The Chief of Defence Forces in the UPDF, Gen.David Muhoozi has said despite the risks involved, Uganda has gained a lot from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Uganda became the first troop contributing country to the AMISOM in 2007 but on Easter Sunday lost a couple of soldiers who were killed after Al Shabaab militants attacked an AMISOM UPDF Forward Operating Base in Bulomarer in the Lower Shabelle region.
Speaking at the flagging off of soldiers under UGABAG 24 at the Singo Peace Support Operations Training Centre in Nakaseke District on Thursday, Gen. Muhoozi said on many occasions the public has watered down the presence of the Ugandan army in Somalia but noted it has been beneficial.
“No one can shoot down the gains from Somalia and similar missions. The image of the county is now in good books because we made the mission feasible for countries that feared to deploy.We have triumphed where Americans failed,”Gen.Muhoozi said.
“The world has now known that the mission is doable.”
When asked about the risks soldiers deployed in Somalia face, Gen Muhoozi said despite the lives lost while in the Horn of Africa country, the mission is of benefit to the army, Uganda and the region at large.
“It is a good mission and I am glad we took part in it. We were able to fight the enemy far from us and we have achieved a lot, notwithstanding the sacrifices.”
Asked about Uganda’s withdrawal from Somalia, Muhoozi said it would be watering down the gains achieved in the past few years by the AMISOM troops if they are withdrawn at this stage.
On building capacity for the Somalia National Army, the CDF said the pace and effectiveness has not been the best due to a number of reasons including lack of cohesion from both the troop contributing countries and development partners.
He urged the soldiers being deployed to the mission area to exhibit discipline and follow their commanders’ orders.
Some of the troops undergoing training before the tour of duty in Somalia.
“We want you to return as you left. If you don’t follow what has been taught to you, problems will visit you.”
A total of 1822 soldiers under battle group 24 commanded by Col. Jackson Kayanja were on Thursday flagged off after completing nine months training at the Peace Support Operations Training Centre to replace battle group 21 that recently completed its one year tour of duty in Somalia.
Battle group 24 will be deployed in Arabisca, 31 kilometers from the capital Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region in the Southern part of Somalia.
Uganda is the largest troop contributor of the 22,000 strong AMISOM force since 2007, contributing roughly 80 percent of the number.
After every 12 months, there is a battle group returning home from Somalia and at all times, there are at least three UPDF AMISOM battle groups in the Horn of Africa country.
Despite being able to rout the Al Qaeda affiliated group from the capital Mogadishu, the AMISOM troops especially UPDF still face a big threat in the Lower Shabelle region which is inhabited by the insurgents.