European Union military officers have begun training hundreds of Somali troops in Uganda as part of international support for the battle against Islamist insurgents, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Somalia’s weak Western-backed government, protected by African Union peacekeepers, controls only a few areas of the capital Mogadishu as it battles the insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.
Training troops is one of the few concrete steps the international community has taken to back the government.
Some 400 Somalis have camped in a remote training ground in the south-western Ugandan village of Bihanga, 350 kilometers from the capital Kampala.
“The training has begun … A total of 2,000 Somali soldiers will be trained in two intakes of 1,000 soldiers each. It will take one year,” the EU training team spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Juan Pita, told the German Press Agency dpa.
Nations such as the United States and Germany have funded training for Somali troops, but there are reports that some of the soldiers have deserted, some of them joining al-Shabaab, after their wages were not paid.
Somalia has been immersed in chaos since the early 1990s, following the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
The country has in recent years been engulfed in a new round of fighting by hard-line insurgents.
Western security agencies have warned that Somalia is becoming a haven for international terrorists.