Uganda: 1,800 Soldiers Get Post-War Counselling

Kampala — At least 1,798 Uganda People's Defence Forces soldiers have been undergoing counselling and guidance after one year presence in Somalia fighting al-Shabaab insurgents.

A statement issued by the army at the weekend quoted the Chief of Staff Land Forces, Maj Gen Leopold Kyanda, saying the programme was intended to help the soldiers recover from the post-war trauma, which is partly blamed for the increased fatal shootings within and outside the barracks.

"The programme was very relevant in ensuring the forces recover from possible post-traumatic stress disorders after being involved in heavy combat and stressful environment for 12 months without the opportunity for annual leave as opposed to those serving within Uganda who are entitled to one to two months of annual leave," the statement reads in part.

Col Justus Rukundo, the Land Forces Director of Political Education, said it is now a routine for all the soldiers to undergo the exercise when they return from Somalia.

Psychologists from Makerere University School of Psychology are hired to counsel the soldiers.

Lt Col Henry Obbo, the Land Forces spokesperson, said in the same statement that the soldiers get the two-week counselling before they start their one-month leave to join their families.

"They are also trained in political education, skills to improve their household incomes, land tenure system, attitude change and preparations for retirement," he said.

Last week, a soldier serving in Somalia shot dead his supervisor following a disagreement with his boss and later turned the gun on self and ended his life.

In February, Pte Isaac Newton Okello was sentenced to 80 years for killing four of his family members.

Other countries with troops in Somalia are Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti.

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