burundi and Uganda have been killed and others captured by Al Shabaab.

This was after Somali government forces backed by African Union troops where Uganda has the bulk of the 8000 troops, launched a fresh offensive against Hard-line Al-Shabaab and seized some key bases in the capital Mogadishu.

In the Ugandan media, with all the election scandals going on, not much attention has been paid to the Mogadishu battle. Daily Monitor yesterday carried a story saying only two soldiers have so far been killed from the army side however Somali media claims at least 40 people, mainly soldiers were killed and 70 others wounded in fresh clashes of capturing positions in different parts of the Horn of African nation. Al Shabaab claim to be holding bodies of 20 AMISOM troops and number of others alive.

The lack of sources and reporters on the ground has made the Ugandan media deprive the Ugandan public  a clear picture of what’s going and many here don’t know the real human cost of this war.

I know the family of the killed peacekeeper and the relatives of the young man first got a phone call from Mogadishu from one of the peacekeepers saying he had been captured. So I tried to get the details of names of those killed, hoping he wasn’t among, in vain.

The  soldier at the end in Mogadishu said the 25 year-old soldier was with a group of 15 ,  11 of them were killed and four  others captured. It’s difficult to know the truth when you are in Kampala so I couldn’t get more details. The Ugandan military has so far said only two soldiers died in the battle. There’s belief among journalists here interested in the conflict that we can never  really know the actual number of those killed.­

After 48 hrs of searching for the truth, the relatives, whom I have talked to, later confirmed the death of their son through pictures on websites which are largely not visited by Ugandans. They  are holding a funeral without the body and no one from the military has contacted them.  Some bodies are still with Al Shabaab so it could be a long wait.

His immediate relatives saw gruesome images of the peacekeeper that Al Shabaab has availed to the media. Some of them show soldiers half naked, others with bodies being stepped on and there have been reports that many Ugandan and Burundian troops bodies have been dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.

If you have followed the history of international interventions in Somalia you will remember that similar images of US soldiers being dragged in the streets during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu evoked outrage in USA and led to the withdraw of troops from the Horn.

So looking at these images of Ugandan soldiers I wonder why we are not riled or even interested in what’s going on. I wonder why the war in Somalia is not so much a talked about here. When will Ugandan leaders say enough! We have done our part in Somalia.

Reading one blogger’s report from Mogadishu makes my guts stiffen. “Ugandan peacekeepers were kicked, dragged, stoned and spat on” and he talks of another Ugandan soldier whose body was left to rot in Mogadishu’s notorious Baar Ubax junction.

There have been pictures of Burundian soldiers (PoW) captured by Al Shabaab and others of dead soldiers. Some captured soldiers have been asked to give recorded messages to Somali media.

AMISOM spokesman, Maj. Barigye Ba-hoku was quoted talking to a Somali radio that “No one swims in the sea without getting wet. We are ready to face the consequences of Somalia battle – whatever the cost!”  Whatever cost?  May be this is what military propaganda requires but I believe Uganda should be rethinking about the Somalia mission. Somalia has an ineffective government and army. In fact many Somali soldiers have been trained here in Uganda but this is yet to bring about a difference. Other African countries have shunned the mission and the two east African countries could be stuck there for long.

According to a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) titled “Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support”, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which Ugandan an Burundian forces are trying to help,  is too inept, increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sharif’s weak leadership.

The report released this week also did not get much media attention in Uganda.

The ICG report says the TFG has squandered the goodwill and support it received and achieved little of significance in the two years it has been in office. This explains why their area of influence in Mogadishu has been dwindling. The government is expected to deliver a permanent constitution before August 2011, when the TFG’s official mandate ends but ICG says is unlikely to be met.

ICG criticized the international community for pushing for the re-establishment of a European-style centralized state based in Mogadishu which they say will not work. And Uganda is stuck in this skewed international thinking of what a Somali state should look like.

“Since independence, one clan, or group of clans, has always used its control of the centre to take most of the resources and deny them to rival clans. Thus, whenever a new transitional government is created, Somalis are naturally wary and give it limited, or no, support, fearing it will only be used to dominate and marginalise them.”

The report indicated the current TFG is even less willing to share power than previous transitional administrations, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ).

The report suggested that recruitment of more AMISOM troops is not the answer to Somalia’s governance problems. President Museveni in the aftermath of the July 11 Kampala bombings was even writing opinions in regional press to drum up support for increase in troops. So far many African countries are unwilling to sacrifice their sons and daughters for a mission whose achievements are not very clear.

ICG called for more recruitment and coordination of the security forces of allied local administrations rather than looking on the outside.

And then the report had a warning “do not attempt a major offensive unless an appropriate accompanying political strategy has been develop.” Sorry, the offensive is already underway. It’s been called the deadliest batter in Mogadishu in the last months.