Somali Local Leaders: We Don’t Want UPDF Troops to Leave Somalia Yet

Some of the local leaders from southern lower Shebelle Pronince speaking to reporters.

Political leaders of the ancient port city of Marka in the Southern lower Shebelle Province of Somalia have heaped praise on the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops particularly those from Uganda for their outstanding role in stabilizing the war ravaged and torn apart country.

Marka province is one of the areas under Sector One assigned to Uganda by AMISOM.

The leaders were Thursday addressing a group of Ugandan journalists who are on a visit to Somalia to assess the current security situation in the country.

Uganda is credited for being the first African country to send troops to Somalia at a time when the world had almost given up on the Al-shabab militants. The Al-Qaeda linked group controlled huge and key parts of the country, killed and attacked communities.

Her bravery gave courage to other African countries; Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Burundi to as well contribute troops to AMISOM later. Even then, Uganda is the biggest contingent in Somalia.

This, according to the District Commissioner, Abdullah Al Ahmed Wafow, is a sacrifice Uganda made for the good of her Somali brothers.

“UPDF are in our hearts and Uganda is our second country. You are responsible for the peace we are beginning to have,’’ he said.

His words were echoed by the City governor Ibrahim Najah Marka, who said that Ugandans and the people of Somalia are now one people.

“Uganda is our second home and so, Ugandan leaders are our leaders and vice versa. The only difference is the name of the countries but in other things, we are one. I am happy about Ugandan forces-the UPDF, President Yoweri Museveni and the entire Ugandan population for the support they give to Somalia especially people of the lower Shebelle province.’’

“We have worked with UPDF for more than ten years in this region and so we became friends, brothers and we are one now. They have not only helped in securing Marka by fighting against Al-shabaab, but also support the population by saving their lives through providing them with medical treatment at a free cost,’’ said the Governor.

On his part, Marka MP and former Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullah Sheikh Ismael who said that he was instrumental in engagements in Kenya’s capital Nairobi which saw Uganda send peacekeepers to Somalia expressed pleasure with President Museveni’s commitment to stabilizing the region.

“The entire leadership for this area is grateful to the Ugandan Forces and all AMISOM troops because they have protected the civilians, reduced attacks from Al-shabaab and also provide supplies to the communities,’’ explained the legislator.

‘’They have become part and parcel to all of us in Somalia and so, I want to send my sincere appreciation to President Yoweri Museveni and the Ugandan people for committing to bringing forces to secure Somalia,’’ he added.

Also Read: Frontline: Ahead of AMISOM Troops Withdraw, Are Somali Security Forces Ready?

The UN Security Council, a couple of months back, resolved that AMISOM troops exit Somalia in 2021 and transfer security responsibilities to the Somali security forces and drawing down troops has already started. AMISOM forces reduced their numbers by 1,000 in April and intend to do the same in February next year.

But Wafow says the move if hurriedly done, is risky and could turn the country back to the hands of the militants.

‘’AMISOM in this region has done many things despite losing a number of its soldiers in lower Shebelle. We don’t want them to leave this region until they secure it properly, especially UPDF soldiers should not go until our defense forces also get the capacity to fight and defeat Al-shabab. I thank Uganda officers for the blood they shed for us and feeling pain for the Somali people”.

He said Uganda should not allow their 12-year efforts to be put to waste when they exit before the country has fully stabilized. Wafow expressed fear that the enemy could utilize that opportunity and terrorize them again.

Meanwhile, on Mark port, abandoned buildings destroyed during the war are seen standing with a number of seemingly excited young children playing football.

The General Police Commissioner Abdidhere says all this has happened because of AMISOM’s role.

“For leaders of different political levels to be together here today shows that there is peace and security. Marka has faced a lot of problems in the previous years, even those children playing football could not be allowed to do it but now they play. This is possible because of AMISOM whose role is to liberate the area and chase the enemy.’’

On the streets, shops and markets, people have been going on with their businesses including a 50 member women group on a tailoring project courtesy of AMISOM which bought them sewing machines to engage in income generating activities and as well strengthen their relationship with the local communities.

‘’The project is very good and we thank AMISOM for it. Our only challenge is the shortage of instructors to facilitate our learning but we are hopeful that we shall get more to add on the two we currently have. We request AMISOM to bring more projects for us,’’ said their spokesperson.

The African Union Force has also bought boats for the males in the area as well as buying football jerseys for the ny.Abahammouth to use while playing football.

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