Soldiers take a group photo with Uganda's Deputy Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha (UPDF picture)
MOGADISHU - Uganda Battle Group XXIII (UGBG XXIII) has been awarded medals and certificates for their distinguished contribution towards peace in war-torn Somalia.
The awarding ceremony followed UGBG XXIII's end of one year tour of duty in Somalia that started on January 1, 2018, under the command of Col. Eliazari Zake Okolong.
The awards were given out at a colorful ceremony organised at the Uganda Contingent Headquarters in Mogadishu-Somalia, a statement from the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) deputy spokesperson, Lt. Col. Deo Akiiki, said.
The Chief Guest, Uganda's Deputy Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha congratulated UGBG XXIII for a job well done in degrading Al-Shabaab, maintaining peace and stability through securing Main Supply Routes, Protection of civilians and neutralizing Al-Shabaab amidst numerous challenges.
Mugisha thanked UGBG XXIII for the resilience and determination exhibited in the mission.
"You have maintained the good image of UPDF by giving a "bloody nose" to Al-Shabaab when it attacked your defence in Bulomareer," noted Mugisha.
He also urged the incoming UGBG XXVI that is to relieve UGBG XXIII to work harder, maintain resilience and vigilance just like their colleagues in UGBG XXIII.
A Burundian soldier decorates Lt. MG Alum during the ceremony (UPDF picture)
Mugisha extended his utmost appreciation to the UPDF, United Nation Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) leaderships for the logistics which have enabled the troops to execute their tasks professionally and diligently.
Maj. Gen. Maurice Gateretse, the Deputy Force Commander in charge of Support and Logistics, who represented the AMISOM Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Jim Oweyesigyire, thanked UGBG XXIII troops for exhibiting high level expertise and good discipline during their one year stay in Somalia.
"AMISOM is showing appreciation to the gallant UPDF soldiers for all the success registered during the mission. I appreciate those gallant comrades that have paid the ultimate price to see our brothers and sisters in Somalia enjoy peace and stability," said Gateretse.
Brig. Paul Lokech, the outgoing Uganda Contingent Commander, thanked the UGBG XXIII commander (Okolong), officers and men for their resilience, determination and the courage they exhibited on April 1, 2018, in Bulomareer and for the period spent in the mission area.
Lokech noted that; "at first, people doubted us when we came to Somalia, today its eleven years down the road supporting AMISOM."
Uganda's Deputy Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha decorates Col. Okolong, the UGBG XXIII commander. (UPDF Picture)
He pointed out that due to Uganda's commitment and Pan African Spirit, UPDF is determined to ensure that Somalia regains its sovereignty.
As UGBG XXIII rotates out, Lokech urged the soldiers to maintain maximum discipline in their upcoming assignments as one of the core values of UPDF.
The commander UGBG XXIII (Okolong) thanked the entire UPDF leadership for entrusting him with such a big appointment of a Battle Group Commander.
He also thanked the Uganda Contingent Commander (Lokech) for his tireless efforts towards UGBG XXIII's success in the mission area.
"I thank all partners for the support rendered to UGBG XXIII in the execution of its mission. I also urge the incoming Battle Group to be ready for war because this is not peace keeping as many might think but a combat mission," said Okolong.
Present at the medal and certificate awarding ceremony were the Uganda Defence Attache to Somalia, Brig. Lucky Kidega, guests from partners (Bancroft Global Development, UN) and senior UPDF officers in Somalia.