by Risdel Kasasira
The Monitor March 14, 2011 (TF.SF) Mogadishu
We hear that there have been intense battles in Mogadishu What prompted the African Union peace-keepers and TFG forces to carry out this offensive against the Islamic militants?
The Transitional Federal Government and African Union Mission in Somalia forces are just carrying out their mandate and routine duties, not an offensive as you are terming it.
So, nothing prompted us just like nothing prompts you to get up everyday and go to your office to carry out your routine journalistic duties. AMISOM's mandated tasks include, among other things, to provide support to the TFG forces in their efforts towards stabilisation of the situation in the country and the furtherance of dialogue and reconciliation. Equally, TFG forces, albeit young, play their role of protecting the population and their property. Our joint effort is to provide a secure environment for TFG to provide services to the people.
What have been the losses and gains of the offensive on your side? We also hear reports that more than 20 UPDF soldiers were killed in this offensive. How many Ugandan peace-keepers have been killed?
Apart from human losses which AMISOM leadership dealt with in their press briefing in Nairobi on March 5, AMISOM achieved a lot. Our gains must be put in the context of the strategic importance of the areas that TFG and AMISOM captured from the extremists. It's likely the army leadership in Kampala will in due course provide further details of the dead soldiers.
Why should Ugandans and Burundians remain in Somalia when the rest of the continent has turned a blind eye on the conflict?
You are not correct to say the rest of the world has turned a blind eye to Somalia. You know the UN, through the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), has been for more than a year now providing logistical support to AMISOM.
The EU, USA, and other countries and organisations in the world have equally been supporting the mission. Although more still needs to be done, support to such missions cannot only be in terms of providing troops. Yes, troops are crucial but they require sustenance while in the mission area and this is one area where the world is supporting the mission currently. You are aware that the UN Security Council approved a further deployment of 4,000 troops in December last year and that on Thursday, the same body held a special session on Somalia.
Meanwhile, former president of Ghana Jerry Rawlings, was appointed as the AU High Representative to Somalia. And a couple of days ago in Ghana, African legislators held a meeting on AU support to the implementation of the Djibouti Peace process for Somali and the challenges faced in its implementation, and in particular, efforts aimed at ending the current transition and a new political dispensation. Besides, many other consultative meetings have taken place across the world to help in resolving the Somali conflict. So how can you say the rest of the world has turned a blind eye on Somalia?
On the other hand, AMISOM's role is only to support the TFG and the people of Somalia to resolve their conflict, not to impose solutions. It is to help a sister country in need in the spirit of pan-Africanism, just like Burundi and Ugandan have ever been assisted by other African countries at their hour of need.
You went to Somalia as peace-keepers but you are now fighting and gaining ground from the insurgents. Don't you think Somalis see you as aggressors, not peace-keepers?
I don't need to think for the Somalis, you should ask them whether they see us as aggressors. But I know that apart from a minuscule group of individuals who are supported by the international terrororist networks, the majority of the Somalis are peace-loving people and look at our presence and actions as necessary towards stabilisation of their country. They are aware that it is for them that we sacrifice and therefore they render us all the support at the risk of loosing their lives to the extremist who have no regard for human life.
They also know that for us to provide the security they need to go about their daily work, the situation demands that we sometimes take control of some of the positions that the extremists occupy and that this will involve fighting. They further know that we are not here to take over their land because for the four years that we have been here, no plot of land can be shown to anyone as having been taken over by any AMISOM personnel.
The al Shabaab say they have Ugandan and Burundian prisoners of war. Are there chances of these prisoners of war surviving?
The important thing here is that if they are holding any of our soldiers, they are required and we need to advise them to treat such a persons in accordance with the International Hummanitarian Law and the Law of War (Hague Law). Our presence here is recognised by the international community, through the UN, which has endorsed many resolutions in support of this mission.
Don't you think you are fighting a losing battle given that the number of peace-keepers are still less than the number required and while the insurgents continue to recruit everyday, AMISOM number remain the same?
AMISOM is not fighting a losing battle as recent developments can demonstrated. The authorised strength of the AU has been attained and I am sure that African leaders, with the support of other world leaders, will be able to mobilise more troops for the Somali cause.
Besides, AMISOM and other partners are helping Somalia to train its own Defence and Security Forces and this is a better way, to assist the Somalis solve their problem. On the other hand, recruitment by the extremists is not open-ended either.
The month of Ramadhan is fast approaching and that is when the insurgents intensify attacks against your positions. How prepared are you to handle these attack?Let's not speculate about what will happen in the coming Holly Month of Ramadhan. What if the Somalis come together for dialogue and reconciliation before then and the war ends? Some of us are not pessimistic about the situation here.