Resolution 10 of the just-ended IGAD summit is that AMISOM and Somalia Security Forces must recover all the remaining areas
By Frank Tumwebaze
As I watched various international channels report about the recent Mogadishu IGAD summit, this piece of President Yoweri Museveni writing from Kyankwanzi, March 17, 2016, came in mind.
"The legitimate interest of the people is prosperity and that prosperity is, most of the times, supported by inter-tribal linkages rather than intra-tribal linkages…With this realisation, the NRM, therefore, evolved, quiet early and two principles: patriotism and Pan-Africanism. Patriotism meant unity within Uganda so as to ensure our prosperity and security. Pan-Africanism was to promote unity in East Africa and Africa in order to guarantee the same prosperity and security even better." - The message from here is that just wars will always be won. And just wars are those of right causes — nationalist and Pan Africanist causes...
Truly, the successful Mogadishu IGAD summit signalled a final defeat of extremism, radical ideology of the al-Shabaab and the beginning of the Somalia people's unstoppable journey to prosperity supported by the African and in particular, Ugandan-led solidarity.
The IGAD summit ushered in a new dawn of optimism about the future of Somalia and her people. Even more significantly, the summit was an epitome of the NRA/NRM Pan-Africanist ideological victory. Why? Tuesday, September 13, when Mogadishu hosted the 28th Extraordinary Intergovernmental Agency on Development (IGAD) Heads of State Summit, was the first time in over two decades that Somalia was hosting a summit of such magnitude.
The significance and symbolism of it could not be lost on those who have keenly followed the tale of that troubled Horn of Africa state. Just over a decade ago, it would be termed as a dream for anyone to imagine that four heads of state and a host of delegations of international development agencies would meet in Mogadishu, deliberate and exit the city minus an incident of at least a grenade attack or an explosion of sorts. After all, Mogadishu had become the haven of extremist terrorist group al-Shabaab, who not only controlled the city, but used it to launch a series of attacks across the region.
A lot of commentary following the summit affirms that Somalia is slowly getting back to its feet. The process of state-recuperation is underway. Al-Shabaab has grown weak and has been pushed out of Mogadishu. Though they still conduct intermittent attacks, there is no doubt that their days are numbered.
Indeed Resolution 10 of the just-ended IGAD summit is that AMISOM and Somalia Security Forces must recover all the remaining areas that are still under Al-Shabaab control.
As we celebrate Somalia's push towards normalcy, the IGAD summit must also be feted as the epitome of the NRA/NRM ideological victory.
When President Museveni in 2007 with the backing of Parliament deployed Ugandan troops in Somalia—the naysayers were quick to criticise him. From our short-sighted opposition at home to pessimists abroad, most thought the UPDF had committed suicide by taking the battle to the door of the extremists.
The hesitation by several African states that had committed to sending troops to AMISOM mission, leaving Uganda alone at the frontline, was testament to how no one wanted to touch Somalia — not even with a long pole.
Not only did President Museveni commit troops to Somalia, but also made a daring appearance at the frontline in Somalia in 2010, when the battle for Mogadishu between AMISOM and al-Shabaab was the most intense and fatal. His surprise appearance at the battle line greatly boosted the morale of the combat forces and eight months later, the al-Shabaab were pushed out of Mogadishu. AMISOM took full control of the city and it marked the start of the journey to normalcy.
President Museveni has been consistent about the principle of Pan-Africanism. It is actually the second ideological principle of the NRM. Somalia, perhaps, best illustrates this concept in motion.
The NRM has always believed that the security and prosperity of Ugandans is closely inter-linked with the security and prosperity of the region. It explains why, when the new state of South Sudan was on the brink of collapse, the UPDF deployed there to avoid anarchy. Indeed eye witnesses that were on the ground truly acknowledge how the UPDF helped to stop yet another wave of genocide in the region. Importantly, when South Sudan was at peace, it had quickly grown into Uganda's biggest trading partner with thousands of Ugandans seeking employment there.
It takes vision and foresight to hold and live by these positions. For a President whose ideological consciousness was shaped in Mozambique and whose struggle to eliminate the negative forces of Idi Amin was supported by Tanzania, Museveni best understands the idea of Pan-Africanism.
The pursuit of self-determination and wellbeing of the African people, free from all forms of slavery and oppression, is one of the key tenets of the NRA/NRM. It is the cause and purpose that has enabled Uganda to have and build a resilient army with a Pan-African formation. Without a cause and purpose, an army can never be worth its name. At best it can be a militia. Therefore, the successes of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) in Somalia not only speak for braveness, valour and professional standing of our soldiers, but also speak for their ideological grounding.
Their appreciation for the need to pursue a pan-African cause and agenda sustains their commitment and emboldens their determination.
Their combat victory is by and large victory of the ideological construction they were grounded in. Therefore, Somalia's return to normalcy is victory of the correct ideological diagnosis of its problems and that is why NRM with its pioneer leader is proud to have led and executed this struggle. Quite often, ideology is misunderstood by some sections of the always subjective political elite to mean partisan bidding. Far from this. Any organisation or group with a mission of its establishment must articulate and make known its core beliefs of its purpose and being. It is these beliefs compounded that build an ideology. If the beliefs are wrong, the ideology will be wrong as it is for al-Shabaab and its network of terror.
But if the beliefs are good and correct, so will be the ideology. As such, the beliefs of NRM namely: nationalism, Pan Africanism, democracy and socioeconomic transformation, define and constitute its correct ideology. Nothing else compels the NRM leadership to deploy our troops to Somalia other than pursuing and defending its ideological objective. After the IGAD Summit, President Museveni went and visited UPDF troops at Halane Base Camp near the Mogadishu International Airport. He commended the troops for a job well done and for maintaining high levels of discipline — something the Somalis cannot stop thanking the UPDF for. Importantly, however, he pointed out the problem Somalia has grappled with and one that Uganda firmly dealt with; that of pseudo-ideology.
"You cannot build an effective and efficient army based on tribalism, religion and male chauvinism. The army must be exemplary in their conduct, well trained to fight and ideologically conscious," he told the troops. There is no better way to sum it. Therefore, as the world celebrates the return of statehood to Somalia, let us not forget to celebrate President Museveni and Uganda's role in this dramatic journey. We must also not forget to celebrate the thousands of our soldiers who have put their lives on the line to ensure a sister country returns to normalcy. It is a triumph for NRM's ideological clarity.
Somalia before and after UPDF entry
To further understand the accomplishment of Uganda and UPDF in Somalia; it is important to illuminate how Somalia was before the entry of UPDF how is it now.
Somalia Civil war grew out of resistance to the Siad Barre government during the 1980s.
By 1988-90, the Somali Armed Forces began engaging various armed rebel groups, including the Somali Salvation Democratic Front in the northeast, the Somali National Movement in the northwest and the United Somali Congress in the south. The clan-based armed opposition groups eventually managed to overthrow the Barre government in 1991. In the absence of a central government, Somalia became a failed state. This triggered the December 3, 1992 UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 that led to the creation of the United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I) led by the United States to provide humanitarian relief and help restore order in Somalia after the dissolution of its central government. The battle of October 3-4, 1993 that was later immortalised in the film and book Black Hawk Down — when 18 American soldiers were killed as a mission to capture or kill warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid went terribly wrong and signified a turn of events.
The sight of slain US troops being mutilated and dragged through the streets of the Somali capital remains a chilling scene that defines what Somalia had become. Perhaps this worked for long as a real threat to any intervention force. Indeed, in1995, the US-led UN force withdrew from Somalia leaving local factions to sort themselves out. The result of the foregoing was the rise of self-confessed jihadists al-Shaabab who controlled Somalia including strategic installations such as the airport and seaport. The rest of the world had in meaningful measure forsaken the people of Somalia. Africa needed to make a quick decision and take responsibility for its own people faced with terror, hunger, diseases and other forms of malfeasance. The UPDF was at hand to daringly shoulder this chilling and robust responsibility.
A recent chat with a senior UPDF commander who is well-conversant with Mogadishu's combat terrain gave me startling revelations about the whole operation.
He told me that when UPDF deployed in March 2007, the airport, where our troops landed, was in al-Shabaab control. They landed under fire and had to fight for every inch of ground they sought to occupy. Four years later, the situation was not much different. UPDF and Burundi National Force occupied about 10% of the city of Mogadishu and al-Shabaab controlled 90%.
UPDF held the airport, Four Kilometer seaport and Villa Somalia (the State House). The enemy attacked these positions multiple times daily. The decision to conquer Mogadishu had been taken after the July 11, 2010 bombings in Kampala.
The decisive battles for Mogadishu were fought by Battle Groups eight and nine supported by Special Forces. The final battle for Mogadishu took place from July 24 to August 6, 2011. Eyewitness accounts have told of very fierce battle and how al-Shabaab lost hundreds of fighters. On the night of August 5-6, 2011 all enemy forces in Mogadishu withdrew in a huge convoy.
Since then, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has expanded its area of control to include all of Benadir region and most of Lower Shabelle. That is how ‘Operation Free Shabelle' was smartly executed by UPDF led AMISON. It was history through the eyes of those gallant UPDF soldiers who lived it and who continue to shed blood for total emancipation of Africa from all forms of bigoted ideologies.
Indeed Opiyo Oloya, in his seminal work, Black Hawks Rising: The Story of AMISOM's war against Somali Insurgents 2007-2017, captures with precision the sacrifice of our gallant men and women in uniform. He writes "…their dedication, professionalism, ideological commitment, hard work and humanity turned Somalia from a wasted nation to one with hope for peace, stability and a better future for the Somali people."
I, therefore, fully associate with the point of view that UPDF constitutes and continues to inspire new breed of African peace-warriors with capacity to work across borders regionally, continent-wide and globally to help resolve conflicts whenever and wherever they arise — protecting lives and property and preventing genocides before they happen.
Now Somalia is ready for democratic elections. State capacity has been restored. Heads of State and Government can now freely hold summits and meetings in Somali's capital Mogadishu to chart transformative agenda for Africa. People can now peacefully and freely move on their streets and village paths and take care of their families. This is an indelible success of Pan-Africanism. By their fruits we shall see and know them- Indeed that is the defining mark of the UPDF- the NRA/NRM- and the founding leadership!
The writer is the Minister of ICT and National Guidance