Should the UPDF withdraw from Somalia? Not yet please

By Asuman Bisiika

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The Court of Appeal sitting as the Constitutional Court in Mbale Town, is hearing petitions challenging last year’s Constitutional Amendment. This particular amendment extended the tenure of the current Parliament and the presidency. It also removed the 75-year age limit for presidential candidates. All eyes are now on the Constitutional Court. And Ugandans are awaiting the court’s determination of the petitions with one collected bated breath.

Either way, the judgment or determination of the Constitutional Court goes, Ugandans have not forgotten that the Supreme Court determination of the Presidential Elections Petition No. 1 of 2016 has not been fully complied with. And that a successful application of court bail is now influenced by the mood of the security agencies.

But dear Ugandans, please don’t allow the Mbale thingie to divert you from the mourning of our compatriots who were KIA (Killed In Action) in Somalia. So, without much preamble, I would like to pose the question: Should Yoweri Museveni withdraw the UPDF from Somalia?

We know that Ugandans (through Parliament) didn’t participate in the process that led to the UPDF deployment in Amisom (African Mission in Somalia); and therefore, some cynics would not want to be asked about Somalia. But in spite of the Museveni way of treating national institutions as if they served his personal vision, we must accept that Amisom is now very important to Uganda.

The participation of UPDF in Amisom may have come with political dividends for Museveni as a political leader, but it is now important for all of us. Of course, many Ugandans, including me, may not appreciate Amisom’s municipal benefits for Uganda. But I know that the financial inflows from Amisom are now very important to our economy.

To understand Amisom’s importance to Uganda, we need to interrogate ‘unconfirmed’ reports that soldiers bribe to be included on the list of units going to Somalia.

And on Wednesday, a friend knowledgeable about these things warned me that UPDF withdrawal from Somalia now would impact negatively on the economy. ‘The economy is in such a bad shape that any coin coming in counts. And Somalia is one the big sources of direct foreign inflow (FDI).

‘And as you may want to know’, my friend added, ‘even the constitutional case in Mbale is very important for the economy because some foreign donors are paying for the legal bills of our patriotic petitioners’. With this revelation, I could only manage a deep sigh.

On Somalia, I have a confession to make. My brother was in the First Commando Unit of the Special Forces Command. He had one tour in Somalia. On his return, he finished his house in Kiburara. And we were all happy, as one would expect, for his return alive and finishing the house.

My brother’s is a typical Ugandan story. Nze akalimo kange kano nguzemu puloti nempereramu nabaana bange (with this small business endeavour, I have bought a plot of land and paid school fees for my children). But there is a difference between my brother’s Somalia endeavour and Mama Stella’s market stall story.

Guys, Somalia seems to have reduced our UPDF to a force managing individual mercenary Ugandans whose only interest in Amisom is money.

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President Museveni met Dr Kizito Lwanga, the Ordinary of St Mary’s Cathedral, Rubaga. As a rogue NRM cadre, I asked: Other than reducing our dear and revolutionary leader to Kodak moments, what strategic benefit did the meeting bring home? To what extent did the meeting demonstrate Museveni as the weaker protagonist?

Dear State House people, there is no harm in keeping some meetings secret.

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