Uganda wants new rules of engagement allowing its peacekeeping troops in Somalia to go on the offensive against Islamist rebels who claimed responsibility for bomb attacks in Kampala last weekend.
The coordinated explosions killed 73 people watching the World Cup final after al Shabaab insurgents threatened to strike Uganda for its contribution to the 6,100-strong African Union peacekeeping force deployed in Somalia.
Against a backdrop of threats of more attacks by al Shabaab, President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted AMISOM troops to be permitted to take on the al Qaeda-linked insurgents and prevent more attacks in the region, Reuters reports.
Museveni also said Uganda would tighten its internal security to keep out foreigners intent on further attacks.
He said Ugandan peacekeepers had been part of the African Union mission to guard the port, airport and state house. “We are now going to go on the offensive and get these people,” he told a news conference on Wednesday night.
Asked if that approach would require a change of mandate for the force, Museveni said, “It will have to be peace enforcement to bring a solution to Somalia.”
AL SHABAAB FAULTS MUSEVENI
Al Shabaab said the attacks had avenged the indiscrimate shelling of civilians by peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Uganda’s grieving, the rebels said, was a result of Museveni’s “flawed policies”.
“They bombard the densely-populated areas … with approximately 300 mortars a day. Families are massacred, children are orphaned, women are widows and close to two million Muslims have been displaced,” al Shabaab said in a written statement dated July 14.
In April, the United Nations condemned the shelling of heavily populated areas by Somali forces, AU troops and the rebels, calling it a clear violation of the law of war.
Separately, al Shabaab’s leader, Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, warned Uganda to expect more attacks. “Attacks in Kampala were preliminary. We shall do more as AMISOM continue massacring our people,” he said in an audio tape issued on Wednesday.
Museveni said regional powers would not be deterred from sending 2,000 more troops to Somalia by mid-August. Regional leaders eventually want 20,000 troops there.
“Therefore this force … will be expanded and the African Union will be able to clean up this place,” he said.
Kenya said on Thursday a Ugandan who had surrendered himself, confessing to being a member of al Shabaab but claiming he had no link to the blasts, had been handed over to Ugandan authorities.
“The Ugandan handed himself over just after the explosion. He saw he had joined an organisation that was also killing his own people and that he had been misled …” government spokesman Alfred Mutua told a weekly news briefing.
PEACEKEEPING AFRICA 2010
For more on this topic, attend defenceWeb’ Peacekeeping Africa Conference August 26-7 at Gallagher Estate, Midrand.