By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Mogadishu: As Somalis celebrate National Flag Day, the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) has been commended for its role in providing peace to Somalia.
On Oct. 12, 1954, the Somali flag was hoisted for the first time, marking the end of colonization and the reunification of regions that were separately being ruled by Italy and Britain. The day is celebrated every year by the Somali community.
65-year-old Musa Khalid, a Somali long-distance truck driver who drives from Kenya’s port of Mombasa to the Democratic Republic of Congo through Uganda, said: “If it was not for Ugandan troops going to fight for peace in Somalia, Somalia’s flag day wouldn’t be celebrated because the country would still be in a total mess.”
Remember these comes after recently Museveni announced on Sept. 9 that he would be forced to withdraw Ugandan troops if sections of the leadership in Somalia continued to wrangle for political control in the country.
“The issue in Somalia is when internal forces do not come up to shoulder their responsibilities. They are always against one another. If they did cooperate, the situation would have been solved,” Museveni said.
He was referring to a recent squabble when a group of opposition presidential candidates and supporters rejected the government’s plan for upcoming elections.
That threat came to pass after the Ugandan and Somali presidents met last week on the sidelines of Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed’s swearing-in ceremony in the capital Addis Ababa.
Ugandan troops have been on a peacekeeping mission in Somalia since 2007 and lost around 20 soldiers during that time. Uganda was the first country to deploy troops for peacekeeping in the country, paving the way for other countries to join. They also have been playing a major role in forcing the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization out of Mogadishu and other parts of the country.
“If Uganda had not taken the initiative of sending peacekeepers to Somalia, no army from any other country would have sent its troops there. The situation was chaotic. The militants had just killed foreign soldiers,” said Ali Fahad, a Somali refugee based in the eastern Uganda town of Mbale.
Lt. Col. Ronald Kakurungu, Uganda’s defense forces deputy spokesman, conceded that it was true that Uganda was the first country to send troops to Somalia but downplayed it, saying Uganda does not boast over it because it was responding to a call of helping fellow Africans.
“The AU [African Union] requested us with other countries like Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa to contribute troops to keep peace in Somalia. Although the other countries did not send troops, we did so because we felt that we had a role to contribute to the returning of peace and stability in Somalia,” he said.
He said they did so because of their spirit of Pan-Africanism, which is much supported by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is also commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.
He said that later on, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia also sent troops to Somalia, adding that the UN, African Union and Turkey are the key supporters of peacekeepers in Somalia.