A total of 2100 troops serving in the 27th Ugandan Battle Group of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the 6th Uganda’s United Nations Guard Unit to Somalia(UNGU) have officially returned home after completing the over one-year tour of duty in Somalia.
Representing the Chief of Defence Forces, Lt Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi,the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces(D/CDF) presided over the reception ceremony for the soldiers, held at the Peace Support Operation Training Center (PSO-TC) in Nakaseke district.
“On behalf of the Chief of Defence Forces, I officially welcome you back to our motherland Uganda having honorably represented us in a noble Pan African cause in Somalia. You made us proud,” said Lt Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi.
The Deputy CDF said the returning battle group and United Nations Guard Unit commanded by Col Sam Kosia Kuteesa and Lt Col Nathan Bainomugisha, respectively, worked closely with other partners to achieve a commendable record of performance in the pacification of AMISOM’s sector one area of operations where Uganda’s contingent covers and in admirably enabling the operations of the United Nations mission in Somalia.
While speaking at the function, the Chief of Staff Land Forces, Maj Gen Leopold Kyanda, emphasized that Uganda deployed in Somalia for Pan Africanism but noted this was possible because of Uganda’s revolutionary leadership with a clear resolve for the attainment of the liberation of not only Ugandans but the African race at large.
The Commandant of the training school in Ssingo, Brig Bonny Wolimbwa said it is now a tradition in the UPDF for those from missions to undergo post-mission orientation before they are given leave.
“This arrangement gives time to those who could have undergone post-traumatic stress disorder or battle fatigue to recover before joining their loved ones,” said Col Wolimbwa.
One of the returning commanders, Col Sam Kuteesa, said Uganda’s 27th battle group liberated Sabid Anoole, Bariire, Ceel Salini, Awdheegle and Jannale towns in Lower Shabelle Region of Somalia during their 17-month tour of duty.
He said the battle group also mentored Somali National Army in explosive hazard awareness, reconnaissance, route search, vehicle search and support weapons.
Meanwhile, the commander of the sixth UNGU, Lt Col Bainomugisha, said the main challenge the UN force faced were motor attacks but the forces were well trained and did not incur a single loss.
“We went prepared for the worst conditions. We all came back alive despite several attacks. From February to May 2020 alone we encountered seven serious mortar attacks of different calibers but we overcame the threats,” said Lt Col Bainomugisha.
.The Ugandan troops control the largest area in Somalia after being deployed in Sector One in Benadir,(has 16 districts) Banadir, and Lower Shabelle regions having pushed Al Shabaab militants for over 200km away from Mogadishu city.
The UPDF was the first army to deploy in Somalia under the AMISOM in 2007 and by then, the Ugandan army was controlling less than 10% of the battered capital Mogadishu, the biggest part being in the hands of the Al Shabaab insurgents.
In some of the fiercest battles, in 2011, the Al Shabaab militants were expelled from Bakara market, which was one of the insurgents’ strongholds in Mogadishu and since then, the jihadists have never returned to Mogadishu.
UPDF’s deployment demystified the saying that AMISOM was a “dead on arrival” mission before opening the way for other countries to send armies in Somalia.
Since their expulsion from Mogadishu, Al Shabaab insurgents loom in other areas mostly in the Lower Shabelle region.
Since 2007, Uganda has fielded in the mission area, 30 main battle groups and three subsidiary ones.
Uganda has also deployed seven UN guard units to Somalia to secure the UN mission since 2014