“You should be proud of your country. We are satisfied with the work UPDF has done in Somalia. You are not wasting money and time here; you are contributing to African solutions for African problems”
These words were said by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in Somalia (SRCC), His Excellency Souef Mohamed El-Amine on 7 Dec 2022; during his meeting with the members of the Ugandan Parliamentary committee on defence and internal affairs who were in Somalia for an oversight visit aimed at assessing the performance and challenges of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) in Somalia.
During the 06-10 Dec 2022 visit, the Members of Parliament (MPs) also met the head of the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS); Madam Lisa Filipetto and the Somali Minister of Defence; Hon. Mohamed Nur Jama. Additionally, MPs visited and interacted with UPDF soldiers at Base Camp, Arabiska and Baledogle forward operating bases. They further visited the mission Health center 11 at Halane camp, marine market and seaport.
Under the primary issues discussed was; the sustainability plan of the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), and ATMIS’s exist strategy by December 2024.
The Sector one security briefing made to the MPs indicated that the security situation in Somalia is relatively calm, unpredictable but manageable. The brief also indicated high wear and tear of the mission equipment while improvised explosives (IEDs) remain the biggest threat that impedes mission operations.
Among the challenges that were raised by the UPDF troops to the MPs included; delayed mission allowances for the ATMIS troops and the flight costs incurred by the UPDF United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU) troops from Nairobi enroute to Uganda from Somalia.
The Uganda State Minister in- charge of veterans; Hon. Huda Abason who was leading the MPs assured the soldiers that their mission allowances will be paid as soon as the funding partners meet their commitments.
The MPs applauded UPDF and the government of Uganda for the contribution and sacrifice made to pacify Somalia and the region and called for cohesion and honesty among all the development partners and all peoples of Africa for the future of Africa and global peace. Further adding that the ATMIS withdraw plan should be carefully considered so as not to reverse the already attained achievements.
They thanked President Yoweri Museveni for encouraging and supporting peace initiatives across the continent “and as committee members of parliament, we uphold that. Peace and stability are very important not only for Somalia but for the rest of the continent. We are very hopeful that the time is coming when Somalia will be peaceful and the signs are clear”- Committee Chairperson, Hon. Rosemary Nakikongoro remarked.
The Sector one Commander; Brig Gen Keith Katungi applauded the inter-connectedness and inter-operability of the ATMIS forces and Somali National Forces as a bigger achievement for Africa. “There is no way you are going to defeat terrorism without going joint. It is going to be the trend if we are to ensure the stability of Africa.” Brig Katungi emphasised
Brig Katungi further affirmed that ATMIS is committed to the Somali Transition Plan (STP) of gradual handover of security responsibilities to Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) by December 2024.
The visit underscored that without a shared border or religion between Uganda and Somalia, Uganda-Somali relations a historical and durable given that President Museveni is the only President who visited Somalia in 1992 when the Somali government had collapsed and Somalia was a no-go zone. Uganda was equally the first Troop Contributing Country (TCC) in 2007 to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) now ATMIS and 15 years later, together with other development partners, TCCs, coupled with the resilience and the tenacity of the Somali people and the Federal Government of Somalia, Somalia is on a steady recovery path.