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Political Football

al-Shebab, Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Somalia,

has taken responsibility for two separate bombings late Sunday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The death toll has risen to more than 70 and dozens more remain seriously wounded.

Speaking to reporters from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, al-Shabab’s spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage, also known as Ali Dheere, said the twin blasts were in retaliation for Uganda’s failure to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

Ugandan soldiers make up more than half the 6,100-member African Union peacekeeping force in the Horn of African country. The force, which is mandated to protect the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government from insurgent attacks, has been fighting near daily battles with al-Shabab in Mogadishu since the first Ugandan contingent arrived in 2007.

Ali Dheere says Uganda and the other African country contributing troops to the peacekeeping mission, Burundi, ignored previous warnings to leave Somalia. He says Sunday’s attacks were carried out to prove that al-Shabab will target civilians in Kampala and Bujumbura, if the peacekeepers are not withdrawn immediately.

Maximum Publicity

The World Cup offered a point of maximum publicity and poignancy for al-Shabaab to hit out at the country that is doing more than any other to maintain Somalia’s weak transitional government. Uganda provides the bulk of a small African Union force – augmented by troops from Burundi – that is the last line of defence against al-Shabaab’s stated aim of taking over the capital, Mogadishu.

That Kampala should be forced to pay the first instalment of that cost is bitterly unfair. The real responsibility for the emergence of al-Shabaab and the seemingly endless war in Somalia is more widely held and more complex.

Ethiopia in 2006

U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting the Islamic Courts Union government that had captured the south of the country. The army occupied Mogadishu and the southern town of Baidoa in an effort to bolster the government, though the forces became bogged down in a guerrilla war with the Islamists who now control most of the country. The Ethiopians withdrew in January 2009.
“Al-Shabaab hates the Ethiopians because they’re the people that kicked the Islamic Courts out of power in Mogadishu,” Stewart said. “They really have an axe to grind against the Ethiopians.”

IGAD now

Leaders of the east African regional grouping IGAD, who gathered in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday decided an additional deployment of 2,000 peacekeeping forces to the fragile Somalia nation.

In the Extraordinary IGAD Summit, Leaders from Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia today held their summit in a closed-door to advise lasting solution to the continuing political instability in Somalia.

“IGAD regrets that the approval level of AMISOM troops has not been achieved thus far, and decides to dispatch 2,000 troops to be deployed throughout the country. In this regard, the summit embraces the need to mobilize Somali forces internally with possible intervention by neighbouring countries including the East African Communality (EAC) and empower with resources and equipment,” said the IGAD communiqué issued at the end of the summit.

The 2000 additional peace keepers will join the already deployed Ugandan and Burundian forces that are under constant attack from hard-line islamist groups, which are in control of mainly southern Somalia.

The Upshot

by Abukar Arman

Somalia’s special envoy to the US.

If I could think of any tactfully discreet and diplomatically clear way to describe the outcome of the 15th Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government on Somalia without compromising the essence of my message, I would have simply chosen that approach. Therefore, going crude is the appropriate way:

That start says "read it", doesn’t it?

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