5 September 2009

Somalia: AU Gives UPDF Mandate to Attack Militants

Entebbe — The African Union (AU) has reviewed the mandate of UPDF in Somalia and allowed the Ugandan forces to attack the Al-shabaab militants, the Defence Minister announced yesterday.

Dr Crispus Kiyonga told Journalists after flagging-off three UPDF battalions to Somalia at Entebbe military airbase yesterday that the earlier mandate constrained the UPDF and was deadly as it demanded the peacekeepers to fight back only if they were attacked first.

The new mandate now means that the UPDF can carry out pre-emptive attacks on the insurgents in the war tone Horn of Africa country.

While three battalions left Entebbe yesterday, three others returned from Somalia in a rotational arrangement.

Mr Kiyonga told journalists yesterday that the UPDF mandate was reviewed last week at the AU emergency summit in Libya.

Mr Kiyonga represented President Yoweri Museveni at the summit.

"Our view as Uganda and Burundi has been that the mandate under which we are operating was very constraining," Mr Kiyonga said. "We would have made much more progress if the mandate was more facilitating. Currently, the army just seats where they are in their detachments even when they have information that insurgents are just two kilometres away," he said, "They [UPDF] can not attack them. We wait for insurgents to shoot first and we respond."

Uganda and Burundi have more than 4,000 troops deployed in Somalia.

The heavily undermanned and underfunded peacekeeping force is meant to secure the Presidential Palace, air and sea ports and the city's main roads but has come under increasing attacks from Islamic extremists.

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