Interview: Frustrations force Uganda to consider troops withdrawal from Somalia
29 June 2016, 19:50
Nairobi (Xinhua) -- Frustrations with the international community to boost support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have forced Uganda to consider pulling its troops out of the country before the end of next year.
Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda's minister of state for international
affairs, told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday that the international
community has been put on notice that Uganda will withdraw its over
6,000 troops from Somalia.
"We went there with a view of clearing and getting rid of the
terrorism in Somalia, we did not go there to be Somalis. We should
re-examine the mission and the objective of the mission," Oryem said,
noting that Ugandan troops have been in Somalia for over nine years.
The frustrations stem from several factors like financing of the
mission, availability of military equipment and the capacity of the
Somali army to protect the already captured territories from the
The European Union,
a major funder to AMISOM, has cut over 20 percent of the money it has
been sending to the mission, arguing that there are other pressing needs
elsewhere in the world that also need support.
This reduction has had an effect on the mission as the peacekeeping
troops have gone without pay for several months. Observers say this
could reduce the morale of the troops fighting the Al-Shabaab.
Uganda says although lack of payment is a major factor, it would not affect the troops' morale.
Oryem said Uganda has for years told the international community of
the need to avail force enablers and multipliers like helicopters but
nothing has been given.
He said helicopters are needed to provide aerial support to the
ground troops and also the troops can be quickly moved from one point to
another where there is urgent need.
"We need to be able to ferry our troops rapidly to areas where they
are needed, we need weapons and other equipment in order to be able to
deal with the Al-Shabaab effectively," Oryem said.
Uganda had attempted to deploy its helicopter gunships in Somalia but
they crashed in neighboring Kenya en route to Somalia. Efforts to get
the international community to replace the gunships have not yet yielded
any fruit, according to the Ugandan military.
Uganda has also got frustrations with the Somali army which it says
does not have enough capacity to protect areas that have already been
rescued from the militants. Uganda argues that the international
community must help build the capacity of the Somali National Army to
protect its people and property.
"We need a formidable army not only to fight but also protect the
country's interests. We need them on the ground so that whereas the
troops are attacking the Al-Shabaab, the Somalis are in position to
capture and maintain the ground we have successfully liberated," he
Turkey, a major humanitarian donor to Somalia, early last month urged
the international community not to backtrack on its support to the horn
of African country.
"Leaving alone such a country fighting against terrorism at such an
extent would be a big mistake," said visiting Turkish President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan. He was in Uganda on June 1 for a state visit.
Uganda provides the bulk of the AMISOM troops, contributing over
6,000 troops of the 22,000-strong force. Other African countries like
Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti also have their troops in Somalia.