Analysts’ view: Uganda blasts stir regional anxiety

KAMPALA (BestGrowthStock) – Somali Islamists said they had carried out two bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital that killed at least 70 people as they watched the World Cup final at a restaurant and a sports club.

Following are reactions to the attacks from Somalia experts and analysts.

KEN MENKHAUS, SOMALIA EXPERT, DAVIDSON COLLEGE, USA

“This could just be the worst mistake al Shabaab ever made.”

“This attack will inevitably prompt heightened law enforcement attention on Somali communities around the world, which in turn could make it more difficult for some Somalis to remit money to family members in Somalia or conduct business in host countries. If Shabaab’s terrorism abroad is viewed as a threat to these vital Somali economic activities, the movement runs the risk of blowback from within Somali society.”

“This could be an even worse mistake than the (al Shabaab) attack on a Mogadishu hotel that killed several medical graduates, which antagonized many Somalis (Dec 3, 2009).”

PHILIPPE DE PONTET, AFRICA ANALYST, EURASIA GROUP

“People have been a little bit surprised by the scale of this attack. It wasn’t necessarily clear before that al Shabaab had that kind of capacity or reach outside of Somalia itself.”

“One thing interesting to look at will be to what extent were they able to work with local Ugandans or not. Was this entirely operated finance and carried out simply from al Shabaab or was there any assistance from disaffected individuals or groups from Uganda?

“In terms of regional risks Uganda is not in my view on top of the list. Attacks would be more likely in Ethiopia, and Kenya is also a possibility. Ethiopia is seen as the big enemy, Ethiopia is seen as a puppet of Washington in some ways.

ABDI SAMATAR, SOMALIA EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

“I don’t think that this was al Shabaab, as in the Somalis of al Shabaab. I really don’t think they have the capabilities or the reach for something like this.

“It’s much more likely that this was their foreign friends, in other words the foreign elements in al Shabaab.

“This does not mean that the Somalis are not becoming good students of the foreigners. But for now they lack this capacity.”

“But Somalis or foreigners, the effect is nonetheless the same. It is the foreign elements that for now dominate the al Shabaab project. (The more nationalist members of al Shabaab) have to sell themselves to this (al Qaeda) trend. Up to half of the al Shabaab are young Somalis aged 15 or younger.”

ALASTAIR NEWTON, POLITICAL ANALYST, NOMURA

“It’s a tragedy — Uganda had enough issues to contend with anyway. But I think it’s really a 48-hour story when it comes to investment. People will be looking at it today and tomorrow but within a couple of weeks they will be back looking at the oil and other fundamentals and it will be business as usual, rightly in my view.

“Uganda was probably a soft target. Good intelligence is how you stop terrorist attacks and that is often going to be weaker in Africa. As to who was behind it, I think you’ll find the murky fingers of AQ somewhere in there.”

“A sustained bombing campaign would be bad, but again I think investors would adapt. If you look at Pakistan right now you get a lot of bombings but it isn’t having a huge impact on investor sentiment.”

E.J HOGENDOORN, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP

“This will certainly trigger a greater call for tougher action on terrorism in Uganda and the region.”

“The most likely response will be to increase Uganda’s role in Somalia and that will have consequences. If they use more robust force in a controlled manner, that is likely to help TFG in Somalia by weakening of al Shabaab.”

“If UPDF (the Ugandan army) reacts in an abusive manner in Somalia, that will galvanize resistance against TFG and its allies.”

DR PAUL OMACH, SENIOR LECTURER AT MAKERERE UNIVERSITY,

KAMPALA

“There is going to be increased authoritarianism. We will have an increased security presence and (Ugandan President) Museveni will trample on people’s rights in the name of maintaining security.”

“I don’t think he’ll come under pressure to bring the peacekeepers home. I for one don’t want to bring the peacekeepers back because we need to sort out the Somali problem.”

(Reporting by Helen Nyambura, Richard Lough and Abdi Guled in Nairobi, and William Maclean and Peter Apps in London, Editing by Giles Elgood)

Analysts’ view: Uganda blasts stir regional anxiety