What you need to know:
- Details of how the militants overran the base, killed dozens of soldiers and captured others as prisoners of war, remain sketchy a week later.
- On Saturday, President Museveni, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, said Uganda lost 54 soldiers after two commanders at the rank of Major for yet unknown reasons ordered the troops to withdraw rather than fight back.
In Lugbara dialect, Nyororo means “chain”.
It may refer to that which links drive wheels or separate units to propel forward movement of bicycles or motorbikes, and also that which is used to tie items together.
To many in and outside the military, this was the power that Edward Nyororo, a lieutenant colonel in the UPDF, commanded on them.
Nyororo, 46, brimmed with energy and dreams; he planned to retire from the army in August and build his ailing mother, Esther Tokoru, a permanent house connected with piped water.
But all those aspirations went up in flames when an estimated 800 Al-Shabaab fighters on May 26 fanned out to assault Buulo Mareer, a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Forward Operating Base (FOB) where Nyororo was the most senior commander.
Details of how the militants overran the base, killed dozens of soldiers and captured others as prisoners of war, remain sketchy a week later.
On Saturday, President Museveni, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, said Uganda lost 54 soldiers after two commanders at the rank of Major for yet unknown reasons ordered the troops to withdraw rather than fight back.
This is the worst battlefield loss for the Ugandan contingent to the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) since it was first deployed to the Horn of Africa country in 2007 as the African Union Peace-Keeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Official communication is scarce, and specifics scant. For instance, Ms Tokoru said she had never officially been notified of her son’s death in Somalia despite him having held a high rank in UPDF, his employer.
“We are just hearing it from his friends that my son is dead. Others have been calling us from Somalia, but no one has called us officially from the Ministry of Defence and UPDF that my son is dead. It is now a week, we want to prepare for his burial,” she said.
In Okuzoku hamlet of Jiako Ward, just outside Arua City, mourners trickled in to condole with the family and establish clarity on the burial programme.
“We have told people not to stay here for long because it would be costly for us since we don’t have the schedule for when the body will arrive. But we have allowed some relatives to keep consoling our mother because she is now weak,” Mr Charles Anguzu, a cousin to the fallen officer, said.
A committee put in place to handle the burial has remained inactive due to a lack of information about the circumstance of Nyororo’s demise.
One account gleaned from other soldiers deployed in Somalia is that when Al-Shabaab closed in on him, after his subordinate officers ordered troops to withdraw, Lt Col Nyororo shot himself dead instead of having the militants capture him.
They reportedly took more than a dozen soldiers as prisoners of war, according to multiple sources.
The reported circumstance of Nyororo’s death, and confirmation by Gen Museveni of apparent frontline cowardice and betrayal, have added additional sentiment of sorrow to relatives agonised by preventable loss of lives.
Two UPDF officers, Oluka and Obbo, both at the rank of Major, have been arrested pending court martial trial.
In Arua and the entire West Nile, tribute continued to pour in for Nyororo eulogised by the mother as “brave, astute, resilient and humble child”.
He had manifested the tenacity early as a child growing up in Jiako where he was born to Ms Tokoru and Amos Wadia, now deceased, in 1977.
“My son accepted to fight in Somalia because he was a peace-loving man who wanted people to live in peace. He was brave and would listen to his bosses,” the mother said, “When he accepted the call up [to Somalia], he came home in February where we organised prayers for him and asked God to protect him.”
Those who knew him praised his fearless command and clearance of the Gulu-Atiak-Nzaipi route connecting to Adjumani onwards to Moyo during the heydays of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) incursions and ambushes on West Nile-bound traffic.
He had joined the military as a child soldier in 1986, the year Museveni captured state power and worked his way up the ranks through dedication, hard work and a prayerful life.
Nyororo also fought against fighters of the Alice Lakwena-led Holy Spirit Movement that made lightning war gains and intruded in Busoga, posing a momentary threat to a settling NRA/M government.
“Death is a fact of life, all we need is his body so that we can bury him beside his father and other siblings who went ahead of him because it haunts us that we have not been informed. Somalia is a dangerous place for an army man to fight in,” Nyororo’s 75-year-old mother said amid blank stares.
Despite constant movements due to military deployments, his cousin Anguzu said the fallen Lieutenant Colonel kept in touch and remained a “humble” family man, taking care of his two wives, six biological children and 20 off-springs of his deceased siblings.
In his death, a chain that powered life for his dependents and juniors has snapped, leaving them to fate.
Who was Nyororo?
• Lt Col Edward Nyororo was born in 1977 to Ms Esteri Tokoru and his deceased father Amos Wadia in Okuzoku Cell, Jiako Ward in Arua City’s East Ayivu constituency.
• He was a third born in a family of 14.
• Took early classes at Jiako Church of Uganda Primary School, but the highest level of education he attained is unclear.
• Nyororo was drafted into the army as a child soldier in 1986 and rose through the ranks to a Lieutenant Colonel after fighting against the Lord’s Resistance Army and Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement rebels.
• He died in the al-Shabaab raid on a UPDF base in Somalia on May 26, and he is survived by two widows, six biological children and 20 dependents.