Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) who survived the May 26 al-Shabaab onslaught on their base in Somalia have told Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba that the recent attack which left 54 soldiers killed resulted from mistaking them for farmers in their gardens.
Al-Shabaab overrun UPDF base at Buulo-Mareer on May 26, 2023 at around 5:30am. The attacked base lies along River Shabelle in the Lower Shabelle region which is over 120km from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
Lower Shabelle region is drought-prone but also an agricultural hub in Somalia. Farmers rely on water from River Shabelle to irrigate their crops using donkeys and tractors mostly in wee hours of the night.
Thus, UPDF soldiers have explained to Gen Muhoozi who traveled there at the weekend that even on May 26, they delayed reacting thinking they were farmers in their gardens drawing water to irrigate their crops.
“Farmers irrigate their crops using tractors and donkeys throughout the night. This phenomenon led the troops delay to react thinking the lights in gardens were from farmers,” a statement shared by Col Deo Akiiki the Deputy UPDF spokesperson reads in part.
Reports indicate that prior to the attack, farmers have been working closer to the UPDF base in the night hours to irrigate crops.
As Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye earlier told this publication that they had prior intelligence about Al-Shabaab attack, the surviving soldiers in Somalia have re-echoed that intelligence was available but they were confused by the farmers’ activities.
Gen Muhoozi has since told Ugandan soldiers in Somalia that Army leadership has identified tactical and external weaknesses that were explored by Al-Shabaab to successfully overran Buulo-Mareer camp.
The statement indicates that Gen Muhoozi has cautioned troops not to relax because of the forthcoming African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) draw-down but to instead be more aggressive.
“Withdrawal operations if not well planned can cause a lot of damage than any other phase of the operation. Never hesitate to make decisions. Hesitation is very dangerous. Failure to decide in time automatically leads to death,” Gen Muhoozi said.
Al-Shabaab claims that it killed 137 Ugandan soldiers. However, President Yoweri Museveni, has confirmed 54 deaths in Somalia raid. To prove their numbers, Al-Shabaab has since released a video clip showing bodies of killed soldiers.
A number of questions have been raised ever since Al-Shabaab killed Ugandan soldiers. One of the questions is why Ugandan troops relaxed despite the fact that Al-Shabaab had successfully attacked Kenyan based and killed nine soldiers while the attack on Burundian forces left 60 soldiers dead.
Brig Gen Kulayigye earlier told this publication that all the people who could have answered the question of why they did not prepare the troop for Al-Shabaab attack even when intelligence revealed so, died in the attack.
Uganda lost the camp’s highest commander Lt Col Edward Nyororo who Al-Shabaab claim they shot to dead while other theories say he shot himself dead after being encircled by the enemy’s forces.
President Museveni has since ordered for court-martialing of two Majors Oluka and Obbo who allegedly directed the troops to withdraw something that gave Al-Shabaab an advantage to overrun the base.
Asked on why would Majors Oluka and Obbo be charged yet information shows they ordered the troops to with after sensing that they could not match the Al-Shabaab troops, Brig Kulayigye said they were not the most senior commanders to give such an order.