7 May 2018

Somalia Not Ready for Amisom Handover, UPDF

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) are opposed to the on-going process of down-sizing the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in the war-torn Eastern African country, warning that it could have consequential negative impact on efforts to stabilise Somalia.

The United Nations directed AMISOM to start on a gradual reduction of its forces and already 1,000 personnel sent back home.

Plans were underway to cut the same number in October this year, from the current 21,000 peace-keeping fighters in the area.

The UN wants AMISOM to eventually handover to the Somali National Army (SNA) by 2021.

However, the commander of Uganda contingent AMISOM Sector 1, Brigadier Gen Paul Lokech, said they still need more time to prepare to handover saying the move, if not reverted and handled carefully; it could draw the country back turmoil.

"From a military perspective, I would say it is not yet time for us to draw down. We need time to prepare the local forces for a transition," he stressed.

Lokech was recently interacting with a team of Ugandan journalists who were in Somalia for a four-day visit.

The team, led by Major Ceaser Olweny, deputy spokesperson of AMISOM, visited several areas including Ceeljaale, the headquarters of Battle Group 22, about 120km South of Mogadishu.

They reached other areas such as Shalambood, the First Battalion headquarters, 8kms from Ceeljaale, Buufo, the Nineteenth Battalion headquarters, 81kms south west of Mogadishu.

During the press briefing at his base in Mogadishu, Lokech explained that they had trained a number of personnel of the SNA as they prepare them to takeover but that it take time.

Lokech said AMISOM had made several achievements, including enabling peace to return to Mogadishu, which he said had enabled the new constructions going on in the city.

"A lot of buildings are coming up and the city is generally busy, and outside there is no single town under our Sector where al-Shabab is based, they come from outside and from other sectors to attack our positions," he said.

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