Tuesday June 28 2011

US offers Shs120b to Amisom

BACKING: A Burundian soldier keeps watch in

BACKING: A Burundian soldier keeps watch in Mogadishu recently. PHOTO BY RISDEL KASASIRA 

By Tabu Butagira

Kampala

The US is offering spy drones among a huge military consignment to AMISOM to help bolster its capability to decimate the al- Shabaab, foreign media reported yesterday.

The package includes four shoulder-launched Raven drones, other surveillance systems, body armour, night-vision gadgets, generators as well as communications and heavy construction equipment, according to the New York Times. This aid package will cost Washington nearly $45 million (Shs111b).
Secret documents Associated Press news agency obtained from Pentagon show Uganda will separately receive unspecified military communication and engineering gadgets worth $4.4 million (Shs10.9b). “I am not aware. The consideration may still be at policy level. We have not yet received anything,” Uganda’s Defence and Military Spokesman, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said yesterday when contacted.

News of the military aid comes six weeks after Gen. Carter Ham, the new commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), visited Uganda and held talks with President Museveni at his home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District, on May 10 about Somalia’s hazardous situation.

Mr John Dunne, the deputy public affairs officer at the US Mission in Kampala, said last evening that they have increased their military spending on AMISOM in line with US commitments made during the July 2010 AU summit in Kampala as “the situation in Mogadishu remains difficult”.

Difficult situation
“It is important that these attacks are defeated and that AMISOM and the Transitional Federal Government together restore stability in Mogadishu so that political development and humanitarian operations can continue,” he wrote in an email reply.

Uganda and Burundi, the only countries contributing some 9,000 soldiers on behalf of the African Union to fight al-Shabaab, a designated terrorist group, claim to now control 70 per cent of Mogadishu following gains in past weeks.

The US, however, maintains that the situation there “remains difficult” and outgoing Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director and Defence Secretary-designate, Leone Panetta, recently warned that al-Shabaab was getting stronger and linking with Yemen-based al-Qaeda elements in the Arabian Peninsula.

In yesterday’s email, Mr Dunne wrote: “We have and will continue to provide equipment, training, and some logistical support to Ugandan and Burundian soldiers.” To date, Washington has directly committed $185 million to support AMISOM operations in Mogadishu beside its other assessed contributions to the United Nations that provides logistical assistance to the continental force.

The latest Pentagon aid is part of a $145.4 million package that its officials approved and sent to Capitol Hill last week as part of a notification process before the equipment can be delivered. The plan aims to build the counter-terrorism capabilities of Uganda and Burundi.

AMISOM Spokesman Paddy Ankunda, promoted yesterday to Lt. Col, said from Mogadishu that the equipment, when it arrives, will be “force multiplier”. He said al-Shabaab has lost the enthusiasm to fight but still maintain some capability to harm civilians through suicide bombings.

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