The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, has warned UPDF soldiers to be cautious of attacks by Al Shabaab insurgents during the festive season.
The warning was made during the flagging off of 2414 troops under Battle Group 29 heading to Somalia to serve under African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for the next 12 months.
The function was held at Peace Support Operation and Training Center (PSO-TC), Nakaseke.
Gen Muhoozi told the battle group under the command of Col Edward Kaddu to maintain high vigilance throughout their tour of duty because “the enemy has intelligence” network that closely monitors UPDF combat readiness and can strike anytime.
He particularly cautioned them against laxity during the festive season.
“You are deploying around the festive season. Do not go in a festive mood because the threats of attack are highest in this period. Do not get surprised when you are welcomed with fire. Rather, if welcomed with fire, you must also respond with significant fire,” said Gen Muhoozi.
Last year, Al Shabaab terrorists attacked UPDF forward operating bases during Easter but suffered a bloody nose when the Ugandan army retaliated and killed a number of their fighters and weapons seized.
The insurgents have never attempted any other attack on Ugandan troops.
Speaking to the troops, Gen.Muhoozi urged them to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that they can remain effective and relevant.
“The army wants you alive for your own good, for your family and for your country. It is your responsibility to keep healthy,” he said.
The Commander Land Forces, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, told members of the battle group to observe maximum discipline during the conduct of their duties so as not to undermine the achievements Uganda has registered so far in AMISOM.
He warned of drastic punitive measures on any member that will fall short of the set disciplinary standards and standing operating procedures.
The Commandant of the Peace Support Operation and Training Center, Col Bonny Wolimbwa said the battle group underwent six months of pre-mission training and had exhibited a high level of competence necessary for the conduct of the mission.
He noted that the battle group was mainly trained by the UPDF trainers who have been undergoing a decade of mentorship by training partners from USA, UK, France, among others.
“99% of the training and logistical requirements for the pre-mission training of this battle group was provided by the UPDF as our partners are now scaling down training support and channeling it through other forms of support,” said Col Wolimbwa.
The UPDF that has deployed in Somalia under African Union Mission in Somalia since 2007 is the biggest contributor of troops to the AMISOM.
The Force also provides a United Nations Guard Unit to protect UN workers in Somalia.
The troops have for the last decade been trained by partners from Europe and USA but this year, the pre-mission training responsibility was shifted to Uganda as the partners provide other mission needs such as equipment support.