Mogadishu, Somalia | By Michael Wandati | Two Ugandan senior officers at the rank of major are currently facing charges in Somalia in connection with the al-Shabaab attack that occurred in May of this year, resulting in the deaths of 54 Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers.
Majors Steven Oluka and Zadock Obor are accused of ordering a withdrawal during the al-Shabaab assault, and they have been charged with cowardice. The court martial, chaired by Brig Gen Robert Freeman Mugabe and his team, traveled to Somalia to conduct the proceedings. It is alleged that Oluka and Obor’s actions violated sections 120 (1) (2) and 128 (1) (b) of the UPDF Act.
The leadership of the UPDF, including the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, President Yoweri Museveni, has asserted that if Oluka and Obor had encouraged their subordinates to continue fighting, al-Shabaab might not have been able to overrun the base and kill 54 soldiers, including the most senior commander, Lt Col Edward Nyororo.
The statement issued by UPDF reads, “Maj Steven Oluka, 47 years and Maj Zadock Obor on or around 25th to 27th of May 2023, while deployed as officer commanding companies in Bulomarer and Golweyne, did not encourage officers and militants under their command to fight courageously upon coming into contact with al-shabaab.”
It took more than two weeks for President Museveni to confirm the exact number of soldiers killed by al-Shabaab. However, al-Shabaab claimed in a statement, along with videos, that they had killed more than 120 UPDF soldiers.
In addition to the charges of cowardice, Oluka and Obor have also been charged with the failure to protect war materials, as per section 122 (1) (2) (h) of the UPDF Act, which involves four non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Brig Mugabe explained that they had relocated to Mogadishu to access witnesses in the cases since most of them were in the mission area.
Furthermore, Brig Gen Mugabe clarified that the general court martial has jurisdiction to try cases anywhere in and outside Uganda where UPDF is operating, and this includes Somalia.
“Secondly, the general court martial has jurisdiction to try cases anywhere in and outside Uganda where UPDF is operating,” said Brig Gen Mugabe as quoted in a statement shared by Col Deo Akiiki, the deputy army spokesperson.
UPDF has indicated that the memorandum of understanding and the status of forces agreement with Somalia stipulate that each troop-contributing country must try its own personnel while in the mission area.
Brig Mugabe is expected to be in Somalia for two weeks to hear the cases. At the end of the sessions, those found guilty will receive appropriate sentences, while those found not guilty will be acquitted. The judgments will depend on the circumstances in which the offenses were committed and the evidence presented in court.