President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday took time off and visited Ugandan troops at the Halane military camp in Somalia, the largest African Union military base in the capital Mogadishu, where he also spent the night meeting Ugandan military commanders amid tight security.
The president was in Mogadishu to attend the 28th Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) Plus extraordinary summit of heads of States hosted by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.
Somalia is one of the eight members of the regional bloc (Igad), established in 1986, with Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.
In his address to the troops, President Museveni commended Ugandan soldiers for what he described as the spirit of “Pan Africanism which is one of the core values that make the Ugandan army an exemplary force on the continent”.
“I thank you for helping our brothers and sisters in pacification of Somalia, and being a good example of unity,” the President said.
According to a statement issued by the Uganda People’s Defence Force’s (UPDF)Amisom contingent spokesperson Capt Flavia Telimulungi, the President urged the troops to resist parochialism based on religion, gender disparities and clans, which he said is one of Africa’s major problems.
The summit at the presidential palace was also attended by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Djibouti was represented by foreign affairs minister Mahamoud Youseff, while Sudan was represented by its ambassador Mohamed Yousif Abdelmannan.
Also in attendance were representatives of the UN, African Union, European Union and Arab League.
The heads of state received and discussed follow-up reports on the situation in South Sudan and the security situation in Somalia ahead of the parliamentary elections on Saturday next week and presidential elections on October 30, respectively.
This will be Somalia’s first elections since 1984.
Host president Mohamoud described the occasion as a great moment for Somalia.
According to a draft communiqué of the meeting, the leaders also called for an establishment of an economic recovery fund for the war-torn country supported by regional governments and the international community to help the country recover.
They also urged the international community to support Somalia’s development plans and programmes, especially on infrastructure.
The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to continue supporting stability in Somalia.
However, according to the communiqué, the issue of the Uganda pulling out its troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) was not included.
Uganda deployed its troops in Somalia in 2007 and currently maintains the largest peacekeeping force, about 6,000, there, but it has hinted recently that it plans to pull out the troops, citing cuts in support from the donor community.
Other countries contributing troops to Amisom are Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. The mission is funded by the European Union, the US and the United Nations.