KAMPALA, Uganda May 11 (Garowe Online) - Uganda will not withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Somalia, even if the other African countries which had promised to contribute towards the peace force fail to honor their promises, the country’s defense minister said.
Several other African states, including Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi and Burundi, had previously pledged to contribute soldiers for the 8,000-strong African Union force requested by the Somali transitional government.
Thus far, only Uganda has lived up to its promise and currently maintains 1,400 peacekeepers on the ground in Mogadishu.
Uganda’s Minister of Defense, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, told journalists in Kampala on Friday that Ugandan troops will be in Somalia for the six months, the period of time they were contracted to be there by AU whether or not the other African states send their soldiers.
“We will not leave Somalia even if our sister countries which promised to send troops fulfill their promises or not,” Dr. Kiyonga said.
“If at the end of the six months no other troops are sent, we will request the United Nations to take over before our soldiers return home.”
Dr. Kiyonga also said that the AU has failed to pay for the salaries of the Ugandan troops currently serving in Somalia. Under a prior agreement, AU peacekeepers would each be paid $US400 per month, but those funds have yet to reach the troops.
The Ugandan government is independently paying for the services of its troops. According to Defense Minister Kiyonga, the monthly salary is paid to the soldiers’ families in Uganda.
In a related development, opposition politicians in Uganda under their umbrella organization known as Parties Forum have requested the government to call for an AU meeting to discuss the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
“The government should liaise with the African Union Secretariat and call for an emergency meeting involving all African states to discuss [the situation in] Somalia,” said Emmanuel Tumusiime, chairman of the Parties Forum.
The key Ugandan opposition figure accused fellow AU member states who failed to live up to their contribution pledge of “betraying” Uganda.
The AU-backed Somali government is struggling to assert its authority across the country after 16 years of factional fighting and clan rivalries.
Both the Somali and Ethiopian governments maintain that Ethiopian troops would withdraw from the country as soon as a complete AU peacekeeping force is deployed, but diplomats say the AU must first overcome financial and personnel challenges.
(Godfrey Maganda in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report)
Source: Garowe Online