THE al-Shabaab Islamist insurgents fighting the Somali government are slowly losing control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as the Transitional Government Forces, backed by the African Union forces (AMISOM), continue capturing more areas of the battered capital.“In July, we controlled about eight positions in Mogadishu. But by the end of September, we had 16 positions,” said the Ugandan contingent commander, Col. Michael Ondoga.A young soldier, who was watching the al-Shabaab positions just a few metres away, said: “They regularly try to push us back, but every time they attack, we chase them away and capture more territory.”Such is the closeness of the two forces that sometimes the al-Shabaab attack the AMISOM forces using stones.
“When you call al-Shabaab, they answer back with insults,” said Ondoga.According to Ondoga, the capture of eight more positions brought the total share of Mogadishu by the government to around 50%.“This is the largest share ever enjoyed by the government since AMISOM came to Mogadishu three years ago.The force deployed tanks at the frontline to counter any threats.“In September, they came as far as Malkalamu Road, the major avenue in Mogadishu, but we pushed them further,” said AMISOM spokesman Maj. Bahoku Barigye.Gunshots can be heard almost every hour at the frontline.“The al-Shabaab fire at our positions all the time and we fire back. If we do not fire constantly, it becomes dangerous for us because they take positions and attack,” said Lt. Col. Francis Chemonges, the in-charge of the Ugandan Battle Group 5, which is in charge of Urubah, JUBA, Fishbay and other areas.
The best way to stop this endless firing, Ondoga said, is to capture more of the high ground. He said their next move will be to capture Bakara market. However, he added, their plan had been hampered by lack of troops to take over rear positions and consolidate new ones.“That objective is achievable. All that we need is more soldiers on the ground. Our current 8,000 troops are not enough,” Ondoga said.President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday made a surprise visit to Mogadishu, becoming the first foreign head of state to set foot there in almost 20 years, officials said.Museveni, who was accompanied by a group of army officers, spent several hours in Mogadishu, arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon,.While inspecting the peacekeepers’ bases, Museveni appealed for more international support to bolster the African Union (AU) force.“We want more troops from Uganda or from anywhere in Africa. Uganda is a country of 33 million people so we could mobilise three million people. But who will pay for it? International support is not enough. They don’t take the Somali problem seriously,” Museveni said.He also met with Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, new prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and other officials, AMISOM officials said.Museveni’s visit comes a day after Somali lawmakers overcame differences over the new prime minister, a relatively newcomer to Somali politics, and approved the cabinet he appointed.The AU and the seven-nation east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development have promised to take about 20,000 troops to Somalia. New Vision