Jul 14, 2010

To leave Somalia or Not to?

Even the most vivid of descriptions may not explain the Kampala bomb blasts. But after all that happened the question resonating around the political circles, pundits and foreign policy analysts is if Uganda should leave Somalia or stay? So how did we get to Somalia?

In 2006, the Islamic courts union was ruling most of Somalia but was later ousted by Ethiopian troops. In 2007, the African Union decided a peacekeeping mission was needed to back the Federal Transitional Government which the Ethiopians were also backing. The Ethiopian Troops later pulled out to allow AMISOM takeover. Uganda and Burundi are the only countries under AMISOM arrangement in Somalia. Other countries seemed to have backed off.
The transitional government is neither in control or not, its just somewhere in the middle. The AU mission is not to liberate Somalia but to keep peace.
Somali Islamists then started threatening to attack Uganda and Burundi for their involvement in the affairs of the country. But do they speak for the whole country, I doubt that.
Over the past one year, instability has returned to Mogadishu with more ruthless attacks against AMISOM and the transitional government. This according to foreign policy analysts was a sign the Islamists were determined to get rid of any foreigner in the country.

Al-Shabab, the group that claimed responsibility for the bombings had been threatening to attack Uganda. Intelligence in the country knew there would an attack but they couldn't predict where.
The militia's top leader, Mukhtar Abdurahman Abu Zubeyr, accused African Union peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu of committing "massacres" against Somalis. The militant group also threatened it would attack Burundi and also said more attacks maybe coming Uganda's way.
Security has been heightened in the country in the wake of the attacks, there is fear among the people and vigilance is on the rise. The Somali community has already condemned the bombings. The community in Uganda has been reporting isolated incidences where they have been targeted by some locals. Its tense and there are no assurances from the authorities that we are safe. The work of terrorists doesn't mean that every Somalian is involved, or any Muslim.

Some people who are doubting that the Al-shabab is responsible for the attacks. There are various theories on who could be responsible?
- It could be a work of our own security forces, in trying to divert the international community from the 2011 election. However one would wonder why they'd decide to kill their own people.
- The work of the opposition to try and find ways of putting pressure on the government to withdraw from Somalia.
- The government trying to justify a change of Strategy and sending more troops to Somalia.
- The work of someone who wants this government out.
- If it was Al-shabab why didn't it target the 20,000 people in Nakivubo Stadium. Why did they go for smaller crowds if they wanted more body count.
All these theories however cannot be verified, even the claim from Al-shabab also looks vaguely put. Usually when a terrorist group carries out an attack, they claim responsibility immediately. This wasn't the case with these attacks.
Is it about time we withdrew our troops since the militant group threatened to taunt Uganda unless they leave Somalia? If we withdraw the attacks may stop and everyone here would be happy. It would clearly show that our foreign policy on Somalia backfired. With our already porous borders the militants may decide to abandon their threats. When our troops left for Somalia, did we ask ourselves why other African countries did not their troops? The answer is obvious, the heeded to the threats of the Islamic militants. But then if we withdraw will we have helped the problem in Somalia because we leave, the militants will take over Mogadishu and start running the country and this will solidify the presence of Al-quaeda in Africa. This will be a base and any ally of the United States maybe seen as an enemy, so if we pull out way may just let Somalia become a great threat to the regions security.
So should we stay? Withdrawing in the first place would be a political disaster to the NRM rule led by President Museveni. The analogy for us staying is that what if Tanzania had withdrawn from Uganda in 1978, then Uganda wouldn't have survived the regime of Idi Amin. Now withdrawing would mean we have abandoned what we started. But in Somalia we are not there as Freedom fighters we are just a peacekeeping force, so that eliminates the analogy. The Transition Government we are backing is struggling to also hold itself together.
Secondly is that we can stay there because we are trying to make the region safer but one would wonder why Kenya which is a neighbor to Somalia has no troops in the Country. We are carrying the weight of the whole region.
Withdrawing would mean we have handed the country (Somalia) to the Islamist militants who are not appreciated by the population there. It would be giving the people hope and then taking it away from them.
Uganda's role in Somalia is hailed by almost all leaders but why are they not helping. If we are going to stay in Somalia then we should have more troops from other countries or also allow it to become a UN peacekeeping force to allow other state actors from outside Africa.
If Al-shabab indeed carried out the attacks then mission should be changed from a peacekeeping and directly do the fighting so the militants can be eliminated. Again this is subject to debate. This would clearly justify why Uganda and Burundi should stay. After the Black Sunday attacks in Uganda its clear that the two governments are going to stay but it might be for much more than just peacekeeping.

All Ugandans want is to return to their lives as normal. Kabalagala suburb, well known for its hangout joints and party life would want to have its blossoming trend to continue. The assurance needed is safety.

Possibly related links 

1 comment:

  1. We have to stay, that much is certain but, we must ask.

    1. Who and truly what is Al Shabab? Is it true majority of the country does not want them to rule? How can we be certain of that? There are others supporting them and believe you me, there has never and will never be any effective insurgency that does not have support of the people it claims to be fighting for. As an example, Hammas is a democratically elected government of the people in Gaza but western governments would have us believe that each and everyone one of them is a "rocket launcher" carrying terrorist with no regard for human life and has labeled all of them as such thereby closing off any doors to engage in the political arena. What options does that leave for a people that feel oppressed and ignored by the world?

    2. Why o why did Ethiopia invade Somalia in 2007? What's the powerplay there?

    3. What's the deal with Eritrea, what's it case in all this bizo?

    4. Why is it that you never hear anything out of Kenya and yet they're immediate neighbours? Makes you kind of question that whole neighbour's house on fire analogy, I mean look at DR Congo and I don't hear anyone screaming that we should fix the Congo.

    5. Governments and politicians lie, especially when the public sentiment is at a high. Don't believe the hype, use your heads people.