Uganda's troops who killed civilians arrested in Somalia - Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO/COURTESY

KAMPALA, Uganda - A contingent of Uganda People's Defense Forces [UPDF] accused of killing civilians in Somalia have been arrested, President Yoweri Museveni has confirmed, in an interesting twist of events that could help the families get justice.

A fortnight ago, seven people including two truck drivers were detonated by AMISOM troops, who are said to have turned into revenge mission, shortly after being ambushed by Al-Shabaab militants. It's not clear why the troops turned against civilians.

Despite corroborating reports that the victims were innocent civilians, the AMISOM team had initially maintained that those who died were suspected Al-Shabaab members. Authorities in Lower Shabelle disputed the response from AMISOM.

In footage obtained by the Garowe Online, President Yoweri Museveni, who served as a soldier before taking over in 1986, is heard confessing that indeed, the troops killed innocent civilians. An agitated Museveni goes on to confirm that those involved have since been arrested.

"Recently we had a case of killings in Somalia. A group of our soldiers went and killed some people because they had been ambushed. Yes, that's war. If you're ambushed, you should know that you can be ambushed in war," Museveni said.

"You only kill people when you're fighting. But to go after that and kill people that you're annoyed, is just bankrupt. Those fellows have been arrested. And they are now going to be charged," he added without giving the exact number of those arrested.

On Saturday, AMISOM seemed to have changed tune, confirming that indeed, the seven people killed in Lower Shabelle were not members of the Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaida linked group that has been causing havoc in Somalia.

AMISOM said it investigating reports that its troops were responsible for the death of the seven. The team is currently meeting the local community as it seeks to understand what exactly transpired during the incident.

"The leadership has since the incident met with the elders, community members, and government officials and made it clear that they will not condone criminal activities against civilians by its soldiers. They also assured them of their commitment to identifying and punishing those who breach the rules of engagement," read the statement.

"To investigate this serious incident and recommend follow-on actions, AMISOM has constituted a seven-member Board of Inquiry (BOI), which has immediately commenced its work. This legal inquiry is led by a senior officer and two other members from the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa."

Others in the team include a senior official from the Federal Government of Somalia, and a senior officer each from AMISOM Military, Police, and Mission Headquarters.

"The Mission is working directly with the FGS and the affected families and has given its commitment to a swift and transparent investigation, which should be concluded by September 6, 2021," AMISOM noted.

In addition, the Government of Uganda has assured the Mission leadership that in the spirit of transparency, if the Board establishes that its officers have a case to answer, a Court Marshall will be constituted and held in Somalia to try those implicated, the team noted.

"AMISOM is taking a legal approach to these serious allegations in line with international best practice and is committed to conducting a thorough investigation as quickly as possible, hold accountable anyone responsible and abide by all the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry," added the statement.

AMISOM remains steadfastly committed to peace and security and the protection of the local population. The Mission leadership is deeply committed to carrying out its mandated tasks in Somalia in strict compliance with its obligations under the applicable International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Human Rights Law, and its Rules of Engagement, it further noted.

Uganda has close to 4,500 soldiers serving in AMISOM particularly in Lower Shabelle. The team has largely been helpful in neutralizing Al-Shabaab militants, who have been creating havoc in the country since 2007 when they first struct.


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