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Experts say deadly Somalia attacks a call to defer troop withdrawal

This is not the first time African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia were killed

Experts say deadly Somalia attacks a call to defer troop withdrawal

This is not the first time African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia were killed

05 April 2018 Thursday 18:04
Experts say deadly Somalia attacks a call to defer troop withdrawal

KAMPALA

Families of eight Ugandan peacekeepers who died in Somalia over the weekend have started receiving their bodies for burial.

The Ugandan government said the soldiers put up a spirited battle against the al-Shabab, a militant group fighting the Somali government. They died as they repulsed an attempt by the militant group to enter one of the bases of the Ugandan contingent.

"I congratulate our soldiers on the good work they did, the death of eight of our soldiers notwithstanding," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Tuesday while commenting on the Sunday incident.

This is not the first time African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia were killed. Experts say more such attacks may occur as the al-Shabab seeks to prove it is still strong.

Phillip Kasaija, a professor of international relations at Uganda's Makerere University, argued that the attacks are a reminder to the international community and the UN Security Council to defer its decision to reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

"Whether these kinds of attacks are there or not, AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) should not leave Somalia because the regional countries stand to lose. Once they leave, al-Shabab will gain more momentum and even attack other countries," he said.

The UN Security Council in 2017 said there should be phased reduction and draw-down of AMISOM troops and the gradual handover of security responsibilities to Somali security forces.

The Security Council said that by 2020, the draw-down should be concluded and that the Somali security forces should be fully in charge.

According to the AU, by close of last year some 1,000 troops from the 22,000 strong force should have been sent home.

Uganda provides the bulk of the troops. Other countries with troops there include Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

"Is the Somali national security ready to take on the terrorists? Definitely not. Once AMISOM leaves, who will take over then? That timetable of pulling out of Somalia -- 2020 -- should be disregarded," said Kasaija.

Troop-contributing countries met in Uganda last month and urged the UN Security Council to reconsider its resolution on the drawdown, noting that it undermines gains made in Somalia.

The countries argued that while significant progress had been made in Somalia with more than 80 percent of the Horn of African country under the control of the Somali army and AMISOM, the situation remained fragile.

They said al-Shabab and other terrorist groups remain a threat to the country, region and international peace and security.

While African countries are passionate about protecting the gains made in Somalia, the peacekeeping mission continues to face a financing crisis.

The mission has heavily relied on funding from the European Union that is shifting its focus to priorities elsewhere.

Venansius Baryamureeba, a political analyst, argues that African countries should now bear the responsibility of funding the mission in view of reduced external financial support.

"Withdrawal of AMISOM would make Somalia ungovernable and would make the al-Shabab winners. It would also point to a failed UN policy that would energize terrorist groups," Baryamureeba said.

Xinhua

Updated: 05.04.2018 18:35
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