By Andrew Irumba
Mogadishu: The African Union has awarded service medals to Battle Group twenty-seven (BG XXVII) troops of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, in recognition of their contribution to execution of the AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) mandate.
The troops of Battle Group XXVII have completed one year and five months in the Horn of Africa country. The usually one-year tour of duty was extended by five more months, in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic that came along with international flight restrictions.
After take over from Battle Group XXIV in April 2019, the outgoing battle group had been conducting anti-insurgent operations against Al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle region that include areas of Arbiska, Albao, Baledogle, Afgooye, Lantabur, Seaport, State house, Parliament, Basecamp and Aljazeera 1,2 and 3.
The group will be replaced by Battle Group XXX (BG XXX), which will assume security responsibility of the same areas.
While presiding over the scientific function held under COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the AMISOM Deputy Force Commander in charge of Support and Logistics Maj Gen George Owinow said that UPDF has been the cornerstone of AMISOM operation.
He further appreciated the payment of taxes by the citizens of Uganda, which cater for uniforms, salaries and equipment of the military. “So, it means that every citizen of our troop contributing countries is contributing to the peace process in Somalia and it cannot be taken lightly,” He said.
Gen Owinow further commended the professionalism and focus which the UPDF has exhibited in Somalia, while alluding to the joint effort made with the Somali National Army (SNA) and partners in liberating key towns from Al-Shabaab control.
“Col Kutesa and your team, as you go back home, be proud of the contribution that you have made, be proud of the achievements and also the losses because the achievements cannot be made without losses,” said General Owinow at the medal awards and send off ceremony held at Sector One headquarter in Mogadishu.
The Deputy Sector One Commander Col John Winston Mugarura congratulated Battle Group XXVII on behalf of the Sector One and Uganda Contingent Commander, Brig Gen Richard Otto and the entire sector one, for the successful completion of their tour of duty.
“You have not left Somalia the same, your contribution to the peace process in this country has not only made a positive mark in the hearts and minds of the Somali people, but also impacted positively on the regional peace and security.”Col Mugarura told soldiers during the medal awards ceremony.
In the same vein, Col.Mugarura expressed gratitude for how fast Battle Group XXVII responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the mitigation measures put in place, and further revealed that there is no registered case in the rotating out Battle Group.
The Battle Group Commander Col.Sam Kosiya Kutesa thanked the entire AMISOM leadership and Sector One headquarter under the stewardships of His Excellency Ambassador Francisco Madeira and Brig Gen Richard Otto, respectively, for the relentless support and guidance that enabled the Battle Group to successfully complete their stint in Somalia.
“I congratulate and also thank BG XXVII troops for the job well done and for the successful completion of their tour of duty in Somalia. They have learnt from the Somalia experience. Therefore, I urge them to utilize and share the knowledge gained for individual growth and with others back home.” Col Kutesa said at the ceremony.
The BGXVII and former Contingent Armour Asset commander, who was also a medalist, Lt.Col.Fred Kakaire said he was very happy to see that his service in Somalia has finally been recognized, “I feel great having been recognized internationally by being awarded an African Union medal and certificate” he joyously said in a side interview with the AU/UN media team.
Present at the ceremony was the Deputy BG XXVII commander Col.Rogers E Okiror, Sector One Chief Administrative Officer Col.Elvis T Byamukama, senior and junior officers at the Sector headquarter, among others.