28 April 2017

Africa: UPDF in Equatorial Guinea to Build Capacity - Museveni

Photo: Steven Ariong/Daily Monitor
Ugandan army soldiers (file photo).

Entebbe — President Museveni on Wednesday restated that the UPDF is in oil-rich central Africa nation of Equatorial Guinea on a capacity building mission, but not to involve in any war.

The President said the Ugandan army was deployed to Somalia in 2007 and to Central African Republic (CAR) in 2009 to fight but this is not the case with UPDF presence in Equatorial Guinea.

"Here it is about capacity building of the Guinean army," President Museveni, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, said on Wednesday evening.

This also marked the first time that Mr Museveni is publicly commenting on the matter as he responded to a question by one of the journalists during a joint press conference with Mr Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the visiting President of Equatorial Guinea. The UPDF revealed early this year that it had deployed a small contingent of 100 troops to Equatorial Guinea but highly placed military sources intimated to Daily Monitor that the covert mission is to reinforce the country's security.

The first batch of the troop drawn from the different army units--Logistics, Special Forces, Intelligence, Medical and Motorised Infantry-- left late last year and are also said to have left with own military hardware, which the army denied. During the one-year mission the army said, according to the Status of Forces Agreement, Equatorial Guinea caters for the transport, logistics, feeding, allowances and other incidentals.

According to the US intelligence agency, CIA fact book, Equatorial Guinea has a small army of only about 1,500 personnel, 400 police officers, 200 navy service members, with another 120 in the air force.

Obiang Nguema, the country's president, who is ranked the longest serving non-traditional leader in the world with 37 years under his belt, arrived in Uganda on Wednesday for a two-day state visit at the invitation of President Museveni, according to a communiqué read by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa.

President Nguema, in his address, said the African continent has the potential to transform from its current state of hopelessness into a modernised part of the world but the lack of unity among the continent's 55 states is key in holding back this progress.

"While we meet once or twice as the African Union (AU), we don't usually meet often as leaders, and for that reason we remain weak," he said. "Not because we don't have the potential but because we have not exploited our uniqueness." He said the Europeans realised this need to marshal their strength long ago and started mobilising into alliances to counter some of their biggest challenges, regretting that such unity of purpose is lacking among African states. The 75-year-old leader of the former Spanish colony assumed power in August 1979 after mounting a coup that toppled his uncle Francisco Macias Nguema who was also the country's first president. The latter is regarded as one of post-independent Africa's cruelest and corrupt leaders.

In 2004, President Nguema narrowly survived a coup plotted by mercenaries linked to the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Again in 2009, he survived another coup attempt that involved attacks on the presidential palace, and four men believed to be behind the plot were executed in 2010.

President Museveni described President Nguema's visit "as of historical importance", saying it will bring "the people of the Gulf of Guinea to East Africa."

"We are the same people culturally and linguistically. We don't believe in those things of Anglo-phone, Franco-phone or Luso-phone. We believe Afro-phone and Bantu-phone," Mr Museveni noted.

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