Argument

An expert's point of view on a current event.

Somalia’s Hour of Need

Uganda's president explains why Africa is committed to the fight in Somalia -- and why the West should be, too.

Uganda welcomed the African Union's decision in late July to commit more peacekeepers to AMISOM, the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Coming barely a week after Somali insurgents murdered 76 people in Uganda, the announcement demonstrated the African continent's refusal to be intimidated by terrorists. In the wake of Tuesday's vicious attack by insurgents in Mogadishu that resulted in 33 deaths, Africa's resolve is only strengthened. We will defeat those in Somalia who would keep a fellow African country from a future of stability and prosperity.

Somali citizens are the most committed of all to this project. For the last decade, they have been engaged in a peace process to try and reverse their country's descent into anarchy. The years of painstaking negotiation have seen a majority of the once-warring factions come together under the banner of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference; extremists, inspired by al Qaeda, are now trying to overthrow the institutions created under that process, including the Transitional Federal Government -- the very forum that enables Somalis to decide how they want to be governed in the future, free from outside interference and coercion.

Uganda welcomed the African Union’s decision in late July to commit more peacekeepers to AMISOM, the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Coming barely a week after Somali insurgents murdered 76 people in Uganda, the announcement demonstrated the African continent’s refusal to be intimidated by terrorists. In the wake of Tuesday’s vicious attack by insurgents in Mogadishu that resulted in 33 deaths, Africa’s resolve is only strengthened. We will defeat those in Somalia who would keep a fellow African country from a future of stability and prosperity.

Somali citizens are the most committed of all to this project. For the last decade, they have been engaged in a peace process to try and reverse their country’s descent into anarchy. The years of painstaking negotiation have seen a majority of the once-warring factions come together under the banner of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference; extremists, inspired by al Qaeda, are now trying to overthrow the institutions created under that process, including the Transitional Federal Government — the very forum that enables Somalis to decide how they want to be governed in the future, free from outside interference and coercion.

Those institutions need time to build the foundations for permanent government; unfortunately, they are under constant assault. It is inconceivable that Africans would stand aside in the hour of Somali need. Abandoning Somalia now would condemn Somalis to the brutal rule of militants and embolden likeminded terrorists around the world. This would be a monstrous betrayal of one of our most cherished African values and the raison d’être of the African Union: community. We know that our community is especially indebted to Somalia. After all, it was Somalia that most prominently supported anti-colonial and anti-apartheid campaigns on the continent and brokered a ceasefire between Uganda and Tanzania in 1971, at a moment when our two countries were on the brink of war.

Unfortunately, Somalia is now a central front in the fight against international terrorism. As terror networks are put under pressure in the Middle East, they are increasingly looking to exploit the opportunities presented by the instability in the Horn of Africa. Foreign extremists are already in Somalia, spreading their warped interpretation of religion. Just as the world came to regret leaving Afghanistan to its own fate in the 1990s, it would be a historic mistake to expect the war-weary Somali people to tame this global menace on their own.

The support of the international community remains critical to winning this fight. An expanded mission will require additional resources. It is our hope that our allies in this common endeavor, in the West and elsewhere in the world, will continue to hold up their end of the bargain by providing the means to train, equip, and deploy our bolstered AMISOM mission. Africans have taken the lead by putting boots on ground; the rest of the world must provide the necessary resources to achieve our objectives.

More resources are also needed to drastically improve the harsh social and economic conditions in Somalia that provide fertile breeding ground for extremism. Currently, the Somali government’s total annual budget is only $250 million. In Uganda, this is roughly the amount used to pay primary school teachers each year. While the transitional government could be doing better with the little it has, adequate services will be impossible without a surge in resources.

The search for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa is not just a Somali or even an African issue; it is at the heart of the global war against extremism. African nations have sent their sons and daughters to Somalia to protect a local peace process, but also to defend the global interest. It is critical that the entire world come together to support these efforts to restore the great Somali nation and deny terrorists a base from which to threaten the world.

<p> Yoweri Museveni is president of the Republic of Uganda. </p>

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