KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda can raise the entire 20,000-troop force that the African Union says is needed to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country, President Yoweri Museveni said.
Uganda already has the largest contingent in the nearly 7,200-strong AU-mandated AMISOM peacekeeping force propping up the besieged Somali administration, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu.
Museveni has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilise Somalia since the country’s al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab militia claimed responsibility for twin bomb blasts on July 11 that killed 79 people watching the World Cup final in Uganda’s capital Kampala.
The AU and the seven-nation East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have said it could take about 20,000 troops to help quell the insurgents in Somalia, a country without a stable central government for nearly 20 years.
“Uganda is helping Somalia because of its African tradition and culture. Uganda can raise the required 20,000 alone, given logistics and equipment,” Museveni was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office late on Monday.
He made the remarks earlier in the day to members of the European Security Committee, a group of generals from European Union states.
Museveni said a few committed nations should be able to take on the task of pacifying Somalia. “This idea of collecting companies from African armies cannot work. We should look for armies with battalions whose armies are capable,” he said.
The EU generals are due to visit a training camp for Somali soldiers in southwest Uganda and hold discussions with Ugandan military officials. Museveni also asked the EU to deploy air power to control Somali airspace and curtail the flow of arms from al Qaeda and other foreign sponsors of rebels in Somalia.
EU navies have been patrolling the seas off Somalia for nearly two years to combat rampant piracy, but Museveni said the roots of the problem needed to be tackled on land.
“I am seeing a lot of time wastage in controlling the ocean when the problem originates from the hinterland,” he said. “Unless these pirates live in water, which I doubt, the solution to ocean piracy is to ensure a stable government in Somalia.”