Â James Karuhanga
Senior Researcher, Uganda
Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies
In parliament this past week the Minister of Defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga once again tabled the motion for the approval of the Ugandan armyâ€™s peace mission in Somalia. Kiyonga explained that Uganda as a UN member is obliged to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.
As the Great Lakes Center for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) reported last week, MPs had rejected the ministerâ€™s earlier motion for hurried deployment. The minister also allayed concerns over the impact of deployment of troops outside the country and capacity to handle internal security challenges.
â€˜â€˜Somalia has been a failed sister African state for nearly 16 years,â€™â€™ said Kiyonga â€˜â€˜It is internationally and regionally agreed that Somalia poses a grave risk to the security not only to its own people but also to the entire Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region.â€™â€™
The peace keeping mission to Somalia â€“ African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is a regional effort led by the AU and supported by the UN, EU and USA. Uganda is ready to deploy up to 1,400 troops while incremental resources will be met by the partners in the peacekeeping effort.
Ugandaâ€™s Basis for Action
- Regional and international obligations as a UN member â€“ to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Ugandaâ€™s defense policy â€“ which according to the minister is supportive of peace missions.
- â€˜â€˜There is a clear nexus between the unstable Somalia and the small arms proliferation into Karamoja zone and beyond,â€™â€™ stated the minister. He said there was an urgent need to curb the supply of these Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) proliferation in the region and Uganda in particular.
As the GLCSS reported last year, (See GLCSS Weekly News and Analysis 20 October 2006), the threat of small arms proliferation to Uganda and the region as a whole is a reality. The Karamajong escalated their cattle rustling violence from spears, bows and arrows to AK-47s in the last few years and Uganda cannot afford to ignore the weapons trading routes from Somalia.
Furthermore, Kiyonga emphasized consideration of good will and trust placed in Uganda by Somali people, which he believes puts Uganda in a favorable position to mediate.
â€˜â€˜Ever since the initial period of the Somali turmoil, in 1992, key players held Uganda, particularly President Museveni, in high esteem and have consistently sought Ugandaâ€™s intervention to resolve the Somalia crisis,â€™â€™ he said.
Kiyonga pointed out the fact that AMISOM is an African initiative in which, â€˜â€˜African problems have African solutionsâ€™â€™ and that such an approach has already yielded results, such as the successful missions in Burundi, South Sudan and Liberia.
Ugandaâ€™s force also stands to gain skills through exposure and interaction.
â€˜â€˜The forces will be put into an active theater, with other professional forces, employing weapons of various calibers as well as training standards.â€™â€™
Concerns over internal security challenges
The minister allayed fears that deployment of troops to Somalia may weaken the countryâ€™s efforts to deal with internal security problems in the north and north eastern regions.
According to Kiyonga, the troops that will be deployed in Somalia have not been participating in security work but have been training in preparation for the mission.
Furthermore, no troops or equipment will be withdrawn from the divisions in the north and north eastern regions.
â€˜â€˜In the case of Karamoja, more troops have already been sent to that area to strengthen the work of disarmament,â€™â€™ he said â€˜â€˜The government therefore wishes to assure the house and the country at large that deployment of UPDF in Somalia will not negatively affect the effort to stabilize Northern Uganda, handle the Karamoja disarmament and ensure standby actions against any possible threat to the country.â€™â€™
Opposition MPs were again not present when the motion was tabled. As earlier reported by the GLCSS, they walked out of parliament last week in protest over the continued detention of suspected PRA rebels.
However, GLCSS interviews reveal that the opposition agrees in principle on the issue of deployment. Efforts by the minister to discuss the matter of the proposed deployment with the leader of opposition in parliament (Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo) appear to have been successful.
â€˜â€˜The matter of stability and peace in Uganda and Africa is a common good issue and therefore is not a matter on which we should be politically divided,â€™â€™ Kiyonga stressed. The leader of opposition in parliament did not show any disapproval of deployment.
â€˜â€˜We support it [deployment],â€™â€™ Latigo said while stressing that the opposition recognized governmentâ€™s legitimacy on the issue and there shouldnâ€™t be problems because of the oppositionâ€™s boycott of parliament.
â€˜â€˜I donâ€™t have to be inside parliament to contribute,â€™â€™ he emphasized â€˜â€˜there will be no repercussions if they [government] pass the motion because we support it.â€™â€™ Even though the opposition continues to stay away from the plenary session, they are in their offices at parliament and attend to other parliament duties.
The opposition backed the deployment provided the best interests of the country are taken care of. The oppositions concerns included issues such as the welfare, terms of conditions, duration, operational costs and compensation in case of injury or even death of the Ugandan soldiers.
According to Kiyonga, once parliament approves, government will proceed to enter agreements with the AU and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) as required by domestic laws. GLCSS believes parliament approval is still some way off. The motion for deployment suffered yet another setback this week when some NRM MPs requested for it to be scrutinized by the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs since it was a unique subject being handled for the first time.
It was referred to the Committee till 13 February when the Committee would report on the issue to parliament. Â By Friday â€“ 10 February, the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Rose Namayanja could not state a specific date of deployment citing the fact that they were still discussing the concerns over deployment up to 12 February.
â€˜â€˜We are still receiving these concerns,â€™â€™ Namayanja said. Members of Parliament showed concerns over the social and political situation in Somalia. They also pointed out foreign interests and the possibility of being used by other countries.
The government is seeking parliamentary approval to proceed with the participation in AMISOM.
The mandate to deployâ€™s mission is to:
- Conduct peace support operations in Somalia,
- Provide support to the TFG institutions in their efforts towards Somaliaâ€™s stabilization and reconciliation and,
- Facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance.
So far, other countries that have pledged to contribute troops are Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and Burundi. Algeria and Egypt have offered to air-lift troops into Somalia.
Kiyonga stressed that Ugandaâ€™s financial contribution will be within the current budget (defense sector) and that partners in the mission (USA, EU and UK) would meet incremental costs. The USA, UK and EU are reported to have pledged â€“ US $40.5 million, 4 million pound sterling and 15 million Euros respectively. Whereas, France and Canadaâ€™s pledges have not yet been quantified.