Bodies of Ugandan soldiers killed in Somalia attack return this week

In an interview yesterday, UPDF and Defence Spokesman, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, said the bodies of the slain soldiers will be flown back into the country this week.

UPDF Spokesperson, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has said that the remains of soldiers killed by al-Shabaab a week ago in Somalia will be flown home this week.

On May 26, 2023, the Al-Shabaab using over 800 fighters attacked and overran Buulo Mareer Forward Operating Base, manned by the UPDF and killed up to 54 soldiers, the worst in the record of the army forces on Somalia mission.

Speaking to this publication in an interview on Sunday evening, Defence Spokesperson, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, said the bodies of the slain soldiers will be flown back into the country this week without specifying the date.

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“The process of informing the next of kin [of the deceased soldiers] is going on,” he said by telephone yesterday.

Notifying the next-of-kin first before public disclosure of particulars of soldiers killed in combat is a standard military doctrine the world over, although in this case, the family of Lt Col Nyororo, the highest ranked officer who died in the Somalia attack, said neither the Defence ministry nor UPDF had notified them a week later.

Under the force agreement with AU, the next-of-kin of a soldier killed in action is compensated up to $50,000 (Shs185m), meaning the continental bloc and the European Union, which picks such bills, is likely to pay close to Shs10b for the fifty-four soldiers Uganda lost late last month.

UPDF first deployed in Mogadishu in March 2007 under a United Nations-authorised African Union Peace-Keeping Mission in Somalia (Amisom), now the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia or ATMIS, to which Uganda remains the largest troop contributor.

The May 26 raid prompted the United States Africa Command (Africom), which provides technical and intelligence support to ATMIS,  pounded neighbourhoods of the Forward Operating Base in strikes it said targeted and destroyed some of the Al-Shabaab’s war loot, including weapons.

The UPDF Land Forces Commander, Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga, who is leading a Board of Inquiry established by Chief of Defence Forces Gen Wilson Mbadi, flew to Somalia a day after the raid for a fact-finding mission during which he has sought to lift the morale of soldiers on the ground. 

On Friday, President Museveni had said the Buulo Mareer was being manned by a company, a military formation of 200-250 soldiers, at the time of the attack. 

They fled when overwhelmed by al-Shabaab, he noted. The militants in what UPDF dismissed as propaganda had claimed that it killed 137 Ugandan soldiers and captured others.

“The mistake was made by two commanders, Maj. Oluka and Maj. Obbo, who ordered the soldiers to retreat. They have been apprehended and will face charges in the Court Martial,” Gen Museveni told NRM Members of Parliament at the Kyankwanzi retreat.

The President also revealed that the Islamic militants had also attempted another attack on a UPDF base in Baraawe, Somalia, but the Ugandan soldiers repulsed them.

“They made an ill-fated attempt on Baraawe, but our forces dealt a significant blow, forcing them to flee,” he mentioned.

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President Museveni also emphasized that corruption played a major role in the problem, citing the promotion of a soldier responsible for managing an army shop to a commanding position.

“This is a prime example of the corruption we must address. You, the young generation, have a valuable opportunity to learn from the best practices of the National Resistance Army (NRA). We are here to guide you. Many lives were lost, and we have documented our history. If you’re interested, you can understand why Uganda emerged as it did,” advised President Museveni.

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