Police statistics show criminal acts such as theft of gadgets is increasingly committed by children between the ages of 14 to 24. The excuse parents give whenever they go to pick children from detention is that they are overwhelmed with work. But Maj Christine Nyangoma, the commander of UPDF female unit in Somalia does not buy claims of having no time for children.
Never too busy for parenting
Nyangoma says there is no job that can make parents neglect children. Citing herself as an example, Nyangoma says parents need to draft a timetable for their work and family. She says much as she is in a sensitive country such as Somalia, she has never been too far from her family. “I speak to my family every day. If I can speak to my family when I am a thousand miles away, what of you who work in Kampala?” she says.
To her, the time excuse is just failure to balance work and family schedule or plain laziness. Nyangoma adds that parents should never go to bed without knowing whether the children have eaten, had a bath and are physically and psychologically healthy. You should be able to know whatever goes on in children’s life including studying their friends.
Parents should discuss situations at home with children. This, according to her, makes children feel they are part of the decision -making process.
“Sit with them. Discuss even when they deliberate over something small. Show that you treasure them. Groom their confidence. Give them tasks and ensure they are done. Guide them where they fail but do not criticise,” she explains.
Maj Nyangoma is a mother of one though she has several dependants. She says family heads should never practise discrimination.
In her family, she stresses that there is nothing like an uncle’s son or stepchild. She regards all members as equal, who share in happiness and sadness. She gives them equal punishments and equal credit.
Survival skills are key
She urges family heads to equip members with survival skills. This, she says, prepares members to take over responsibility.
“I am now living in Somalia, how would they (my family) survive if I had not given them survival skills? They are able to survive during my absence. Teach children, your spouse
or relatives to manage in your absence,” she adds.
On duty in Somalia
Maj Nyangoma is on her second tour of duty in Somalia. She was first deployed in Mogadishu as a logistician in 2010 and was withdrawn in 2012. She was redeployed on October 31, 2016 as in-charge of women affairs.
Asked how she feels working in a volatile country, Maj Nyangoma says she has been part of several operations and Somalia is no different.
She was among the UPDF battle groups under Operation Iron Fist that kicked out rebels of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Rwenzori sub-region. In addition, she was part of Operation Safe Haven that fought rebels of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda.
Since her operations in Rwenzori extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she says Mogadishu does not differ from the experience she got in the jungles of DRC. The only difference is that ADF and LRA operations were Uganda-led while in Mogadishu, it is UN and AU-led mission.
“When we were fighting against ADF and LRA, we were fighting to provide peace for our nationals. It was Ugandans fighting against errant Ugandans. In Somalia, we are on an international mission,” she explains.
Nyangoma, who was at the rank of Captain in 2010, says the current situation in Somalia is far better than it was then. Then, landing at Aden Abdulle airport was like running in the bush because of the bullets directed at planes and passengers.
According to Nyangoma, female soldiers in Mogadishu are mainly deployed at check points. In addition, female soldiers are employes as logisticians and providers of first aid.
When she got the message in 2010 that she was among those selected for a peace mission in Somalia, Nyangoma was excited because she knew she was going to be part of history that would be written about soldiers who brought peace in Somalia. The soldier says death is the last thing she thinks about.
“I did not have any fear because I know death is everywhere. Civilians are dying. Somalis are dying of illness not bullets. You should never have a negative attitude when going for any mission. Be positive, think positive and act positively,” she notes.
The commander explains that she is always motivated by the peace Ugandans are enjoying and relative stability in Somalia. Nyangoma, who joined the forces at a tender age, says she walks with her head high when she sees a girl standing next to a soldier and no harm is done on her which was not the case in 1970s. “When I see where we have come from, I see that there is something we have achieved. In my youth, when a girl saw a uniformed officer, it was enough to make her think about a grave. But now a girl can chat with an army officer,” she says.
The officer was born on January 1, 1967, in Fort Portal, Kabarole District. She went to Kazingo Primary School and Mpanga Secondary School in Fort Portal from where she then joined National Resistance Army (NRA) in the bush war.
Although Maj Nyangoma does not divulge how old she was at the time she joined the NRA rebels, she says she could hold a gun, walk and was determined to liberate the country at whatever cost.
She has studied both local and international military, political and command courses, which she says have helped her do her work well and also to get promotions.
Women in the force
As a commander for a female unit, Maj Nyangoma says soldiers are like any other people. They get angry when provoked, laugh when there is a reason to, and cry if there is a bigger problem or purposely to relieve anger. She says they get angry and express problems just like any female civilian would.
Her role is to understand their situation, offer counselling, guidance and provide the necessary help provided it is within her power.
“As the in-charge of women affairs, I follow up cases or claims of sexual harassment. I need to know their needs and challenges. They cannot share them with men,” she adds.
The youngest officer in Maj Nyangoma’s unit is aged 28. She explains that she handles young officers’ problems differently from those who are close to her age.
Her daily message is that they went to provide peace in Somalia and all the energy should be focused on that.