Last weekend’s deadly attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall was at the heart of discussions yesterday in Washington D.C. between US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Museveni.
Mr Museveni, a steadfast US ally on security matters in the Great Lakes Region, travelled to Pentagon from New York where he had been attending the UN General Assembly, and was accompanied to the Friday meeting by Uganda’s Defence Minister Chrispus Kiyonga. Mr Ashton B. Carter, the US deputy secretary of defence, attended the meeting.
In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little noted that the principals “discussed a wide range of regional security issues, including the recent terrorist attacks in Kenya”. He offered no details.
“Secretary Hagel thanked... Museveni for Uganda’s leadership in the region and its commitment to the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as Amisom,” he said.
The US Congress recently appropriated in excess of $14 million (about Shs35b) to bankroll operations to defeat the al-Shabaab terror group, which claimed responsibility for the September 21 attack in Nairobi that left at least 67 dead and hundreds injured.
The Islamist militants said they attacked the mall – partly owned by Israelis – in reprisal for the Kenyan Defence Forces’ ongoing offensive in Kismayo, which is part of the 17,000-strong Amisom force to pacify the Horn of Africa country.
Previously, the al-Shabaab also said they detonated the July 2010 bombs in Kampala that killed 80 people in retaliation for UPDF’s lead role in Amisom operations in Somalia, including flushing the militants out of the capital Mogadishu, and other strongholds.
Uganda has about 8,000 troops in Somalia alongside those of Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.
Yesterday’s meeting was the first face-to-face between highest Pentagon officials and an East African leader since the Westgate massacre.
Whereas Mr Obama telephoned President Kenyatta to condole with him and Kenyans over the September 21 attack, he has skipped the country of his father’s birth on his two African tours, saying on the latest trip that Kenyan leaders had some issues to resolve with the international community – which was understood to mean a reference to their ICC cases.