Sunday, July 25, 2010

Uganda President Museveni Urges Action Against Somali Resistance

25 July 2010 Last updated at 06:40 ET

Uganda president urges action against Somali militants

Al-Shabab controls large parts of south and central Somalia

The fight against Somali militant group al-Shabab must be stepped up, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has told an African Union (AU) summit in Kampala.

He called for a global effort to defeat the Islamist rebels, two weeks after they carried out a bomb attack in the Ugandan capital killing more than 70.

In his opening remarks, Mr Museveni called for AU leaders to join with him and "sweep terrorists out of Africa".

Troops from Uganda form a large part of the AU's Somalia peacekeeping mission.

Mr Museveni is expected to push for a tougher mandate for the mission.

The African leaders gathered in Kampala amid tight security and a heavy military presence. They observed a two-minute silence for the victims of the bomb attack.

The Kampala bombings targeted people who were watching the football World Cup in a restaurant and a sports ground.

Mr Museveni told AU delegates that "many of the organisers" of the attack had been arrested and their interrogation was "yielding very good information".

Self-defence right

In a statement released before the meeting, Mr Museveni said the attacks would worsen al-Shabab's situation.

"In the past, we were only guarding the three installations as per the AU force mandate," the statement said.

"These reactionary groups have now committed aggression against our country. We have a right of self-defence. We shall now go for them."

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross says there is concern that any offensive against al-Shabab could increase the number of civilian deaths and make the AU mission extremely unpopular with the Somali population.

Some analysts suggest more troops and more guns is not what is needed in a country which has been destroyed by more than two decades of fighting.

But trying to enter into dialogue with the Islamist insurgent groups looks to be a hugely challenging task, our correspondent adds.

About 5,000 AU troops from Uganda and Burundi are based in Mogadishu, propping up the fragile interim government.

Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) is engaged in frequent firefights with insurgents that control much of southern and central Somalia.

The Somali crisis has overshadowed the AU summit's official theme, which is "Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development".

Other topics likely to figure include closer trading links with China.