By Capt. Paddy Ankunda
I had the honour to be invited to the opening of the Ethiopian Embassy in Mogadishu on May 26. The function, I must say, was rather colourful. It was attended by Somali President HE Abdullahi Yusuf, the Prime Minister, Hon Mohamed Gedi, several government ministers, the mayor of Mogadishu, His Worship Mohamad Dere and other VIPs.
The Prime Minister started it all by calling upon other countries to emulate Ethiopia and open embassies in the Somali capital. As soon as he said that, the BBC correspondent, who was seated just next to me asked: â€œWhen are you guys opening your embassy?â€
I boldly told him that the Ugandan envoy had already been appointed and what was remaining is for him to relocate to Mogadishu and start shuttling. I hope time will not prove me to be a liar.
The opening of the Ethiopian embassy reminded me of the experience Ugandans went through in Juba. Fortunately, that was when I was working as the Government of Uganda Spokesman to the Peace talks with the LRA there.
Apparently, some countries like Kenya had moved fast and signed an Economic Cooperation agreement with the Government of South Sudan and their businessmen found no trouble at all in entrenching their commercial hegemony in Juba. While our businessmen were being arrested in Yei, Kenyans were busy finalising deals.
Although Uganda contributed immensely to the entire liberation struggle, it was evident that the mechanisms to help our people reap where they sowed had not been put in place. Four months later, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs did the needful and Ugandans are now happily competing with all the others.
Back to Mogadishu, I have seen a number of delegations come and go, of course wearing a humanitarian gear. I also see on a daily basis commercial aircrafts land and take off, offloading passengers and taking cargo. Mogadishu seaport is now one of the busiest ports north of Mombasa. Dubai is just a stone throw.
One can see that Somalia clearly provides a new commercial opening for East Africa to the Asian continent.
Besides, Somalis have not hidden their love for â€˜Ugandesâ€™ (the way they call us).
It is therefore possible that we can tap into this goodwill and assist the Somalis to regain stability but also tap into this stability to further our relationship with the Somali people especially in areas of trade. Despite the 16 years of conflict, Somalia boasts of one of the most successful telecommunication networks on the continent.
This is where MTN and UTL come into the picture. In Somalia, you can sell anything because everything is lacking. The TFG is slowly but steadily taking shape. Relative security has equally returned. I sincerely urge Ugandans to give it a try.
To begin with, our investors in air transport can make some flights. This will more importantly enable us to connect back home.
However, it will also provide an opportunity to thousands of Somalis living in Uganda to come back to their country after many years.
AU troops (UPDF) have fully secured the airport. This includes the security of a 10km stretch for landing and take off. There should therefore be no reason to worry.
Of course, I write all this in view of the hope that the Ugandan envoy will come soon and not turn me into a liar.
The writer is the AU Spokesman for the UPDF contingent in Somalia