Memo from Mogadishu

Thursday September 30 2010

A Ugandan peacekeeper takes position in Somalia on Monday.

A Ugandan peacekeeper takes position in Somalia on Monday. PHOTO BY RISDEL KASASIRA 

By Risdel Kasasira

Daily Monitor Reporter Risdel Kasasira is embedded with Ugandan peacekeeping contingent with the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) where they are fending off attacks from terror outfit al Shabaab in defence of the Transitional Federal Government. He narrates.

On Monday and Tuesday, the peacekeepers kept engaging the militants in Mogadishu, with the insurgents losing more ground to the Ugandans. In the one week of fighting now, the al Shabaab militants have been pushed farther west.
El hind, Juba Hotel and the Coca Cola factory are the frontline-with heavy gunfire rocking the place. The AMISOM troops have mounted heavy weaponry on top of buildings facing Bakara Market, a stronghold of al Shabaab.
Maj. Anthony Lukwago Mbusi, the Ugandan commander of the detach that captured buildings formerly occupied by a Coco Cola factory, said al Shabaab were using the place to shell the Sea Port and Kilometre 4, which are under UPDF control.
“We captured this place because they were mounting mortars on top of this building to attack our positions and we will push them further,” he said.

Change in tactics
He said because of pressure, the al Shabaab had changed strategy: “On Sunday they started planting bombs in the buildings they lost to our forces but we are aware of their new strategy.”
With trenches dub by al Shabaab dotting the Juba Hotel compound, this is without mistake, a real frontline. “It was meant to prevent UPDF advancement to Bakara Market,” says Maj. Mbusi.
From the hotel, the Ugandan troops, lying behind sand bags, continue firing at al Shabaab positions. On the floor is dry blood—which one UPDF officer told Daily Monitor—was shed by Somali insurgents on September 24 during a heavy exchange.
On Monday, when I visited the frontline at El-hindi, below the parliamentary building, the AMSOM troops had a rare ally—the Suna Warijama group—a recent convert to the transitional government coalition.
The commander of the Hawl-wadaag sector, Maj. David Matua, who is based at the Somali parliament, said the al Shabaab snipers were using El-hindi to fire at the presidential palace.
“If we had enough troops, it would not take us weeks to flush them out of those positions because to render them useless, we must secure places under our control,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Burundian forces were flanking Bakara Market from the south and were yesterday metres to the market.

More troops
Col. Sylvere Mutsinda, whose forces were camped at the former Mogadishu Hospital, which is now dilapidated, said they occupied the place after Transitional Government Forces withdrew because of al Shabaab gunfire.
The AMISOM spokesperson, Maj. Ba-Hoku Barigye, said if they had 20,000 troops, they would take over Mogadishu within two days. “We cannot continue advancing if we don’t have enough troops because the first priority is our bases which must be fully guarded,” he said.
Currently, there are about 8,000 AMISOM troops drawn largely from Uganda and Burundi.

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