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MUSAVENI: Whatever is needed to make Somalia a stable and viable nation ought to be done… Even a thankless one.

Opiyo Oloya discussing AMISOM with President Museveni at State Lodge Nakasero

undefinedHalkaan ka akhri

The New Vision - Uganda's Leading Website

BOY, what a whirlwind summer this has been for me! From Lake Tahoe, California, travelling via San Diego, I returned briefly to Toronto for a few days with the family before proceeding to Mogadishu, Somalia.

Opiyo Oloya discussing AMISOM with President Museveni at State Lodge Nakasero

From the war zone in the Horn of Africa, it was on to Uganda, spending a few days in Gulu town before returning to Kampala to wrap things up with an exclusive conversation with President Yoweri Museveni on the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Three things stood out for me in the discussion with the President at Nakasero State Lodge on Sunday evening before I flew back to Toronto. Foremost, it was revealing how deeply he felt about the mission in Somalia.

He clearly was not worried about failure, pointing out that the Uganda and Burundi contingents were professional, mindful and respectful in their working relationships with the people of Somalia.

His concern, however, seemed to be that whatever is needed to make Somalia a stable and viable nation ought to be done. He returned to this point over and over, stressing why it was a duty, even a thankless one at that, for African Union members to step in to support a nation in crisis.

The second salient point was President Museveni clearly spelling out that intervention such as the AMISOM in Somalia can only succeed at the behest and with the blessing of the African Union.

It was not his call, for example, whether or not additional troops should be sent to Somalia as requested by AMISOM Force Commander Major General Fred Mugisha, he pointed out.

Rather, when the go- ahead was given by the AU, it was then his duty as an African leader to pony up the resources needed to get the job done. Not a single Ugandan soldier could set foot in Somalia without that express authority from the AU, he reiterated.

But the thing that stood out the most for me was the President’s insistence that AMISOM was not in Somalia to take sides in the dispute. The problem with previous missions that failed was that they quickly took sides, he argued.

For me, this was an interesting point because when I met President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed at State House in Mogadishu a week earlier, the Somalia leader never once brought up reconciliation as a priority in his country. Sharif Ahmed did not seem in the mood for dialogue with the militants who were slowly being pushed out of Mogadishu by AMISOM troops.

The Somalia leader, who was busy receiving delegations upon delegations, seemed preoccupied with consolidating his powerbase in the shattered country.

For the leader of the transitional government of Somalia, it seemed, AMISOM is fighting his war for him. For him, his was the only side worth supporting.

Interestingly, neutrality by the AMISOM troops did not mean that they could be pushed around by the militants. Rather, as Museveni explained, so long as the militants were beating their swords into ploughshares, AMISOM forces would let them be.

Hostility, especially that directed at the flag of the AU, however, would be met with firm and effective force. Indeed, Al Shabaab seemed to understand that language because I found they had left the Bakaara market area, hitherto their economic stronghold, without a fight.

The place was intact as if it was Friday afternoon and the shop owners had gone for prayer for the day, but were planning to be back the next day. Clearly, Al Shabaab intends to return—as business people. In any event, as my summer travels continue, tomorrow, Thursday, I get on the plane for the flight to Denver, Colorado, the venue of the 23rd annual convention of the Uganda North America Association (UNAA). The event spread over the Labour Day weekend promises to be one of the best, drawing a number of participants from across North America, Europe and from Uganda.

I look forward to meeting the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, cabinet ministers, official from State House and many high level delegates from Uganda. I hope to persuade Kadaga to go for a walk in Denver while we chat about her plan for the current parliament, the issues that she is looking at working on with the MPs and those she intends to be put on the back-burner. Should that conversation take place, you will be the first to read it here in the New Vision.

Beyond that though, I do want to take time to meet the many Ugandans who are in America, to talk to them about their lives, the big plusses and the challenges they face daily in America facing the worst economic cycle in decades. It would be interesting to also carry out conversations with young people on the cusp of adulthood, to hear from them what motivates or discourages them, what they see as the big challenges of their time.

  SomaliSwiss@hotmail.com

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