Wrote this about a week ago ( it never went to publication)
Uganda is not withdrawing from Somalia. At least not anytime soon. It is also unlikely to officially end its mission in Central Africa Republic. Rather the last I heard Ugandan peacekeeping is expanding both within the Great Lakes Region, and if one would believe it, destined further afield. Libya has been mentioned in some elite military circles.
The most plausible explanation for the review of both missions put simply is that Uganda and its frenemies, the Western funders behind peacekeeping funding have a difficult relationship and it has been getting worse. Part of it is political and the rest practical.
In the CAR, for example, the hunt for Joseph Kony has degenerated into a tedious if glorified trophy race between the US Special forces and the UPDF. It has not helped that Joseph Kony has proved a most difficult quarry.
In Somalia, lack of control over funding to the African Union Mission (AMISOM) and some “creative accounting” by Uganda and others has led to bureaucratic gridlock and bickering amidst allegations of outright corruption – within the military and its civilian administrators. The resilience of Al Shabaab in the absence of renewed investment in the mission is unsurprisingly not doing wonders for morale in AMISOM
None of these problems are new or strange. However overcoming them requires a quantum leap in the framing of African peacekeeping, which while it has made progress, is now malnourished in the relationship between African governments and their funding partners that is a disguise of the old African rifles colonial affair.
How else can one explain it?
Neither the United States nor Uganda want to cease either operations above. The LRA manhunt, one of the most unique missions for the U.S Department of Defense is legally binding under an Act of Congress. As for the mission in Somalia it is more sensitive. In todays globally disruptive environment of pirates, people smugglers and terrorism to jettison a workable solution under the African Union and Uganda without an alternative is not just bad policy but probably dangerous.
For Uganda, the odds are rather steep too. The UPDF under its present unbroken leadership of four decades has been an army engaged in wars, big and small, since its inception in the 80’s, much of it in the region. In the ensuing period, as some have pointed out, the army abroad has become the standard bearer of a revamped brand of Ugandan military service. Gone are the days of the rag-tag guerrilla nationalists, enter the global professional army with pan-African ambitions. Aside from facilitating the stock of elite soldiers in hostile environments the missions in CAR but Somalia specifically have brought prestige, credibility and money to the UPDF, its leadership and forces. Even if one would argue that military corruption and the reputational harm of politics at home have hollowed out its standing, one cannot dismiss the nearly decade long engagement in Mogadishu that has transformed the conditions for the Somali government and its people while depriving pirates and their toxic cargos from Somali waters.
So why give up the influence it has built on the back of this kind of peacekeeping track record?
At the heart of the rocky relationship between Uganda and its western allies, particularly America is the obvious unequal relationship that exists between African peacekeeping missions and their funders. Along with this is a fundamental lack of appreciation of “foreign policy” within the African context. Both parties share the blame.
To most Western institutions, and diplomatic services, African foreign policy is a misnomer. At a primary level “foreign policy” is considered what Western nations do to African countries. Western nations are the tailor and dressmaker- and African countries are the hand-me-down orphans in the global village who must find what fits and courtesy with a bow and a smile. The reality however is even where Western nations provide the cloth, African nations fashion it, and sometimes tie-dye in colourful complexity.
This reality is true for Uganda. The Museveni administration has worked through five US presidents and multiple changes of power within the region. Its institutional memory and knowledge of security actors within the Great Lakes runs deep while its power at home- as demonstrated by recent events is unrivalled. In the past Uganda has not hesitated to flex its reciprocal leverage – such as the recent troop reviews that play on its indispensible role in the absence of tried and tested alternatives.
However despite its best efforts – Uganda has not moved beyond brinkmanship and its reputation is constantly hobbled abroad by its inchoate political transition. Uganda’s “official” foreign policy review  quotes Machiavelli in its preface to explaining what national self-interest is. It also references Hans Mogenthau on “national interest” as being essentially “ that which is the most important to a state-that is the survival of that state”. As for the grand father of political realism, Machiavelli, he is quoted as saying, “ you may have splendid moral goals but without sufficient power and willingness to use it, you will accomplish nothing”.
To treat Uganda and other African armies only as the hired help, like the King’s African Rifles, and disregard their longer term interests would be equating the threat of troop withdrawals to some sort of labor dispute. This would be wrong and do even more harm to the relationships that support peacekeeping in places like Somalia or envision professional armies overseeing peaceful transitions of power in countries like Uganda.
However Uganda needs to embrace an era of defence accountability that meets the moral goals of peacekeeping and not simply short term strategic gains. Before these relationships are changed not simply repaired for the crisis at hand, western decision makers must acknowledge the complex environment they operate invest more diligently in addressing them.