Uganda’s military chief is on an abrupt visit to Somalia to assess the situation after more than 50 soldiers attached to the African Union Mission (Amisom) were massacred on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Chief of Defence Forces Gen Katumba Wamala visited the scene of the attack in Janaale in Lower Shabelle to commend his troops on their gallant fight against Al-Shabaab.
He, however, admitted the trip was influenced by the latest raid.
My visit was prompted by what happened here in Janaale, where we are now, where our base was attacked by the Al-Shabaab using a vehicle bomb IED (improvised explosive device) to breach the defence and where we incurred some casualties; some of our friends lost their lives, he told the troops, according to a statement by Amisom.
I came one, to assess how the situation was and to get a clear picture; how the whole thing happened, and also establish whether they were any flaws in terms of the response. I am convinced that the boys put up a good fight, Gen Katumba added.
The Somali militants raided the Janaale Amisom camp on Tuesday, some 80 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu.
CONDEMNED THE ATTACK
The visit by Gen Wamala came as Kenya and Germany separately condemned the attack.
On Thursday. Kenya’s Foreign CS Amina Mohamed and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier have said the incident will inspire unrelenting support for war on terrorists.
The government of the Republic of Kenya condemns this atrocious criminal act in the strongest terms possible. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those innocent victims of the terror attack, said Amina Mohamed in a statement.
The government of Kenya reiterates its commitment to continue working closely with the international community with a view to defeating the terror networks.
Mr Steinmeier said the Tuesday raid was a terrible evidence that terrorists in Somalia and in the region remained undefeated.
He vowed to support the AU mission.
Alongside our partners in the EU (European Union) and the international community, Germany will, therefore, continue to support the Somali government and the Amisom troops in the fight against terrorism.
The international community must continue its resolute resistance, he said in a statement.
The EU is the main financier of Amisom operations and pays salaries of soldiers fighting in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab militants said they were revenging the killing of seven civilians allegedly by Ugandan troops at a wedding in Merka.
NO PUBLIC REPORT
Ugandan People’s Defence Forces had earlier announced they would investigate the July Merka deaths, after Human Rights Watch called on both Amisom and UPDF to reign in their errant soldiers. No public report has yet to be made of those investigations.
The Janaale camp was manned by UPDF soldiers attached to Amisom, an African Union mission of about 22,000 soldiers supporting the nascent Somali government.
The Tuesday incident reportedly involved a car bomber ramming into the base and followed by about 200 shabaab militants who overran the camp.
The raid also involved disconnecting major communication and transport lines, making it difficult to get reinforcement.
However, Amisom later claimed its troops had tactically retreated from the attack it termed as complex.
Amisom has declined to give the figure of soldiers killed, although some Western diplomats estimated it to be between 50 and 100.
Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are the countries that have contributed Amisom troops in Somalia
HAS LARGEST CONTINGENT
Uganda was the first country to send soldiers to Mogadishu and has the largest contingent at 6,223 troops based in Sector 1 covering Banadir (Mogadishu), Middle and Lower Shabelle regions.
The latest Al-Shabaab raid is the second most deadly attack on Amisom troops after the June raid on Burundi soldiers.
The UPDF chief argued the morale of his troops was still high.
I just want to give assurance to our partners and also to the other soldiers that all is under control and definitely nothing much to worry about.
Our hearts go out to the gallant soldiers who lost their lives as they were executing this noble task of defending and protecting the civilians in this country against the bad fellows Al-Shabaab, he added