It was a tearful and somber mood on Tuesday afternoon as the bodies of the UPDF soldiers serving under AMISOM were returned home.
On Easter Sunday, Al Shabaab terrorists tried to forcefully enter Bulomareer Forward Operating Base for the UPDF in the Lower Shabelle region , before two Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) went off and killed a number of soldiers.
A few minutes to 2pm the white Boeing 737 AMISOM air craft touch down at the Entebbe airbase attracting loud cries from some of the relatives of the deceased gallant sons to the country.
The caskets were later lowered down before being received by the army leadership led by the Deputy commander Land Forces, Maj.Gen. Sam Kavuma, Brig.George Igumba and Brig.James Birungi.
Clad in black armbands, the senior UPDF soldiers saluted the caskets as a sign of respect to the deceased colleagues as both the national and East African anthems played before a guard of honour was mounted for the slain soldiers.
Speaking to journalists, Maj.Gen.Kavuma said that despite the death of some of their colleagues, the Ugandan army will not run away from its cardinal role of pan Africanism of the AMISOM deployment.
“I it is unfortunate they died but the death only gives us strength. We appreciate their efforts as they died fighting and were able to repulse the attack from the terrorists,”Kavuma said.
He reiterated the army leadership’s vow of never leaving fellow Africans to suffer at the hands of terrorists or any armed group as they watch.
President Museveni on Tuesday morning condoled with the deceased’ families before announcing that the UPDF had lost eight gallant soldiers in the clash with Alshabab insurgents, contradicting with earlier reports from the army’s spokesperson, Brig.Richard Karemire who had quoted a different number.
However, Brig.Karemire said on Tuesday afternoon that the issue of numbers of the deceased was so small and does not add anything to the liberation struggle and Pan Africanism.
“We have initially brought four bodies and the rest will be repatriated later after postmortem reports and others preparations are done,” he said.
Museveni had earlier applauded the UPDF soldiers for their resilience and brevity during the attack whey they repulsed the Islamists.
“On Easter Sunday our soldiers in Somalia heroically gave serious blows to Al-Shabaab, killing 36 of them and destroying six vehicles full of explosives. This was because they were alert. Unfortunately, two vehicles of the enemy entered one of the three sites attacked. One vehicle was detonated and killed eight of our soldiers. May their souls rest in eternal peace. I extend condolences to their families,” Museveni said.
Uganda is the biggest contributor of troops to the 22,000-strong AMISOM force since 2007 contributing roughly 80% of the number.
Other countries with troops in Somalia are Kenya, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.
Since being forced out of the country’s capital Mogadishu, the Al Shabaab militant group has maintained strong presence in regions outside the capital including the Lower Shabelle region where Bulomareer town is located and the region remains volatile.