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Museveni angers Somalis by calling their troubled country stateless

January 29, 2019 at 10:00 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

January 29, 2019 at 10:00 am | News

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Pic credit: dispatch.ug

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has come under criticism for calling neighboring Somalia a country with no state and one which does not have an “organized authority.”

“…The state is different from country, it’s different from the nation. Country means the land where you have authority over, nation means people if a common origin.

“There are many countries that have no State. They are there but they have no organised authority that runs them, Somalia is one of them. There are others but I will not mention them for diplomatic reasons,” Museveni said at an annual judges’ conference on Monday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Uganda has, over the years, been helping Somalia in its peace efforts,  deploying thousands of troops to bolster military operations of the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) against the rising al-Shabaab insurgents.

Uganda, with more than 6,000 troops in Somalia, is one of the largest contributors to the AU-led mission. The operation has, in recent years, been having challenges in terms of funding, non-payment and declining morale of the combat soldiers and defections to al-Shabaab of Somali troops, already too weak to hold liberated territories, reports the Monitor.

Despite his military assistance to the situation in Somalia, his comments have not gone down well with many people, particularly Somalis, who have been quick to point out Museveni’s own inefficiencies in a country he has led for decades and has refused to step down.

What is even more central to the Somalis is the tremendous role their country played in saving Uganda and Tanzania from going to war in 1972.

Since 1991 after rebels overthrew the then Somali President Siad Barre, Somalia has been experiencing serious problems of political instability, economic collapse, and terrorism threats by al-Shabaab.

But before these unfortunate events, Somalia was a peaceful and stable country to the extent that it saved Uganda under Idi Amin from a deadly threat from Tanzania in 1972.

A year before, Amin had seized power after overthrowing President Milton Obote, and would later adopt a dictatorial style of leadership that made him be seen by many as a monster.

Several key figures who lost out during the coup found sanctuary in Tanzania then under President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

On September 17, 1972, these Ugandan exiles living in Tanzania attempted to take back Uganda in a deadly mission. The raid was halted after Amin deployed his air force to bomb those towns.

Many of the exiles were captured and slaughtered within 72 hours, but Uganda was still at risk of losing it all had it not been for the peace deal brokered by Somalia’s Barre.

By October 19, Tanzania and Uganda had agreed to end hostilities and to pull all forces back from their common border. This pledge was made possible in a Somali-mediated peace agreement signed in Mogadishu and made public in Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam and Uganda’s Kampala on October 7, 1972.

For his role in delaying what could have been a costly war on the continent in 1972, Amin named a road in Kampala after Barre; the road was renamed Siad Barre Avenue, a name it carries to date.

Since then, Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi has been meeting his Ugandan counterpart, Museveni, for a series of issues related to the Horn of Africa region.

The comments from Museveni have, therefore, been thought to be distasteful, considering he singled out Somalia without naming others.

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