By HENRY MUKASA
and MILTON OLUPOT
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has proposed an extension of the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia in order to consolidate the gains made by the peacekeepers.
The transitional governmentâ€™s term expires on August 23, 2011 a situation that has created a political impasse after the parliament renewed its mandate for three years.
Museveni, who was opening the 19th meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, warned that Uganda could pull out her peacekeepers from Somalia if a disruptive process that would enable militants re-organise is allowed.
The President said he would prefer the extension of TFG for one year as opposed to proposals for acrimonious presidential elections or declaring expiry of all transitional federal institutions (TFI) in which case AMISOM would withdraw.
â€œCertainly for Uganda, we cannot be in that kind of situation. The consequences of an AMISOM withdrawal are so serious to think about.
â€œThe consequences of AMISOM withdrawal will be grave, leaving Somalia in anarchy,â€ Museveni said.
The African Union deployed a 9,000-strong offensive backed by AMISOM forces that include soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.
Museveni said the troop contributing countries have a rightful stake in the stablisation of Somalia and, therefore, Uganda and Burundi should be consulted when key decisions on the country are being made.
â€œI appeal to our Somali brothers and sisters to help us so that we help them. We donâ€™t have interests in Somalia beyond our ideological Pan African interest,â€ Museveni said.
The President pointed out that while Africans are polite and reluctant to interfere in internal affairs of other countries, the phenomenon of exporting terrorism to the continent and the fluid situation in Somalia compelled Ugandaâ€™s intervention.
He particularly attacked extremists for trying to impose a way of life on Somalis.
â€œWe donâ€™t accept bigotry. Like these idiots called al-shabaabâ€¦ they donâ€™t shave beardsâ€¦ go and play those foolish games in the Middle East and not here. We went to Somalia to help our brothers live in peace.
â€œThese extremists, we have taught them a lesson,â€ he said in reference to the gains AMISOM has achieved in the past months, including capturing new territory.
Somalia president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed supported the proposal by President Museveni, describing him as a leader who has â€œdeep understanding of the situation in Somalia.â€
â€œPresident Museveniâ€™s suggestion of extending all TFIs is a nice position that is logical and we support it. Democracy and election is something we also support 100 percent, but we need time to prepare ground for it,â€ Sharif said.
The two-day meeting will discuss political, security, humanitarian and other issues related to Somalia.
The International Contact Group for Somalia is composed of 46 member states and these cut across Africa, Europe, Asia and international organisations like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Inter governmental Authority for Development.