Military reports astonishing feat: Ugandan soldiers endure six days evading Al-Shabab without detection!
On Wednesday June 7, 2023, in a shocking turn of events, it has emerged that Ugandan soldiers played a dangerous game of hide-and-seek for six whole days after al-Shabab militants overran their base. This was conveyed by a spokesperson for the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF) who spoke to VOA Somali in an interview. Brigadier General Felix Kulaigye divulged that out of a group of four soldiers, including a lieutenant, they were able to survive only by hiding within and around the base in the town of Bulo Marer, which is situated 110 kilometers south of Mogadishu. After this long spell of hiding, the soldiers were eventually found by the Ugandan contingent after they thankfully retook the base on Thursday.
Kulaigye further related that when the soldiers were discovered, they were weakened by their extended period of concealment, as they had only been able to survive on urine. Each soldier was hiding alone, at different locations across the base. “They were weak out of hunger,” he shared with sadness. “The lieutenant had been wounded, his leg was in bad shape and they have been treated in hospital, but they are promising to recover very well.”
In a recent development and in a stunning disclosure, President Yoweri Museveni revealed that 54 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the May 26 attack. Museveni publicized this information in a tweet when he wrote, “We discovered the lifeless bodies of fifty-four fallen soldiers, including a Commander”. Consequently, a team led by land forces commander Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga was sent from Uganda to Somalia to investigate the attack.
While this tragic news has been heart-breaking for the Ugandan people, it has also engendered much debate on whether or not troops should be withdrawn from Somalia or kept to allow the mission to “pursue its objectives to its logical conclusion”. Simon Mulongo, a Ugandan diplomat and former deputy head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, who is now a security analyst, remarked that Ugandans were shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the attack and the overrunning of the base by militants. “They felt their deaths were cruel,” he ruefully shared with VOA Somali.
Mulongo went on to say that the attack sparked discussions on how to proceed forward, whether to pull out troops or stay the course in Somalia. “It’s a kind of mixed reaction, but in both cases, it’s with pain,” he emphasized. Meanwhile, Kulaigye explained that some Ugandans are urging them to continue with the mission and to make sure they take revenge. However, others are of the view that Uganda should withdraw its troops from Somalia, as they feel that they are dying for other countries, not for their own. The UPDF spokesperson responded to these comments by stating that Uganda will not withdraw its troops from Somalia unless the Africa Union requests that they do so. “These casualties do not discourage our pan-African duty,” he declared emphatically. “We do not take these attacks lightly; when you attack us, we bring the war to you as well.”
Mulongo pointed out that Uganda does not share a border with Somalia, but their commitment to the cause remains “total”. “We are there purely on humanitarian grounds, and are the best in terms of pan Africanism as a driving philosophy,” he added. “We believe that a stable Somalia is the only alternative we have as a neighbor, with whom we can bloc in terms of economics, in terms of trade, in terms of technological transfer, and to benefit from them since they occupy a strategic position in the eastern region.”