Uganda: Crawling Towards Somalia


January13, 2007: The government has asked the UN to help provide support for its peacekeeping battalion slated for deployment in Somalia. The government wants money to pay for personnel, but is also requesting body armor and "other military gear" appropriate to deployment in a war zone. The Ugandan force is a "battalion-plus" - a 1000-troop task force. The parliament has not approved the mission but is expected to do so by the end of January. However, Uganda's main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change, opposes the deployment, as does its leader, Kizza Besigye. When Uganda first offered to raise and send the peacekeeping contingent, it indicated the battalion would be used to protect Somalia's Transitional Government, then located in Baidoa. Since then the Ethiopian and Transitional Government offensive against the Islamic Courts has driven the Islamist militias into a corner of southern Somalia. Mogadishu, however, remains very unstable. It is not clear if Uganda will permit its battalion to deploy in Mogadishu. Still, there are many places in central and southern Somalia a reliable task force would be useful in security, convoy, and stability operations. Ugandan forces have a lot of experience in what is sometimes called "counter-bandit" operations -patrolling roads, escorting convoys, and protecting the local population from raiders. That experience is useful in most of sub-Saharan Africa. But the bureaucrats are moving too slowly to get the peacekeepers into Somalia when they could do the most good.

January 10, 2007: The president of Sudan said that his government wanted all LRA bases removed from Sudan. The statement said that Sudan was prepared to help "eliminate" the LRA and that Sudan would pursue "a military solution" if LRA fighters did not choose peace. For years Uganda accused Sudan of backing the LRA, and Uganda has lots of evidence to back up the accusation. However, Sudan later let the Ugandan Army conduct anti-LRA operations in south Sudan. Sudan encouraged the August Uganda-LRA truce and its "south vice-president" has mediated the continuing talks. However, over the past three months, an increasing number of ambushes, murders, and robberies in south Sudan have been attributed to LRA fighters. It appears the Sudan government is sending the LRA a clear message that it must rein in its forces.

January 6, 2007: The World Food Program said that it estimated 230,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their homes in northern Uganda during the year 2006. The August 2006 Uganda-LRA truce is the primary reason for the return. While the Uganda-LRA truce has been shaky, the peace process has held together. Uganda now faces the hard job of reintegrating the returned IDPs. That means reviving farms and small businesses that in many cases no longer exist.


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