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Uganda Objects to UN Peacekeepers in Somalia

The Ugandan government says it opposes the possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers into increasingly volatile Somalia, saying that the Somalia problem needs what the government terms an African solution. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Felix Kulaigye tells VOA Somalis are, in his words, "very excited" about the presence of about 1500 Ugandan troops stationed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The Ugandan troops were sent there earlier this month as part of the African Union's peacekeeping mission to bring stability into the volatile capital, enabling the transitional government to carry out its duties.

According to the African Union plan, Ugandan forces and troops from other African countries are to stay in Somalia for six months, then be replaced by a possible U.N. peacekeeping force.

But late last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni opposed such a move, saying that the Somali problem needs an African solution.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Felix Kulaigye explains to VOA the president's comment.

"Because of the nature of the society in Somalia which President Museveni understands very well, that is why he was of the conviction that the African people (need) to help their fellow Africans get stability and move forward," he explained.

Kulaigye says that Somalis can only trust Ugandan and other African troops.

He says many Somalis do not trust the Ethiopian troops that entered the country near the end of last year to assist the transitional government in ousting the Islamic Courts Union, which had taken control over the capital and much of southern Somalia.

This is in part because of the rocky history between the two countries and the Islamic Courts Union's objection to the presence of foreign troops in Somalia.

But Kulaigye says the answer to Somalia's woes is primarily African troops, but he adds the some outside assistance is needed.

"The African mission in Somalia will only succeed with African peacekeepers," he said. "What we expect from the international friends outside Africa is logistical and financial support."

Despite the presence of the Ugandan troops, however, the capital continues to get more and more violent, with almost daily mortar attacks in which scores of civilians are killed or injured.

Uganda is among the first countries to contribute to the African Union's peacekeeping force for Somalia. Burundi, and Nigeria have also offered soldiers, with Malawi and Ghana said to be considering the prospect.

Since Somalia's 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 and even basic services to the population.

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