Somalia saves Uganda and Tanzania from going to war.

By Henry Lubega

Somalia could be categorised as a failed state today, but 44 years ago it mediated in a peace deal to prevent Uganda and her southern neighbour Tanzania from going to war.
Then Somalia president Siad Barre brokered a regional peace deal that delayed the war from breaking out, by about five years.
Then president Idi Amin was responding to the invasion by pro-Milton Obote forces who had bases in Tanzania. The invasion was short lived as the invaders were pushed out of Uganda.

Foreign mediation
As Amin was looking for support, the OAU started a diplomatic solution to prevent the conflict from escalating into a full-blown war. The Organisation’s secretary general, Nzo Ekangaki, and the Somalia government led the quest for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Ekangaki first approached then Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta to mediate. According to Kenyan Newspaper Daily Nation of September 22, 1972, then Kenyan minister for power and communication Ronald Ngala announced, “We are friendly to both nations. Whatever is going on between them, Kenya will not get involved.”
With Kenya refusing to mediate, three other heads of state, included Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, presidents Houari Boumedienne and Sekou Toure of Algeria and Guinea respectively all expressed readiness to be associated with the initiative.
Egyptian president at the time Anwar Sadat met Tanzanian foreign minister John Malecela, who requested him to send a diplomatic delegation to Uganda to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
It was, however, reported in Kenyan media that presidents Amin and Nyerere had agreed to an interim cease-fire, with Uganda promising to stop bombing Tanzanian towns and Tanzania undertaking to withdraw its forces from the border.
Then Somali president Siad Barre drafted a five-point peace plan which was presented to the two presidents by the Somali foreign minister Omar Arteh Ghalib.
American newspaper New York Times of September 24, 1972, reported that the plan had the following questions, “Would Uganda halt its bombing and land attacks if it were assured by Tanzania that it would not be attacked by Tanzanian troops or pro-Obote guerrillas? Would Tanzania, given an assurance that the Ugandan Army would not attack it, undertake not to attack Uganda? If so, would Tanzania withdraw its troops from the frontier? Would Tanzania also withdraw the pro-Obote fighters from the border? Would Tanzania oppose subversive activities threatening a neighbouring state?”
After receiving the draft plan, Amin warned the guerrillas in the border towns of Mutukula and Kikagati to withdraw. Despite agreeing on the peace plan, the threat and accusation of aggression against each other persisted.
Just two days after Amin had agreed on the peace plan, he accused Zambia, Tanzania and India of planning to attack Uganda.
The Keesing’s Contemporary Archives says Amin’s comments followed the visit of presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Varahagiri Venkata Giri of Zambia and India respectively to Tanzania.
The Cape Times newspaper of South Africa on September 28, 1972, quoted the Indian government spokesperson saying “that Indian involvement is a mischievous and fantastic rumour without any foundation whatsoever”.
In a presidential press statement aired on Radio Uganda on September 28, 1972, Amin accused Tanzanian of carrying out another invasion in which a number of attackers were arrested in Mutukula.
Among those captured was Alex Ojera who was a former minister of Information and Broadcasting.
The following day, Ojera was paraded before diplomats, including OAU secretary general Ekangaki who had come to Kampala on a peace mission.
Mogadishu peace accord
The talks in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, were scheduled to start on September 27. It involved foreign minister of Uganda Wanume Kibedi, his Tanzanian counterpart John Malecela, Somalia’s Omar Arteh Ghalib, the OAU secretary general, among others.
However, they were delayed until October 2, 1972. The Ugandan and Tanzanian foreign ministers met the Somali president who told them that the conflict between their two countries was nothing but a colonialist conspiracy aimed at weakening African unity.
On October 5, 1972, after two days of talks, Kibedi, Malecela and Arteh in the presence of Ekangaki, signed an agreement which was published simultaneously in Dar-es-Salaam, Kampala and Mogadishu on October 7, 1972.
Previously Siad Barre had paid a visit to Dar-es-Salaam on October 6, 1972, and Kampala the following day.
During the visit to Uganda, Amin named a road after Siad Barre in honour of his efforts to end the conflict between Uganda and Tanzania.
The peace agreement required the two countries to withdraw their forces at least six miles away from their borders.
This was supposed to come into effect by October 9, 1972. A team of Somali peace observers would be deployed on the borders of the two countries to observe the withdrawal.
The peace accord also required both countries to stop harbouring subversive elements on their areas that cross into the other’s territory and to end all hostilities. Both countries were also required to return all the properties they captured from each other during the conflict.
On October 11, 1972, Amin announced that his troops had withdrawn six miles from the border and that fighting had ceased. A day later the Tanzanian Defence minister Edward Sokoine announced the withdrawal of the TPDF from the border area.
The Obote loyalists who had participated in the invasion were relocated deep inside northern Tanzania.
A former member of the Kikosi Maalum says they concentrated in the areas of Tabora where they went into Tobacco growing and charcoal burning from 1972 until 1978 when they were mobilised for the final battle that deposed Amin.

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