We should never have gone to Somalia

Kampala, 01 August 2016

“I think only a deranged man would have thought that Uganda was going to create an army in Somalia."

On Saturday, July 16, my wife and I drove to Kitante primary school to drop our ten-year-old son Ssemujju Ibrahim III at the playground there. He plays football with one of the academies in town and Kitante is their training ground. The administration of this public school has kept it clean and attractive. My wife asked me whether it was a public school or not. Public in Uganda means government-run. The reason she asked was because there was a semblance of order, clean compound, painted buildings, etc.

I don’t know who the managers are but I want to thank them for keeping the school clean and really healthy. From Kitante, our conversation meandered to all public primary schools in Kampala. These schools include Nakasero, Buganda Road and Bat Valley. Shimoni Demonstration School was fraudulently sold by the government.

We asked ourselves whether this 30-year-old regime has constructed any primary school in Kampala. The answer was an obvious no. Instead, it has sold Shimoni, run down Buganda Road and is about to murder Nakasero. It has sold playgrounds for the schools and probably in ten years, we will have to drop our children or grandchildren to Jinja for them to play some football.

And that has been the story of Mr Museveni. There isn’t a single institution his government has not vandalized. Last week, I told you the story of Luzira prison. You have seen images of police barracks and stations from Naguru, Nsambya, Jinja Road, Kira Road, to Kibuye, etc.

Very nice buildings constructed mainly by the colonial administration and, I think, the first post-independence government have been abandoned to themselves and they are rotting away. The situation is not any different in military barracks and that is probably why they are now shooting at each other.

Interestingly, the bosses at all these institutions are riding in the latest models of Land Cruisers. Dear Ugandans, Mr Museveni’s government has privatized the state and the country for that matter.

Anyway, schools and barracks were not supposed to be the topic of my column today. But the pain I feel every time I visit a public institution makes me repeat myself.

Uganda is pulling out of Somalia by the end of December next year. That is what Mr Museveni has announced. Why? “Our main reason for going to Somalia was to help the Somali people create their own army, but after nine years, we have not created the army.”

That is what Museveni said at the conclusion of a recent regional security summit. To get Museveni to admit failure is unusual. His statement exonerates me. I almost became the lone voice against this deployment when it was announced in 2007. I was demonized by all state agents. I was labelled a sympathizer of terrorists.

Those who demonized me are now saying we have not achieved the main objective of our going there. The truth is that Somalia was not Uganda’s/our war. It was someone else’s. We went there as mercenaries, mainly for two reasons.

This deployment took place immediately after the 2006 general elections that was obviously fraudulent, like courts have found many others under Mr Museveni. As usual, every after an election, the international community will point out flaws. To enlist the international community’s support, especially the Americans, Somalia became the most appropriate regime project.

Even before the AU and UN had sanctioned the deployment, Uganda was already warming up. The whole country was blackmailed. I remember my colleague Ruth Nankabirwa even suggesting that the smaller arms that the Karimojong were using for wrestling were being trafficked from Somalia. Therefore, Somalia contributed to insecurity even within our boundaries, so she argued!

We were prepared and, as usual, we went into Somalia. And there was also the money element. The Europeans and Americans have been providing Shs 204 billion every year to Uganda. Mind you, Uganda contributes officially about 6,600 soldiers of the 22,000 Amisom force. This means that the EU and US have been contributing nearly a trillion shillings to finance the war in Somalia.

For the ordinary soldiers, Somalia became a worthy venture because each pocketed $1,000 (Shs 3.4m) per month. Their counterparts are paid just about $100 (Shs 340,000) per month back home in Uganda.

The EU and US either no longer have the money or are unwilling to continue bankrolling this venture. Soldiers there, I think until this month, had gone six months without pay.

The truth, therefore, is that the EU and US no longer want to be blackmailed by the regime over Somalia. That is why the revolutionary is announcing this withdrawal.

I think only a deranged man would have thought that Uganda was going to create an army in Somalia. Apart from some resemblance by some of our tribes, we have nothing in common with Somalia for us to be trusted.

And I argued then that it was criminal to dismantle the Union of Islamic Courts. In fact this union had grown into a trusted force capable of running the state in Somalia. It was dismantled and that is how the al-Shabab rose to fill the vacuum. It is the same mistake the Americans made in Iraq when they dismantled the whole of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th party.

The Islamic State exploited the vacuum and look at the damage they are causing to the whole world!

Somalis must be allowed to grow their own army and that means allowing the dominant and most organized group to take power.

If this group engages in criminality, then we can impose sanctions against it. Now that I was vilified when it was time for going to Somalia, I should be invited to welcome our troops back.

Author |Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda|
semugs@yahoo.com|The author is Kira Municipality MP.

Contact: ahassannn@yahoo.com   © 2006 Qaranka