MAY 4, 2010: EU, UPDF to Train Somali Forces

EU, UPDF to Train Somali Forces

SOURCE: The New Vision

By Henry Mukasa

Kampala — THE European Union (EU) and the UPDF will train 2,000 Somali forces. The EU head of delegation, Vincent de Visscher, announced yesterday that 150 EU officers will conduct the training at Bihanga Camp in Ibanda district.

The commander of the EU Training Mission to Somalia (EUTM), Col. Gonzalez Elul, said the recruites will be trained to counter mines and improvised explosive devices.

He said they will also undergo training in communication, combat operations and trainer of trainers' courses.

Each session, Elul explained, will have 1,000 trainees, 330 of them non-commission officers at junior management level and 670 fresh recruits. EUTM began flying in the trainees in groups of 250 yesterday.

"Our aim it to have a smooth transition in Somalia. It's important that we link security to development," De Visscher said

The commander of the land forces, Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala, welcomed the EU's involvement in the mission.

He said the Somalia mission is achievable if the troops are raised to the required 8,000.

The general said the three years the UPDF has spent in Somalia disapproved those who thought the peacekeepers would be routed on landing in Mogadishu.

"I appeal to those countries which said, 'lets wait and see' to deploy in Somalia."

Katumba noted that Somalis can only be helped to restore stability through intervention.

"Many people in Somalia want to see peace. They wanted it yesterday. This wish is held hostage by a few armed militants," Katumba said.

"If the Somalia government doesn't have the capacity to run after these rag-tag gangs with guns, then it will not be able to implement its programmes."

Asked whether the AMISOM peacekeepers would demand a change of mandate to confront militants, Katumba said the troops are only allowed to defend themselves when attacked.

Asked about fears that the trainees could defect to join the Al-Qaeda-backed Al-Shaabab, Katumba explained that after the training, they would be armed, fed, earn a stipend and on landing in Somalia would undergo mentoring to help them stay focused to 'rebuilding Somalia."

The political adviser to the EUTM, Patrick Geysen, said the training is part of the wider global engagement in Somalia.

"Piracy is a problem on the Somalia coast. Ships that were brining humanitarian aid to Somalia were attacked. We had to ensure that aid coming to Somalia reaches the right people," he said.

UPDF has in the past trained 1,200 security forces, including police, for Somalia.

The Somalia Transitional Federal Government President, Sheikh Ahmed Sharif, last month passed out 627 Somali and 120 UPDF soldiers at Bihanga training school in Ibanda district.

Sharif and President Yoweri Museveni last year passed out 500 Somali soldiers, also trained at Bihanga.