• Ugandan minister says nation wants to withdraw troops by 2018
  • Multinational force has seen cut in EU funding for salaries

A new commander took control of the African Union force battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia as Uganda said it wants to withdraw its troops from the war-torn nation by the end of next year.

Lieutenant General Osman Noor Soubagleh arrived Monday in the capital, Mogadishu, becoming force commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, the organization said in a statement. The Horn of Africa country’s elections, due this year, are one of the mission’s main priorities, according to Amisom head Francisco Madeira.

Uganda’s foreign minister last week said the East African nation plans to remove its almost 7,000 troops from Somalia by the end of 2017. While a partial cut in European Union funding for soldiers has been a “handicap,” it’s not the main reason for Uganda wanting out, Sam Kutesa said in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where he was attending an African Union summit.

“What we are interested in is to make sure we create a situation where the people of Somalia take over the security because we cannot be there forever,” he said in a July 15 interview. “Uganda is not interested in perpetuating peacekeeping missions without a foreseeable outcome.”

‘No Business’

Somalia has been given to the end of 2017 to have its national force in place, and even if “by the end of next year it’s not taking shape, we shall have no business there,” Kutesa said.

Uganda first deployed soldiers in Somalia in 2007 as part of the effort to battle Islamist group al-Shabaab. Kenya, Burundi and Ethiopia also have troops serving with Amisom, which has fought alongside Somalia’s army to recapture territory including Mogadishu from the militants.

While a “reduction in resources hampers our activities in maintaining peace and security there temporarily, the long-term solution is for Somalia to shoulder its own responsibilities,” Kutesa said.

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