The Observer (Kampala)

3 February 2013

Uganda: EU - Army Should Never Grab Power

The European Union and largely the donor community are usually more guarded and careful to steer away from sensitive local politics.

But this time round EU couldn't resist raising the alarm over the much-touted coup. In what came off as a well-crafted deliberate message to the Ugandan military establishment, the head of the European Union Delegation in Uganda, Ambassador Roberto Ridolfi warned against the overthrow of an elected government by the military.

Speaking at the final parade of 551 Somali soldiers, who had undergone military training in Bihanga military school in Ibanda on Friday, Ridolfi counselled that the role of the military is to primarily defend the Constitution. The military training of Somali soldiers is carried out with support from the EU, through the European Union Training Mission EUTM -Somalia, in partnership with the UPDF.

"Allow me to pay particular tribute to...the UPDF and all the Ugandan people for its leadership of and contribution to Amison," he said, adding: "This is a very important success and it is implementing the positive role of the defence forces which is to defend the constitution and the people and never to overthrow a democratically elected government."

His warning joins a swell of powerful voices that have condemned the recent talk from top military leaders that the army would take over government if the current crop of politicians did not 'behave appropriately.' The latest military officer to condemn the coup talk was Gen David Sejusa. In his latest letter to the media, Sejusa said the coup talk is "diversionary and masks the real issues facing us as a country.

Ambassador Ridolfi, at the passout, also announced the European council decision to prolong and expand the EUTM mandate for another two years. The EUTM was launched in support of the United Nations security council resolution 1872 (2009) as one of EU's comprehensive approach to challenges in the Horn of Africa, which includes efforts to promote political progress, improved governance, strengthening the rule of law and responses to development and humanitarian needs.

"A stable region and a peaceful Somalia are interdependent, and that is why it was so important for the EU to develop a comprehensive approach that involves political engagement, financial support to Amison, trade and development aid," said Ambassador Ridolfi.

He also announced that the mission, security situation permitting, will progressively move to Mogadishu in order to have greater impact on the security sector development and to monitor progress more closely. Defence Minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga, who represented government at the function, cautioned the newly- commissioned Somali soldiers against sectarianism.

He argued that they should be guided by a sense of nationalism and pan-Africanism in their career and quest to pacify their country.

"When you go back home, let no one confuse you to fight for your clan or religion, you should instead fight for Somalia and Africa," he said.

Kiyonga reiterated government's commitment to offer every possible assistance to building a Somali army, arguing that a strong and well-trained army is the only sure way to defend a country's development.

Kiyonga's Somali counterpart Ahmed Mohammed Mohamud expressed his government's gratitude to Uganda for her contribution to the training and Amisom. Minister Mohamud also urged the new soldiers to love their country above all else and always remember those countries and institutions that have helped Somali.

The function was also attended by Lt Gen Katumba Wamala, the commander of Land forces, and the Somali ambassador to Uganda. Since 2010, the EU training Mission EUTM has trained 3,000 Somali soldiers, who now constitute the core of the Somali National Armed forces, accounting for about 25 per cent of the force.

The commissioned group consisted of four infantry companies and a cadre of specialist trainers. They received training for seven months, ranging from basic military training which was led by the UPDF, the training of officers and non-commissioned officers, specialist training and training of trainers led by the EUTM.

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