Why I Support Sending Ugandan Troops to Somalia
Last week, the Ugandan Parliament approved President Museveni's request to send 1,500 Ugandan troops to Somalia for peacekeeping, food aid distribution and supporting the transitional government. There are several reasons why this was in the best interest of Uganda and the region, and why those who oppose the troop move are misguided.
First, its important to recognize how unfortunate it is that the interest of most Somali people is different from the majority of the international community. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) managed to stabilize Mogadishu for the first time in well over a decade. While their rule was harsh and final, they took the first difficult steps of curbing lawlessness that most the Ethiopian-installed warlords have been unable to do. Unfortunately, the moderate elements of the ICU made a strategic error in not distancing themselves from the Islamic extremists, making the entire international community (sans countries like Iran, Saudi Araba, Yemen and Libya) nervous about turning Somalia into a vast terrorist training camp. Thus, the American backed Ethiopian invasion.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that all of East Africa benefits from a stable Somalia. It is commonly assumed that most of the weapons for some of the world's worst conflicts, including southern Sudan, northern Uganda and eastern DRC come from the Somali ports of Ogaden and Kismayo. A governable Somalia, as difficult as that is to achieve, would help manage these regional conflicts. This rings especially true in Uganda this week as fighting continues in the Karamojong region, a perfect example of how rampant small arms proliferation can devastate a region.
Second, it is good policy for African countries with (relatively) good governance to help stabalize African countries with poor rule of law. The African Union (AU) excursion in Somalia will give the organization an opportunity to recover from its inept misadventure in Sudan. Uganda's move would also sync with new and interesting proposals for global governance, such as Frank Fukuyama's Concert of Democracies, where countries with good reputations work together on international intervention.
The common rejoinder heard in Kampala about Uganda's intervention in Somalia is that Uganda needs to first keep their own house in order. The talks in Juba are stalled, people in northern Uganda are getting nervous about scattered LRA attacks, and Karamojong continues to be on fire. This is a legitimate concern. However, looking at the last 25 years of Ugandan history doesn't support the notion that increased military intervention is an effective means of ending conflict. Many people I've talked to in northern Uganda say that the UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces) are more of a daily threat and fear than the sporadic LRA attacks. As difficult as it is, continuing to focus on reconciliation and negotiation between the LRA and the Government will be more effective than an increased troop presence in northern Uganda.
Sending Ugandan troops to stabilize a neighboring African country is in the best interest of Uganda, the region and the broader international community.