Should Uganda Send Troops to Somalia?
It's widely recognized that the Ethiopian Army that invaded Somalia can't stick around for long. While they dominate militarily, they are not very welcome by the Somalis themselves, who regard them as an imperial Christian force backed by American robbing its Muslim neighbor of its sovereignty. So is it a good idea that Uganda, at the urging of American Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, recently pledged over 1,000 troops for stabilizing the region?
Well, it depends. Anarchy in Somali ports, a major port of entry for small arms, is one major reason that the Horn and East Africa are so destabilized. Guns from Somali ports feed the most dilapidated war zones in the world: southern Sudan, northern Uganda and eastern DRC. Also, no one in the region benefits from a Somali led by Islamists with extremists leanings, who enjoy basking in the support of Saudi Arabia and Iran instead of promoting a moderate image that assures the international community that they will not turn Somalia into a Al-Qaeda training ground.
Opposition to the plan within Uganda cite the fact that President Museveni should ensure that his own house is in order (northern Uganda) before venturing off to foreign lands with the Army. But it is perhaps difficult for Museveni to turn down an easy opportunity to score points with America, especially after he received a personal call from President Bush. But will a Ugandan (also majority Christian) force backed by the US be seen as any more benevolent than a Ethiopian force? It's hard to tell if any peacekeeping force, regardless of whether it is backed by the UN, can be seen as being neutral.
All politics aside, surely Somalis are happy about the ousting of the Islamists because khat, the mild narcotic that dominates afternoons in the Horn of Africa, is no longer banned. As one erstwhile khat supporter stated in a recent East African report: "Mogadishu without khat is like Paris Without Nightclubs."