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Is Uganda a new “terror battleground”?

Carnage in the streets, parliament suspended and increasing insecurity fears are some of the issues on the lips of ordinary Ugandans as their capital Kampala is rocked by twin blasts on Tuesday morning.Just last month, an explosion at a restaurant in downtown Kampala killed a waitress and the Islamic State group were quick to claim responsibility for the attack.  

Tuesday’s twin blasts shook the city centre and several metres from the parliament building, which is adjacent to the Kampala police headquarters.

Six people have been reported killed.

Eyewitnesses speak of “utter devastation” with cars going up in flames from the blasts, apocalyptic scenes of the injured being spirited to hospitals and the intermittent blaring of emergency sirens sounding across the city. 

According to Health ministry spokesman Ainebyoona Emmanuel, more than 20 people are being treated with injuries linked to the explosions. 

Four of the victims are in a critical condition.

The authorities say past bombings bore the hallmarks of terrorism and analysts point that it is very unlikely that the government will turn its gaze beyond Islamist militants as potential orchestrators of this latest attack. 

With Ugandan troops forming an integral part of a hybrid African Union peacekeeping force in neighbouring Somalia, the government hold that the militant sect al-Shabaab and their al-Qaeda allies believe they have a reason to target Kampala.

The Ugandan People’s Defence Force has over 6,000 peacekeepers in Somalia.

Last January the Ugandan military claimed it had engaged and killed 189 Shabaab fighters in a major operation to flush them out of their hideouts in southern Somalia. 

It is possible that the militants are still hurting from these heavy casualties inflicted in their ranks and had planned to exact revenge on Uganda, striking at the heart of its capital twice in the space of a few weeks.

The Somali insurgents have made no secret of their intention to “punish” all the troop contributing countries to the AMISOM peacekeeping force which had checkmated the advance of the militants in recent years.

Kenya one such troop contributors has been targeted severally by al-Shabaab in the past and with deadly consequences.  

“Uganda is just finding itself in a Kenya-type situation with al-Shabaab” says one observer.

al-Shabaab which is fighting more than a ten-year insurgency to topple the government in Mogadishu and introduce a puritanical brand of Islam, believes bringing their conflict to those countries “will force them to rethink their interference in Somalia’s internal affairs”.

Regional players such as Kenya and Uganda believe that the protracted unrest in Somalia has serious security and other implications for other volatile countries in the region.

Published on 03.01.2023

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