Source: The Observer/allAfrica
Five years ago, when the Ugandan army contingent arrived in Mogadishu, no foreigner dared visit the war-battered capital of Somalia.
The UPDF had come in as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to protect the western-backed but fledgling Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which controlled just a few streets in chaotic Mogadishu. Much of the city remained in the hands of the insurgent Al Shabaab.
While several African countries had pledged soldiers to the AU led effort, they all developed cold feet, apart from Burundi. The Ugandan involvement was unpopular at home, given the dangers of foreign intervention. And these dangers became real after bombs exploded in Kampala in July 2010, killing at least 70 people. The number of Ugandan soldiers lost over the years also underlines the heavy price Uganda has paid.
Yet today there are clear positives from Uganda’s role in Somalia that cannot be ignored. This week Turkish Airlines became the first international airline to land in Mogadishu in 20 years. Somalis are understandably ecstatic at this development. Ever since Al Shabaab fled Mogadishu in August 2011, foreign dignitaries have been flocking to the capital, symbolising a return to normalcy. Only last month, a conference was convened in London to help Somalia get back on its feet.
It is safe to say this would not have been possible without Uganda’s contribution. Yes, the mission remains controversial and costly, but the results cannot be ignored. Ugandan soldiers have made the impossible possible in Somalia and the country should be proud of that.
However, Uganda must be aware that Mogadishu is just a small part of Somalia and pacifying the whole country will take more than military success. It’s time for the people of Somalia to take their fate in their hands through political dialogue in the interest of lasting peace and security in their country. The Ugandans have played their part and should be looking to coming home.