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Uganda Denies Its Troops Are in Somalia

Uganda says there are no Ugandan soldiers in Somalia at this time, contrary to recent media reports. Meanwhile, an African Union delegation has reportedly arrived in Somalia's capital to pave the way for its peacekeeping force to come to the volatile country. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Felix Kulaigye tells VOA that a top commander of the AU peacekeeping force is a Ugandan and is in Somalia now. But, he says, reports that Ugandan troops are in the volatile country are not true.

"As I have told you, our boys are not yet there," he said. "And I have no reason to hide them, because we are going in for a noble cause."

Last Friday, media reports indicated about 30 Ugandan officers arrived in the Somali town of Baidoa to prepare for the full deployment of Ugandan troops.

Kulaigye would not give a date when the troops are expected to arrive in Somalia, saying, in his words, "very soon, within weeks."

Uganda is among the first countries to contribute to the AU peacekeeping force for Somalia, with a pledge of more than 1,500 troops. Burundi and Nigeria have also offered soldiers, with Malawi and Ghana said to be considering the prospect.

Meanwhile, a delegation of AU officials reportedly arrived in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

A spokesman for the African Union told VOA that he did not have any information about the visit, but that it is being led by Mohamed Foum, the A.U. special representative for Somalia.

The French news agency quotes the mayor of Mogadishu as saying that he and other Somali officials plan to hold talks with the AU group on the deployment of the peacekeepers.

Since civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order or basic services to the population.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than two years ago, following a regionally-led peace process.