By TABU BUTAGIRA
The six presidents of countries contributing troops to Somalia under Amisom are gathering in Kampala this weekend for an emergency session to harmonise ongoing offensives against the militant Al-Shabaab group amid reports of operational cracks among the different armies.
The Sunday meeting to be chaired by Uganda’s Yoweri President Museveni, as the convener, comes against a backdrop of Somalia’s new leadership accusing Kenya of meddling in its internal affairs, handpicking local leaders and trying to create an irregular buffer zone in Kismayu, under Kenyan troops.
Uganda, which was the first to deploy soldiers in the then restive Mogadishu in March 2007, has the biggest troop numbers in Somalia. Other countries are Burundi, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Djibouti and Somalia.
Foreign Affairs officials in Kampala confirmed that the first-ever summit of the political chief executives of the contributing countries will be at Imperial Resort Munyonyo, in Kampala.
“We have made significant progress in the security sector, and need an equally supportive progress on the political structure,” Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume said. “What is important is for the countries to harmonise our positions; this is more about cooperation.”
He said the basis of re-organising was to get the “most in terms of operational efficiency from our limited resources”.
Unease and rivalry among foreign actors in Somalia has been manifest for months, according to military sources that preferred anonymity, owing to sensitivity of the subject, and new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud upped the ante by pointing at Kenya as lately being a spoiler.
In response to a question from the Daily Monitor newspaper last month in Mogadishu, President Mohamud said: “Now the situation in Kismayu is a bit deteriorating; there’s a conflicting outcome of the process; people are going there, nominating their President; as of now, we have three local presidents in Kismayo; it’s unfortunate.”
He said his government had turned to the regional bloc, the Inter-governmental Authority on Government (Igad), to intervene and “we hope things will improve in Kismayu”.
Other reports suggested Somalia had also formally petitioned both the African Union and the UN over the matter.
Kenya government spokesperson Muthui Kariuki did not never replied to our email enquiries sent on Tuesday, even after he promised he would have responded to Mogadishu’ allegations by 10am yesterday.
In last month’s interview, Mr Mohamud said foreign intervention was to help Somalia build a sovereign state and administration.
In Kampala on Tuesday, International Affairs Minister Oryem-Okello said Uganda has never involved itself in local politics in Somalia because doing so could put Ugandan soldiers in harm’s way.