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250 More Troops For Somalia
Kampala, August 16, 2007 – MORE 250 UPDF troops will be sent to war-torn Somalia to train the transitional government soldiers, the defense minister announced yesterday.
Dr Crispus Kiyonga, told MPs, "It is within our mandate to help our brothers and sisters in Somalia build their military capacity. We shall send troops to help in the training aspect. We want Somalis to be like us, with a serious national army."
He was appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence to present his ministry's 2007/8 budget estimates.
The move will see the total number of Uganda's peacekeepers in Somalia serving under the auspices of the African Union mission (Amisom) rising to 1,750.
About 8,000 AU troops should have deployed in Somalia at the beginning of this year, but only 1,500 UPDF soldiers are on the ground. Nigeria, Burundi, Malawi and Ghana, promised to send troops but they are yet to deploy. Burundi says it lacks equipment for her 1,000 troops.
But Dr Kiyonga insists that although Burundi and Tanzania had pledged to train Somalis, this has not materialized. "We are only waiting for the Somalis to organize shelter, uniforms and food for the 250 soldiers. Everything is under control because they will also be paid by the AU and will remain there for at least one year," he said.
AU peacekeepers receive an allowance of $400 (Shs660,000) in addition to their normal salaries. The contributing government is paid $100 for each soldier.
The AU also caters for food and transport. Injured soldiers receive between $100,000 (Shs160m) and $150,000 (Shs247m) in compensation depending on the degree of injuries and in case of death, the family receives $100,000 (Shs160m).
The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima who accompanied Dr Kiyonga, said, "Our troops will train the Somali Transitional Government's national army, provide security at its headquarters and key installations as well support the peace process."
However, Mr. Hassan Kaps Fungaro (Obongi) insists that the problem with the Somali army is not lack of adequate training but lack of consensus.
"What are you [UPDF] going to train when these people can make bombs and have had guns for so many years? In any case, other countries have not responded to the AU call why Uganda alone?" he asked.
However, Dr Kiyonga said; "Somebody with a gun does not mean that he or she is a professional. We want to build a professional army to manage the country even when we leave."
He said Uganda is not alone in Somalia because there are also Ethiopians. " Ethiopia is a member of the AU," he said.
Five Ugandan soldiers have been killed in mortar attacks in Mogadishu since they deployed in April. The violence has been blamed on Islamists who were defeated in late April after weeks of chaos.
Source: The Monitor