Uganda has asked donors supporting the reconstruction of Somalia to work in partnership with each other instead of competing, if the challenges facing the devastated Horn of Africa nation are to be addressed.
The minister of defence Dr. Crispus Kiyonga was at the close of the week officiating at the pass out of 551 recruits into the Somali National Army (SNA) at Bihanga Military Training School in the western Uganda district of Ibanda.
The Somali soldiers were trained by the UPDF and the European Union Training Mission (EUTM). Also during the same event, over 260 Uganda recruits completed training.
Kiyonga said that the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) - comprised of 12 European countries with Serbia - is a good example of European countries working in partnership to support Somalia through training of the national army.
The Somalis are expected to return home and constitute part of the SNA infantry deployed to fight the Al-shabaab Islamist insurgents.
Under the EUTM, about 3,000 Somali soldiers have been trained in Bihanga since 2010. However, effective this year, training will be conducted within Somalia by EUTM.
Minister Kiyonga said Somalia needs a strong army in order to protect and defend the country as well as the economy. He also called on the recruits to remain united regardless of their different clans.
Uganda presently has close to 7,000 troops in Somalia serving under AMISOM to fight the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab insurgents.
Robert Ridolfi (M) introduces the incoming EU Training Mission in Somalia commander Brig. General Gerald Aherne to Uganda's defence minister Crispus Kiyonga, while some of the Somali delegation members look on. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
Somalia, which has had no effective government since 1992, is in the process of rebuilding and restoring effective administration, having recently conducted national elections.
The Ugandan defence minister said that Africans should be left to solve their problems on their own terms, while donors offer support to the African efforts.
The Somali deputy minister for defence, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud hailed Uganda for its role in restoring stability in Somalia, and said that the Somali people will never forget the sacrifice by Ugandan soldiers.
EU head of delegation to Uganda, Roberto Ridolfi said that the EU adopted a decision earlier in January to prolong and expand the EUTM mandate beyond training of the Somali National Army (SNA).
"The mission will also advice and mentor Somali authorities within the ministry of defence, the military staff, and contribute to capacity and institutional building. The mission will progressively move to Mogadishu [the capital] in order to have a greater impact on the security sector development," Ridolfi said.
Gen. Katumba Wamala, the UPDF commander of Land Forces said that Uganda is willing to continue contributing UPDF military instructors to train and work with the Somali National Army even when the training mission relocates from Uganda to Mogadishu.
Present at the pass out were the new EUTM commander Brig. Gen. Gerald Aherne and outgoing mission commander Col. Michael Beary, the Somali ambassador to Uganda and Col. Chris Bossa who is the commandant of Bihanga Military Training School.
Gen. Katumba challenged the Somali soldiers to show respect to civilians, adding that it is the greatest arsenal that the UPDF has used.
"Respect the nationals, then you will be a national army," he advised.
Some of the soldiers that have been trained at Bihanga Camp show off some of their skills at the pass out ceremony. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa