The ministry of Foreign Affairs has noted with concern and dismay an article by Mr Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda in The Observer of September 25, 2013 under the title: Has UPDF presence in Somalia secured us?
One is at pains to understand whether Ssemujju is a "spokesperson" of al-Shabab or a genuine patriot wishing to see peace in Somalia and Africa. Ironically, the same 'analyst' purports to have sent heartfelt condolences to our brothers and sisters in Kenya well aware that al Shabab claimed responsibility for this heinous crime.
He pauses rhetorical questions like: "What motivates sane people to butcher others?" "Why all of a sudden, does a new group that takes pleasure in massacring innocent souls arise in our midst?"
The answer that Ssemujju gives to these questions is a reason to cause concern to everyone interested in national security.
To him, there are oppressed Muslims who have been denied space to be and thus have reasons to blow up innocent people to make their point!
Ssemujju then adds: "The world has conspired against genuine Muslims who must not be allowed to ascend to positions of leadership... you remember what happened to the Islamic Salvation Front of Algeria which won elections in 1992... the army was mobilized and it cancelled the results... the same thing happened in Egypt... the Western world will never allow any political party with the word Islam or Muslim to rule".
If this is not the best rationalisation for extremism and terrorism, then what is it?
It would appear that for Ssemujju, all Muslim regimes that coexist peacefully with the rest of the world community are not genuine Muslims. To Ssemujju, terrorism is the creation of the world community which is mismanaging "genuine Muslim matters!"
It is also erroneous to say that Kenya was invaded only after going into Somalia. Al-Qaeda attacked Kenya and Tanzania way back in 1998 obviously before Kenya contemplated going to Somalia.
Against this backdrop, the ministry wishes to reiterate why Uganda is involved in Somalia. It is not because 'the visionary leader' wants to appease or bribe anybody as claimed by the writer but for the well-known and articulated reasons:
Uganda's Pan-African stand and appreciation is well-known. The same Ugandan doctrine of regional peaceled initiatives, where the region leads and is supported by the international community in solving African problems.
Starting from Tanzania under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere supporting Ugandans to get rid of Idi Amin, the same approach was used in Burundi. It has also paid dividends, resolving the Sudan problem under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and now under the AU mandate contributing forces to Amisom to create peace and stability in Somalia. All this leads to continental stability.
At the time when the AU got involved in Somalia under Amisom to which Uganda is one of the force-contributing countries, it was a response to terrorism that had found a foothold in Somalia, destroyed it and was spreading to all parts of Africa. These acts were orchestrated by al-Qaeda at international level and the al-Shabab at regional level.
It defeats one's understanding to find a leader of Mr Ssemujju's calibre who should be a well-informed African claiming that Uganda is in Somalia (part of Africa) to serve American interests!
AU took a decision to deploy forces in Somalia under Amisom and it is, therefore, important for one to know that Uganda went into Somalia within the mandate of the AU which is within the ambit of the UN.
The achievements of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) with the support of Amisom are enormous and they include restoration of hope, the Somalia state and its organs such as the police, army, capacity building and reconstruction.
In all above, what Amisom has and continues to do in Somalia is to help Somalis people to take full charge of their own affairs in a peaceful country.
We wish to invite Hon Ssemujju Nganda and all Ugandans to borrow a leaf from Kenya. After the tragedy of the Westgate attack by the terrorists, all leaders in government and opposition stood together as a nation.
Finally, going back to the writer's question: "Has UPDF presence in Somalia secured us?" We should all appreciate Uganda's foreign policy where it is clearly stated that the security of Uganda is embedded within the peace, security and stability of the region.
The author is a public relations officer, ministry of Foreign Affairs.