Uganda has signified its intention to complete a drawdown of its troops from Somalia by 2017. Citing its increasing dissatisfaction with military advisers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey as a key reason for its decision, officials also mentioned the Ugandan government’s exasperation with the Somali army’s lack of readiness to take over the responsibility for the nation’s security needs.
A spokesman for the Ugandan army Paddy Ankunda said, “Our plan that we have communicated to the African Union is that by December 2017 we want to be out.” He stressed that “unless something major comes up, that’s the time we want to come out of Somalia.”
Kenya also warned earlier in May that it would pull out its forces from Somalia if adequate funding was not provided by the United Nations to support the mission.
Ugandan troops in Somalia are part of a 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) force provided by the African Union. AMISOM was put together to tackle the menace of the jihadist terror group Al Shabaab, which has established a strong foothold in Somalia. Uganda joined the AMISOM in 2007; its contribution of over 6,000 soldiers’ amounts to nearly a third of the total AMISOM force.
AMISOM’s campaign in Somalia has recorded a series of important victories: it has successfully run the militants out of their strong holds and limited their recent attacks to suicide bombings and guerrilla warfare.
Uganda has also suffered for its involvement in Somalia. In 2010, Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the twin bombings in Kampala targeting civilians viewing the World Cup games in South Africa. A total of 76 people were killed in that incident.
Speaking on the plans for withdrawal, Chief General Wamala of the Ugandan army said it was about time for Somalia to provide for its own security. He added that Uganda would readily pull out even before its official drawdown date of December 2017 if it should find a ready replacement.