A top official with Uganda’s Foreign Ministry says several African heads of state and government will begin arriving Friday and Saturday to participate in the African Union (AU) heads of state summit scheduled to begin this Sunday.
Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume said Ugandans expect the African Union to take a firm stance against the recent twin-bombings in the capital, Kampala.
The attacks, which were inspired by the hard-line Somali insurgent group, al-Shabab, killed over 70 people including foreign nationals who were watching the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“The Foreign Ministry and the organizing committee, working with the AU commission, have been ready for the last one month. And we started the meeting on Monday with the permanent representatives. Yesterday and today [Friday] we are having a meeting of the Executive Council. So, we are ready,” Mugume said.
Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong links to al-Qaeda, al-Shabab has been battling almost daily the internationally backed Somali government.
The group has refused to recognize President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government and has vowed to overthrow the administration and implement the strictest form of the Sharia Law.
Analysts expect the escalating conflict in Somalia as well as a possible troop surge in that restive country to be high on the agenda for discussion.
Permanent Secretary Mugume said that over 40 heads of state and government have confirmed that they will attend the 15th ordinary session of assembly of African heads of state and government summit.
“In the agenda of the assembly, they will be looking at the report of the AU Peace and Security Council. And in that report, there will be issues to do with Somalia, Sudan and other conflict areas in Africa. The Council, I think will be looking at the bombings in Kampala on July 11th by the al-Shabab,” Mugume said.
Observers say the official theme for the summit which is "Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa" has been overshadowed by the heightened security following last week’s Uganda bombings.
Uganda’s government sharply condemned the twin bombings and has re-assured the African heads of state and government as well as other delegates scheduled to attend the summit of their safety.
Mugume said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) will also be focusing on security issues on the sidelines of the AU summit.
“There will be a meeting of what they call EASBRIG [East African Standby Brigade], one of the five standby brigades that is part of the new AU Peace and Security [structure] which includes the Peace and Security Council and the standby force. So, we will be also looking at the possibility of implementing the EASBRIG … and that will also look at the possibility of handling the issue of Somalia,” Mugume said.