By Risdel Kasasira
Uganda’s Chief of Defense Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, has said Ugandan soldiers deployed in Somalia to fight the al-Shabaab are stranded due to underfunding, logistical deficits and a challenged Somali national force.
In an interview with The Daily Monitor newspaper last Thursday, Gen Muhoozi said UPDF has, as a result, collapsed some of its forward operating bases to consolidate defensive strength and cannot launch attacks against al-Shabaab.
“It has now implied that we cannot defend what we already have and neither can we effectively offend the enemy to degrade [its] capacity. That is the dilemma we are in and that is why the TCCs (Troop Contributing Countries) met to put across the concerns of the mission so that with the international partners, we can find a way forward,” he said.
Uganda was first to deploy in Somalia in March 2007 and still has the largest number of soldiers in the 22,000-strong African Union Peacekeeping Mission (Amisom). Other troop contributors include Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Presidents, military and technical leaders from the TCCs, together with donors, met in Kampala in February to iron out the teething problems hamstringing Amisom operations.
While opening that meeting, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry permanent secretary Patrick Mugoya noted: “The international community recognizes the role of all Amisom Troop Contributing Countries in stabilizing Somalia, although the support from them is not commensurate with the task at hand.”
The high-level summit was held months after President Museveni in September 2017 offered to send an additional 5,000 troops as long as funding and logistical support were guaranteed.
The United Nations Security Council instead voted to have foreign troops in Somalia draw down their forces in calculations to hand the Horn of Africa’s country’s security management to its national forces.
That Somali army, Uganda’s Chief of Defense Forces said during last week’s interview, has no capacity as of now to even hold areas already captured by Amisom troops.
Asked if he meant that the UPDF is stuck in Somalia, Gen Muhoozi spoke of a “mismatch between what we want to do and what we have. That’s why we are talking about reviewing our operations.”
“Our ambition was bigger than the troops we had,” he said, “you find that you have moved forward but your rear is insecure; it is vulnerable because there are no holding forces which ideally should be coming from the Somali.”
He added: “As you take supplies because you are road-bound, you are predictable. The enemy’s weapon of choice is Improvised Explosive Devices that degrade your vehicles and manpower every day. So we are looking at all sorts of ways that can minimize attrition on those things that are avoidable.”
The CDF said Amisom troops would be safer and more effective at the frontline with air mobility and force multipliers such as attack helicopters as well as guaranteed funding and logistical supplies.
“…the mission is underfunded, expectations are high but not matched by the support to achieve those expectations especially the resources to do the job and do it quickly. It was exacerbated by the recent drawdown by the UN Security Council,” he said.
In the interview, the army chief also spoke about what he said was the growing threat from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a decimated Lord’s Resistance Army group that has turned into localised criminal enterprise in eastern DR Congo and the Central African Republic and UPDF’s massing of troops at the border to counter the menace of South Sudan’s military and rebels.
Concerns. Asked if he meant that the UPDF is stuck in Somalia, Gen Muhoozi spoke of a “mismatch between what we want to do and what we have. That’s why we are talking about reviewing our operations”. “Our ambition was bigger than the troops we had,” he said, “you find that you have moved forward but your rear is insecure; it is vulnerable because there are no holding forces which ideally should be coming from the Somalis.”