“If he returns and identifies you, he will shoot you but do not complain, we will do our part but don’t get tempted to provoke these soldiers."
KAMPALA- Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has warned the public against provoking soldiers who are away on war missions by attempting to sleep with their wives and wooing them to share their hard-earned money.
“Why do you provoke this soldier who leaves his wife in a house and while he is away you go to sleep with his wife and lure her to share the money he sends while in the warzone and use it to buy luxuries like mobile phones,” said Col. Ba-Hoku Barigye, the deputy chief political commissar of UPDF.
“If he returns and identifies you, he will shoot you, but do not complain, we will do our part but don’t get tempted to provoke these soldiers,” he said.
Barigye was on Thursday speaking at a one-day symposium on Uganda’s role in stabilising Somalia, which was organised by the Makerere University School in conjunction with the Human Rights and Peace Centre.
A student from Somalia talks to Col. Ba-Hoku Barigye at the Makerere University School of Law after attending a one-day symposium on peace in Somalia
Answering concerns from participants about the psychological and mental welfare of UPDF soldiers who go to fight in the war-torn Somalia, Col. Barigye stated that it is true there were incidents of soldiers returning from the war zone when traumatised and needed special attention.
He said with or without Somalia, the UPDF has been taking care of its injured soldiers at Mubende Casualty Unit.
He explained that there were also plans to construct a specialised facility where soldiers will be able to receive counselling before leaving for war missions and when they return.
“We are already doing this. We talk to our soldiers for a month, before and after, specifically those with mental issues so that we deal with cases of trauma as a result of being exposed to the battle field,” he explained.
Operating under the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the UPDF has registered success in Somalia, according to Col. Paddy Ankunda, the director Strategic Communications of the UPDF.
Ankunda said AMISOM forces still need more support from it’s partners to enable the forces deal effectively with the current challenges.
He said the forces needed to acquire counter IEDs capability, secure attack helicopters and protective gear to detonate the explosives planted by the Al-Shabab militants before they kill anyone.
He said there was no doubt that UPDF will exit Somalia at some point, but added that it should be a smooth handover.
The symposium with a theme, “Saving Somalia? UPDF Intervention, Pan-Africanism and the cost for Uganda”, attracted students from the Law School, academicians, individuals including Somali nationals living in Uganda.
Yusuf Sserunkuma Kajura, a PhD Fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) presented a paper titled, “In the spirit of Pan-Africanism, what is Somalia after Al-Shabaab and without AMISOM”.
During his contribution, David Pulkol, the executive director of the Africal Leadership Institution, wondered whether Uganda was satisfied with the current situation in Somalia, saying 11 years since the UPDF set foot in the country, there was still little accomplishment.
Pulkol also wondered why majority of African states had left a few countries to take on the burden and ignored the spirit of Pan Africanism ideology.
“Why has Uganda failed to market the ideology of Pan-Africanism to the rest of the African states,” he inquired.
He, however, commended the UPDF for its role in ensuring regional stability, but criticised it for its recent role in claims of torture of Members of Parliament during a by-election in Arua Municipality and in parliament, saying the actions had downgraded its achievements elsewhere.
“When we consider what the Special Forces Command did when they beat up legislators inside Parliament and in Arua, we wonder whether they are part of UPDF because they are spoiling the image of the entire force,” he said, adding that those involved should be brought to book.
Several other contributors suggested a peaceful approach to end insurgency and conflict in Somalia, in addition to the military approach. They raised concerns on how long it was going to take for UPDF to continue losing soldiers in the war, with a scheduled plan to pullout.