Let MPs probe Somalia attacks, UPDF deaths

Uganda is mourning. UPDF lost soldiers in coordinated al-Shabaab attacks on three of its forward-operating bases in Somalia. To pay with the blood of our sons and daughters exhibits our nation’s highest sacrifice. We are profoundly proud of our uniformed men and women and those in intelligence services for risking their lives to keep us all safe.

Today, we honour the fallen troops. We salute Uganda’s abiding commitment to liberate beleaguered African countries. The Ugandan troops expelled al-Shabaab fighters from Mogadishu, enabling a return to normalcy.

The Somalis’ exiled government reverted home for the first time in two decades, the country held an election and business is booming in the capital. We, however, are not blind to the lapses. First, we must tell the truth to Ugandans and particularly immediate families, whenever calamity befalls our troops at home or on foreign soil.

Let’s take the Easter attack in Somalia, for instance, as a litmus to show our leaders’ indisposition and aversion to speaking the truth. Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesman, tweeted on Monday that “as we continue to mourn the death of our four gallant soldiers in AMISOM...” Nine hours later, at 8.21am yesterday, President Museveni tweeted that: ‘Unfortunately, two vehicles of the enemy entered one of the three sites attacked. One vehicle was detonated and killed eight of our soldiers.’ Gen Museveni is the Commander-in-Chief, whose information is presumed candid and complete.

The mismatch in these accounts raises lack of coordination, disjointed information flow and a failed attempt to mask the truth. It discredits official accounts and erodes citizens’ believability in their leaders. Loss of public trust is the least the UPDF wants to risk by shackling itself in the refrain that truth is the first casualty in war.

We ask legislators on Parliament’s Defence and Internal Affairs Committee to inquire into the circumstances of the Easter attack and previous ones to ascertain the true human cost of our Somalia mission. Ugandans deserve to know: Was the macabre attack a result of lack of credible intelligence? What is the welfare, morale and equipment for our frontline troops?

Are UPDF soldiers in Somalia stretched and unable to hold captured territory? If so, why establish new military positions? Why are UPDF bases in Somalia more vulnerable during mainly Christian festivities? Is there infiltration?

Let us all, and particularly the UPDF, honour the memory of fallen soldiers by telling the truth. Their families deserve prompt compensation.
A personal letter from the President to each family, detailing a fallen soldier’s contribution, would show his humaneness and care.