President Yoweri Museveni has blamed the humiliating attack by al-Shabaab militants on a Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF) base in Somalia on the field commanders.
A UPDF base in Lower Shebeele region was overrun by al-Shabaab on Friday at about 0530hrs. The militants released a statement, saying they killed at least 137 soldiers and captured several others. They also released footage showing captured Ugandan soldiers.
Now, Museveni in a statement condoled with families that lost dear ones and warned the field commanders that they are not in Somalia to earn UN allowances but rather to fight.
It has been alleged before that due to the fat allowances under the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), some commanders ended up deploying relatives, who, in most cases aren't well trained or prepared for combat against the highly mobile and effecient militants.
Also, several UN reports revealed that Ugandan commanders and soldiers usually sell weapons to the very enemies they are meant to fight against.
Below is Museveni's full statement:
Ugandans and Bazzukulu.
Greetings. Things are moving well on a number of fronts. I have concluded a tour on wealth creation issues in the Masaka zone. Masaka zone is doing well with coffee, bananas, palm oil and the dairy industry.
However, in the night of Thursday, at the 11th hour of the night and ten minutes (what the Europeans call 5.30am of Friday), we had an unfortunate incident in Somalia where our force has operated successfully, ever since 2007. In the area of Bulo-Mareer, there was an FOB (Forward Operational Base) manned by a company of UPDF soldiers.
Those defences are quite strong although they are guarded by light weapons. There were two tanks, two 14.5mm anti- aircraft guns and a 107mm Katyusha rocket launcher. Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganized them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overrun the base and destroy some of the equipment.
The panic, it seems, was totally unnecessary because, in fact, both the anti-tank ditch and our soldiers had destroyed the 3 vehicles of explosives outside the FOB. The suicide bombers or whatever, were forced to blow themselves up before they gained entry into the base.
Moreover, our UAVs were watching the whole scenario from up in the sky and directing fire. The CDF has set up a Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the full facts will come out, including the details of the casualties.
Many of the soldiers withdrew to the next FOB, nine kilometres away. The terrorists were many, about 800 or so according to the UAVs.
Hence, it was a missed opportunity, to annihilate them. The operations are continuing, and they will regret their actions. Condolences to the country and the families of those who died.
This unfortunate incident should be used to remind all those concerned, that operations in Somalia and other theatres, are combat missions and not welfare missions where you can access UN allowances.
It is criminal for anybody involved, to send into such a theatre soldier who are either not suited for that mission or not properly prepared for it. Details will come out after the BOI has finished its work.
YOWERI K. MUSEVENI