ON April 24, 2015 Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni released an article on the fortunes and misfortunes of the Somalia extremist group Al-Shabaab:
THE most atrocious, criminal, cowardly and monstrous attacks by Al-Shabaab against soft and innocent targets such as shoppers in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in September 2013; young students in northeast Kenya’s Garissa University on April 2 in which 148 were killed, or football fans watching the World Cup matches at the Rugby Club in Kampala in July 2010, may look very frightening to those that are not used to war or that are not well informed. However, those attacks, in fact, prove three things.
Somalis today things that were unimaginable just 5 years ago - have fun at the beach.
They prove that Al-Shabaab is sectarian which is obvious because it only targets non-Muslims. Secondly, it proves that Al-Shabaab is bankrupt both morally and ideologically. Why attack non-combatants? Why not attack soldiers if you want to fight? Why attack only non-Muslims? Thirdly, however, it also proves that Al-Shabaab is already defeated. Why do I say this?
I say this because it is that bankrupt Al-Shabaab that initiated attacks against the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) who were part of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force AMISOM in the month of May in the year 2009 in Mogadishu.
The UPDF had gone to Mogadishu, not to fight anybody, but, to stabilise the situation there and to guard the Port and the airforce. This was after the Somali factions had agreed to a shared government in Djibouti and after the American mistakes of manipulating the warlords had failed. We went there under the African Union Flag. You know that flag. It consists of the conspicuously huge map of Africa. Nobody that is not blind can mistake this for anything else.
What the [Horn and East African grouping] Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and AU wanted was negotiations to include anybody that had been left of out the interim government - especially the groups that had been in Eritrea.
In any case, we were in just a small portion of Somalia, at Mogadishu port, at the airport and, later on, on the request of the Interim Somali Government, State House and Kilometre 4 (linking the different positions) was added.
Not wise to attack Uganda, Burundi
Even if the Al-Shabaab did not want to negotiate with the Interim Government for any obscure reason, it was not wise to attack the Ugandan and Burundian troops carrying the AU flag. Why do you attack the AU flag? Do you not belong to Africa? If you do not belong to Africa, where do you belong? In any case, big chunks of Somalia, including ports and airports, were under their control. They could build capacity there if they had any ambitions to do so.
However, intoxicated with their bankrupt ideology of Islamic chauvinism (arrogance and narrow-mindedness), they attacked our troops calling them “Kaffir” (primitive people that do not know God) just like the European imperialists used to call us.
Well, the “Kaffirs” taught those idiots that we know how to defend the African soil and the African flag. Our well-trained and well-disciplined army smashed the fanatical attacks of these misled people.
This was especially so in the Ramadhan of August 2010; we smashed the mass attacks of these confused people and advanced to Barawe, Marka, Juba Hotel, Bondhere, Florencia, Telebunka, Elhindi, Santa gate Shigare, Bakara Market, National Stadium, Mogadishu University, Dayinley, Afugoye, Kilometre 50, Elsaalini and Shalambot beyond our original positions at the airport, Sea-Port, Kilometre - 4 and State House.
Shabaab drill outside Mogadishu after they were beaten out of the city.
They, then, started sniping our troops from the built up areas. We brought in commandos that were experts in counter sniping. Between May 2011 and September 2011, at least, 320 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed by UPDF snipers. With other attacks and movements, the Al-Shabaab fled from Mogadishu on August 6, 2011.
The manipulation of the young Muslim youth by their cowardly and criminal leaders promising them heaven (janah) by dying fighting the “Kaffirs” could no longer persuade these poor children to face the might of the UPDF.
I sometimes wonder about the moral standing of these leaders. If pre-mature going to heaven is such a good thing, why don’t some of these leaders set an example by blowing themselves up instead of only sending these poor children to die?
After that Al-Shabaab was defeated in Baidoa, Afgooye, Marka, Beledweyne, Kismayu. Therefore, the Al-Shabaab is now attacking shopping Malls, football fans, university students and so forth, because they are already defeated. They cannot attack anything else - not even a well- guarded Police Station let alone a battalion of the AU forces.
In their bankruptcy and ignorance of war, they miscalculate that attacking soft targets will frighten Africa and cause it to abandon the Somali people to these idiots. That will not happen.
Uganda soldiers walk through the bushes in Somalia. (Photo/AFP).
I have not talked about the concept of the Armed Population in recent times in public. In 1980s, 1990s, when some actors were threatening to invade Uganda, we had trained a militia of 2 million men and women. All high school leavers used to get military training.
However, with increased Secondary School and University enrollment, the numbers became too big. We, therefore, suspended that generalised mass training and, instead, concentrated on the areas that had insecurity at that time. In (northeastern) Teso region we had a militia (Local Defence Units - LDUs) of 8,000 known as the Arrow Boys; in (northern) Lango we had another 8,000 and they were called Amuka.
Now that the Al-Shabaab can no longer either fight conventional or guerilla battles against the AU force and they are only relying on terrorist attacks against the soft, innocent targets, we can harden the soft targets with the concept of the Armed population, maybe, initially, in the threatened areas as defined by intelligence.
The bloodied hand of a victim of the 2013 Westgate mall terror attack. (Photo/AFP).
It involves the cost of feeding, clothing, equipping, transporting, training (the bullets), etc. Since we need that money for roads, electricity and other infrastructure, we had to scale down on the concept of the Armed People - Povo armada as Mozambique’s Frelimo used to call the strategy. However, it is there and it can be re-activated at any time.
That is why we have Reserve Force Commanders in all the districts. That is their purpose. I have, actually, already given confidential instructions to the security forces to re-activate that strategy as guided by intelligence.
When the idiots in Mogadishu were calling us “Kaffir”, they, probably (in their ignorance), did not know that the UPDF has got thousands of Muslims and that, under the NRM revolution, we pour scorn and contempt sectarianism. It is the ideology of the traitors who hope to weaken the African People by that scheme of dividing us so as to dominate us (divide and rule).
Somalis ancient Africans
The Somali People are part of the ancient Cushitic people of Africa. Some of these people live in Ethiopia, Sudan, Southern Egypt, East Africa, to name a few areas.
Somalis are ancient Cushite people of Africa. (Photo/ G. A. Hussein/flickr).
Some of them are Muslims and others belong to other religions. What right do these sectarian elements have to seek to separate them from the other Cushitic peoples and, indeed, from the other Africans? To hell with the sectarianists.
The sectarian chauvinists are, first and foremost, the enemies of the Muslim people even before they become enemies of the generality of Africans.
Why? Take a look at the map of East Africa, including the Horn of Africa. The Muslims live, mainly, near the coast (Pwani). Even in the pre-colonial times, not to mention the present capitalist world, the coast (Pwani) depended for prosperity on the mainland (Bara) and vice-versa. The pre-colonial peoples of the Great Lakes depended for textiles, glass beads, guns, et al on the Coast, including Zanzibar.
The coast depended on the hinterland for ivory, especially and, unfortunately, for slaves also (a responsibility of the criminal chiefs in many cases).
In modern times, by our coastal people providing services at the sea ports (Djibouti, Mogadishu, Kismayu, Mombasa, Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam), even if they did not do anything else (and there are many things they are better positioned to do e.g. manufacturing using imported inputs), they would be very prosperous on account of the huge volumes of merchandise from and to the interior of the continent.
Whose enemy are you when you interfere with this mutually beneficial arrangement? Certainly, the non-Muslims would lose but so would the Muslims of both the interior and the coast. The whole of Africa would lose.
Muslims and Shabaab
Finally, the criminals in Kenya have been killing non-Muslims and sparing Muslims. Does it mean that all Muslims support these criminals? Certainly not. How do I know this? There are 2.5m Somali Muslims in Mogadishu who selected to stay with the AU force instead of going with the Al-Shabaab terrorists.
Honour masks with the names of the over 140 Kenyans killed in the April 2 Garissa attack by Shabaab. (Photo/AFP).
That is the same story in Baidoa, Kisimayu, Afgooye, Beledweyne, Marka. How many Somalis are with the terrorists out of the total population of Somalis of 10.5 million? According to the 2002 census of Uganda, the Muslim population of Uganda was 12% of the whole population.
How many joined the criminal (Uganda Islamist rebel leader Jamil) Mukulu (of the Allied Democratic Front)? Very few. During the war in Uganda against military dictator Idi Amin, although Amin was pretending to use Islam while he was an alcohol drinker, (as a rebel leader) I was always harboured in Kampala by my Muslim comrades. Therefore, anybody who suspects all Muslims because a few Muslim criminals are involved in atrocities is wrong.
It is like saying that since (Uganda fundamentalist Christian rebel leader Joseph) Kony (of the Lord’s Resistance Army) was pretending to be a Christian in his crimes, we should suspect all Christians.
I wish to inform those that have a propensity to get confused, that the African populations are always symbiotic. When I was growing up in Ntungamo (a district in western Uganda), I would see this symbiosis.
We were cattle keepers in my family. We would exchange products with the cultivators (okucurika-barter trade). However, the few Muslims in the area would also provide a service which the non-Muslim Banyankore people of the area were not doing at that time - running butcheries and eating houses.
They were providing services that were vital to the other Banyankore (mainly non-Muslim) but which the latter were not providing. Who was the loser in this partnership? Long live the partnership of the wealth creators and down with the parasites.
As for the security issue that we started with, be informed, again, that Al-Shabaab is already defeated. They can no longer attack the army or even the Police, they cannot fight conventional warfare or guerrilla warfare and, being ideologically bankrupt, they go for terrorism (attacking soft targets). This is curable as already pointed out by the concept of “Povo Armada’’ the Armed People.
The Al-Shabaab are in a very vulnerable situation.
On account of the defeats, they can no longer move in big groups - platoon size (30-40) or more because they will be detected and destroyed by the Army. They can only move, by concealment, in small groups (4 or 5).
These can easily be dealt with by the LDUs (Local Defence Units) with potential for re-enforcement by the Police and Army. The one factor that we must emphasize is intelligence - tactical (in a locality) and strategic (in the whole country and the region).
This will simplify the work. The Al-Shabaab is already defeated. The brutality they exhibit may scare people but it is defeatable and it is the last desperate card.
If I were in their position, I would not have played that card having been defeated in conventional and guerilla battles because terrorism stigmatises and delegitimises you forever. I would have negotiated with the other stake holders if I had any legitimate concerns.
Kenyan soldier after the fall of Kismayo. (Photo/AFP).
In any case, even before you start a war, you must be sure that you intend to fight a just war - a war that is for justice and not for aggression or oppression. Also, you should be sure that there is no other peaceful way of solving that problem other than war.
Otherwise, if you start a war for purposes of aggression or oppression or you start a just war before you have exhausted peaceful means, you are a criminal.
Then having started a just war on account of having no other option for having justice, you must fight a war where violence is used in a disciplined way. The main element here is to target combatants, especially the armed combatants. Killing non-combatants (shoppers, students, football fans, bar-goers like the ones of Kabalagala) or kidnapping people like Kony and Boko Haram do, are war crimes.
Also fighting a war on a sectarian basis is a mistake even if you consider a section of the population to be oppressed. South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) guided the black people, through the Freedom charter of 1955, not to wage a racist struggle against the whites who were oppressing the blacks. This was because, among the whites, there were people who did not support Apartheid. I saw many of them with my own eyes - Ben Turok, Joe Slovo, Ruth First. The Indians, the Coloureds all joined.
It was a national struggle - not a sectarian one - although the oppressors were targeting blacks.
-The author is president of Uganda. The article has been edited to make it easier for audiences beyond Uganda to understand, but some “local fingerprints” peculiar to Museveni’s style of writing have been maintained to preserve its original flavour.