Uganda’s military (UPDF) says it has begun the withdrawal of 281 troops serving in the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. This is part of a UN plan that will see African Union (AU) soldiers’ numbers reduced by 1,000 by the end of this year from about 20,000.
Uganda, which first sent troops to the country in 2007, is the biggest contributor with more than 6,000 soldiers in the war torn country. The other contributing Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia are also expected to reduce their numbers by December 31.
Somalia has been trapped in chaos and lawlessness since 1991 when dictator Siad Barre was toppled. Al Shabaab wants to topple the Western-backed central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
An African Union peace keeping force AMISOM pushed the group from Mogadishu and other former strongholds. But the Islamists remain a formidable force, carrying out frequent bombings and other assaults on AMISOM, Somali army and civilian targets.
In October over 500 people died in one of Somalia’s deadliest bombings when a truck bomb exploded outside a busy hotel at Mogadishu’s K5 intersection lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks.