Uganda deploys fresh troops to Somalia ahead of 2020/21 elections
KAMPALA, Uganda - A new battle group from Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF) is set to join the peacekeeping mission in Somalia and will stay in the Horn of Africa during 2020/21 polls.
Chief of Defense Forces General David Muhoozi on Friday hosted 2,414 soldiers at Peace Support Operation Center in Singo. They are set to leave for Somalia this month.
Dubbed Battle Group UGABAG XXIX, the team will replace another group of UPDF that completed a successful mission in Somalia on Saturday.
Uganda is one of the biggest contributors to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Other contributing nations include Kenya and Burundi.
During the induction, General Muhoozi asked the new team to be extremely cautious this festive season, adding that Al-Shabaab militants have taken advantage before.
“You are deploying around the festive season. Do not go in a festive mood because the threats of attack are highest in this period," he warned.
Muhoozi also told soldiers that "If welcomed with fire, you must also respond with significant fire."
The battle group will be under Col Edward Kaddu. The Army chief also warned that the Al-Shabaab intelligence network closely monitors UPDF activities in Somalia.
While noting that the Al-Shabaab can strike unannounced, Muhoozi also asked the soldiers to observe high hygiene and lifestyle while in Somalia.
“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.
On Saturday, AMISOM commander Lt. Gen Tigabu Yilma hailed UPDF departing soldiers for liberating parts of Mogadishu and Lower Shebelle from Al-Shabaab.
The troops under the battle group named ‘UGABAG XXVI,’ received African Union medals and certificates in recognition of their contribution to the security and peace process in Somalia.
“You liberated Sabiid-Anole, El-Saliini, Bariire, and Awdheegle, and Baledogle in coordination with the Somali Security Forces. As Africans, we are proud of you for sacrificing your lives for peace in Somalia," Yilma said on Saturday.
Al-Shabaab has often taken advantage during the festive season to launch deadly attacks, targeting foreign military bases.
In October, Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Omar was heard in a video firing warning at the US and allied forces in Somalia, accusing them of "fueling instability".
Somalia is set to hold polls from October next year, a move that could lead to increased Al-Shabaab attacks. UPDF troops serve a duration of one year before paving way for a new group.
AMISOM projects stability in Somalia by 2021, and by then, it's assumed Somali National Army would have been equipped to take charge of the country's security.