Kampala — UGANDA is reconsidering the continued presence of her forces in Somalia following the pull-out of Ethiopian forces from the volatile country.
Foreign affairs state minister Okello Oryem yesterday said consultations were ongoing to assess the magnitude of the risk facing the UPDF soldiers serving on an African Union peace keeping mission.
"Our commanders and those of Burundi are in consultation with the AU to determine the amount of risk and if it is established that the level of risk is high, then a pull out is the most prudent thing," Oryem said without specifying where the consultations were taking place.
There was no point, Oryem said, for the UPDF to remain on the peace keeping mission in light of the Ethiopian pull-out when other countries that had pledged to contribute soldiers towards the mission were not honouring their pledges.
Only Uganda and Burundi have sent forces to Somalia, accounting for the 3,000 forces presently serving on the mission there.
Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa had pledged to contribute forces towards that mission but have not met their pledges.
Okello said under the earlier arrangement, the UPDF was in-charge of the ports, Mogadishu Airport, the Presidential Palace, train and to provide the Somali forces with Intelligence.
"The Ethiopians were in-charge of Mogadishu town and the surrounding areas of the city. They would provide a buffer. If their (Ethiopians) pullout means the warlords are going to begin taking on our troops, we will just pull out," he said.
Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia in late 2006 to help kick-out the hard-line regime of the Islamic Courts Union.
After two years of battling a bloody insurgency and watching the government it backed fall apart, Ethiopia decided to withdraw.
Trucks loaded with Ethiopian soldiers and their belongings began filing out of the capital Mogadishu on Friday.
Only ramshackle government forces and an undermanned African Union force of around 3,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi will stand between insurgent groups and complete control of Somalia once Ethiopia leaves.
The Ethiopian government, in a statement issued on Saturday, pledged not to leave a power vacuum when it completes its troop withdrawal from neighbouring Somalia in the coming days.
The statement said the heads of the African Union mission to Somalia (AMISOM), the military of the Transitional Federal Government and the Ethiopian Defence Forces in Mogadishu had already met in Addis Ababa to analyse the situation and work out plans to be carried out subsequently.
Analysts fear that the Ethiopian departure could worsen the conflict.
The insurgents are far from united and some are warning the insurgent groups could splinter and begin fighting, sending Somalia spiralling further into chaos.
As the Ethiopians pullout, clashes have intensified between a relatively new Islamist group, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, which has clashed with the strongest group, al-Shabaab, in recent days. Dozens died in the fighting.
There is, nonetheless, some optimism that the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed last Monday and the departure of the Ethiopians could give fresh impetus to an ongoing UN-backed peace process and help create a government of national unity.