Uganda to quit Somalia in UN row
The international battle against the al-Qaeda-allied militant group al-Shabaab is under threat after Uganda said it would withdraw its 5,700 troops from Somalia in a row over a controversial United Nations report.
Uganda was angered by leaked sections of the Security Council analysis that accused it of supporting rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In response, Amama Mbabazi, Uganda’s prime minister, sent a letter to the UN advising it of the pull-out from “all regional peace efforts”.
Uganda contributes more soldiers than any other nation to the 16,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), and their loss would leave recent gains against al-Shabaab vulnerable.
“Why should the children of Ugandans die and we get malignment [sic] as a reward?” Mr Mbabazi told the parliament in Kampala on Thursday.
“Why should we invite retaliation by al-Shabaab by standing with the people of Somalia, only to get malignment by the UN system?
“Since there are actors in the UN who are not able to understand that there can be principled actors in Africa, and who think that all actors are looking for minerals like the imperialists did, we have now decided…to completely withdraw from regional peace efforts.”
The October report from the UN Security Council Group of Experts accused the government of Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president, of allowing Congo’s M23 rebels to establish an office in Kampala.
The M23 is an armed militia in eastern Congo made up of army deserters led by Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
The report went on to say that Ugandan army commanders “sent troops and weapons to reinforce specific M23 operations and assisted in M23’s recruitment and weapons procurement efforts in Uganda”.
The same UN report also accused Uganda’s neighbour, Rwanda, of arming the rebels, a claim that led international donors including Britain to freeze aid payments to Rwanda.
Both Rwanda and Uganda have strongly denied the allegations.
Mr Mbabazi’s threat to withdraw was described by one regional security analyst as “theatre” because Uganda’s military leaders earn significant income from its engagements, especially in Somalia.
Mr Mbabazi said the report was written by “UN amateurs” and said that it failed to recognise Uganda’s contribution to regional peace efforts across east and central Africa.
The country’s troops are also involved in the hunt for Joseph Kony in the Central African Republic and are part of international peacekeeping forces in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Col Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s military spokesman, said that “our orders have not changed” in Somalia but added that his troops acted “on the decisions of politicians”. “We will react accordingly when we are informed,” he said.
An Amisom spokesman could not immediately be reached.