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Uganda Says AU Mission To Train Somalia's Army
1 March 2007 - The African Union (AU) peace mission now due to be deployed in Somalia will not try to disarm armed groups in that country, but will instead train a Somali national army, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni said today while sending away 1,500 Ugandan soldiers to the war-ridden country.
"We are not going to disarm the Somali militias because if we empower the Somali people, it will be up to them to decide whether it is necessary to disarm," said President Museveni as he bid farewell to the Ugandan army contingent that will serve in the force.
"We don't want you to interfere with the affairs of Somalia. Your work is to teach," he told the soldiers, who are due to arrive in Somalia next week.
Unconfirmed media reports in Somalia said an advance unit of Ugandan troops had already arrived there. But this has not been confirmed by official sources in Kampala.
A tank battalion is expected to leave by rail for the Kenyan port city of Mombasa from where they will travel by sea to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, according to the Ugandan army spokesman, Captain Paddy Ankunda. The Ugandan force will be commanded by Colonel Peter Elwelu.
The 1,500 Ugandan soldiers will be part of an 8,000-strong force that the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - a regional East African body - are expected to deploy in Somalia to help the fledgling the transitional government restore law and order.
The AU force is expected to replace Ethiopian troops, who went into Somalia in December 2006 and helped the TFG defeat the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), whose radical Islamist militia had seized control of most of the country and were undermining the limited authority of the interim government set up in 2004.
"We are not going to Somalia to impose peace on the Somali people, but to help empower them to rebuild their state and help them to rebuild their army. That is our line of responsibility," said President Museveni.
Uganda 's Chief of Staff, General Aronda Nyakairima, cautioned the troops on the kinds of danger they were likely to encounter in Somalia.
"Remnants of Islamic fundamentalists are still out there; warlords who are yet to integrate in the government are still there and freelance militias are still there," said Mr Nyakairima. "Maintain good relations with other contingents that are coming in. Maintain a good relationship with the people of Somalia," he told the soldiers.
Somalia has had no effective national government since the overthrow in 1991 of the regime headed by Dictator Muhammad Siyad Barre. The country plunged into factional bloodletting soon after his government was toppled as rival armed groups and warlords fought for power, resources and territory.
Source: UN media IRIN