Uganda: UPDF Commanders Sending Their Relatives, Cooks to Somalia to Fight Al Shabaab, Says Museveni

Yoweri Museveni
29 May 2023
Nile Post News (Kampala)

In the aftermath of a deadly attack on a UPDF forward operating base in Somalia, President Museveni has accused some army commanders of deploying their relatives and cooks to fight Al Shabaab militants.

" seems at some stage, some of the people who organize put names of their bodyguards, personal assistants and cooks. They create some sort of adhoc instead of integral units," Museveni said.

The president was speaking to the NRM Caucus at Kyankwanzi.

A Friday early morning attack targeted a UPDF forward operating base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab claimed in a statement that it carried out suicide bomb attacks and killed 137 Ugandan soldiers whereas others were taken as prisoners of war.

Statements by the UPDF and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia have up to now been tight-lipped about casualties of the attacking.

Sounding disappointed in the commanders, President Museveni said people he termed as a new crop are making use of the lucrative allowances from Somalia as a way of earning jobs for their close relatives.

He said these new players in the army without the spirit of patriotism and NRA ideology are scrambling to maximize allowances from the UN rather than look at the needs of the mission.

"The investigation will go on and you will see. Somalia is a very dangerous place, if you go there without a plan, you end up in a bad situation for yourself, some of these people do not look at the mission but the money," Museveni said.

"It seems one of the suspect factors in the incident could be corruption again by some of these new players in the army. In Somalia, the UN gives big allowances, someone told me that you can get Shs38m in a year when deployed there. Now some of these people ( we suspect) who are selecting people to go to Somalia are not doing the right thing as we were doing before."

He said that previously, deployments were done by picking from combat units but that at some stage, all this was abandoned and the commanders started selecting who to deploy and that most of these are their relatives and people known to them.

Museveni said they did this on the basis that Al-Shabaab has been 'quiet' for sometime.

"Sending welfare cases on a combat mission is the cause of this problem," he added.

"This was not Al-Shabaab, it was out internal weaknesses which must be addressed. This business of not listening to the NRA, the mercenary attitude of selfishness, money etc. We are sorry about the death," Museveni added.

In the aftermath of the deadly attack, the president pointed out that that operations in Somalia and other theatres, are combat missions and not welfare missions for people to get UN allowances.

"It is criminal for anybody involved, to send into such a theatre soldiers who are either not suited for that mission or not properly prepared for it," he said on Saturday.

His latest comments about the attack seem to be calculated and a dig aimed at some commanders whose negligence could have partly contributed to the attack.

For example, in his Saturday statement, the president said the UPDF soldiers could have panicked when Al Shabaab militants attacked .

He said the forward operating base had enough equipment to have been used to subdue the attackers.

"Those defences are quite strong although they are guarded by light weapons. There were two tanks, two 14.5mm anti- air-craft guns and a 107mm Katyusha rocket launcher. Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganized them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment," he said.

Speaking at Kyankwanzi, the president also descried the lack of support from their American and Turkish counterparts whom he said failed to help despite having deployed UAVs.

"I was speaking to commanders in Somlia there, I was telling them that if Americans and Turkey don't want to assist our ground forces fight Al Shabaab, we shall do it ourselves. We shall find a way of intervening more decisively. I don't know what they are doing in Somalia (with their UAV's) if they cannot coordinate."

The UPDF has set up a board of inquiry led by the Command Land Forces, Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga to investigate the attack in Somalia.

It remains to be seen if the president will crack the whip on some of the commanders following his revelations in the aftermath of the attack in Somalia.

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