12/27/2011

Big rush to cash in on Somalia, protect Uganda, save Sudan 0

By Charles Onyango-Obbo – The East African

World and regional powers are now in a big rush to simultaneously tackle three big and intractable East African problems — the Somalia war, the crisis in eastern DR Congo, and the risk of South Sudan imploding.
For the first time in a very long, diplomats appear to be optimistic that lasting peace in the Greater East Africa region may be closer than it has been expected. This has set off a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at boosting peacekeeping efforts and paying for the reconstruction in some of the trouble spots.
In the past one week, China, which has traditionally chosen to concentrate on its economic interests in Africa and had stayed away from Somalia, announced that Beijing was keen to work with other parties “to play a constructive role in pushing forward a resolution to the Somali humanitarian crisis.”
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council sat to consider a proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to expand the Amisom force strength. If Mr Ki-Moon gets his wish, Amisom could grow from the approved force of 12,000 to 20,000, the standard required of a UN peacekeeping mission.
On the same day, the World Bank Group working closely with Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom; the African Union; the European Union; the United Nations and the Corporate Council on Africa hosted a donor conference that will eventually fund the start-up nation of South Sudan. Since 2005, this donor group has funded South Sudan to the tune of $540 million.
Now billions of dollars are needed urgently to pull Africa’s newest nation from the brink of crisis. The African Development Bank has also been in discussions about funding the reconstruction of South Sudan. A similar effort is also underway for the reconstruction of Somalia.
In the same week, the European Union offered $1.2 million that will be used to help efforts by Uganda’s military and American special forces hunt for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.
On the diplomatic front, two weeks ago, Mr Ki-Moon and the President of the UN General Assembly, Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser made a brave visit to the Somalia capital Mogadishu, and pressed the flesh with Transitional Federal Government (TFG) leaders.
Ki-Moon and Al Nasser were the most high profile international diplomats to visit Somalia in over 20 years and their stop was seen as an early Christmas present for the fledgling TFG, and a boost for the African Union peacekeeping effort AMISOM.
Gaining ground
In recent months, AMISOM has pushed the Al Shabaab out of all the 16 districts of Mogadishu, unifying the capital under the authority of one government for the first time since 1991.
However, there were concerns that AMISOM’s gains could be threatened by Uganda increasing attention to old enemies — the regrouping of the anti-Kampala Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and other once-defeated Uganda rebel groups in eastern DR Congo.
Uganda and Burundi are the only two countries that have contributed troops to AMISOM so far, with Uganda providing the most. Diplomatic sources told The East- African that they were “picking up signals that Uganda was about to send a large force into eastern DR Congo.” According to our sources, Uganda was “weeks, if not days away,” from reopening a front in DR Congo. Not only were there concerns that that would distract it from Somalia, but some diplomats are also worried that a messy campaign inside DR Congo would rob Kampala of the moral authority to remain in a peacekeeping mission.
Other sources told The EastAfrican that the flare up of fighting between (north) Sudan and South Sudan, and the eruption of communal violence in parts of the South, threw up the worst nightmare many governments had had about South Sudan Independence — a new state that fails on arrival.
One of the most lethal instruments that Sudan has to destabilise the South is the LRA, which for years was a proxy force for Khartoum, which it used to punish Uganda for its support for the SPLA.
The hawks in the Uganda military and intelligence still maintain that the LRA is being kept alive by the Omar Al Bashir regime. It was probably no surprise then, that two weeks ago Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni became the first regional leader to warn Khartoum to “back off” South Sudan.