By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Mogadishu: The Chief of Staff of the Uganda People’s Defence Air Forces, Maj. Gen.Charles Okidi has concluded a working visit to Somalia to inspect the deployed aircraft ahead of the commencement of the operations.
Recently, Uganda deployed helicopters to provide operational support which include transportation, evacuation, quick insertion and extraction of troops. The aviation unit will also conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, search and rescue.
During the visit, Maj. Gen. Okidi inspected the key installations and the deployed air assets at the Halane Base Camp in Mogadishu and at Balidogle Military Airbase. He noted that once deployed, the helicopters would enhance mobility during operations, especially during the current rainy season that has affected the main supply routes.
Okidi also met the AMISOM Force Commander, Lt. Gen Diomede Ndegeya and Uganda’s Deputy Ambassador to Somalia, Maj Gen (Rtd) Nathan Mugisha. He also met with officials of the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS).
Okidi commended AMISOM’s efforts to stabilise Somalia despite challenges and stressed that a peaceful is essential for a secure Africa. He urged AMISOM troops to remain focused and consolidate the achievements attained.
Okidi led a delegation from the Uganda airforce that included the Director of Logistics, Col. Darlington Mugisha, and the Deputy Director of Operations, Maj. George Buga Andruga.
The development comes a few weeks after United States allegedly plans to withdraw its troops from Somalia something that caused anxiety among partners involved in the war against terror in the country, with appeals for Washington to reconsider its decision.
There were reports that President Donald Trump had asked his top security advisers to draw up a plan for the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia in order to fulfil a 2016 campaign promise to bring US soldiers home from places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Germany.
While the plan to withdraw from Somalia is not yet concrete, it could leave the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) less effective, given that the US troops have been providing essential aerial surveillance on Al Shabaab activities and helping in air bombardment using drones.
Somalia President Abdullahi Muhammed Farmajo tweeted that his government wants the US troops to stay. “The United States military support to Somalia has enabled us to effectively combat Al Shabab and secure the Horn of Africa. A victory through this journey and for Somali-US partnership can only be achieved through continuous security partnership and capacity building support,” he said tweeted.
The US maintains between 600 and 800 troops in Somalia that work closely with Amisom and the Somalia National Army (SNA) in combating Al Shabaab.
The US Africa Command (Africom) helped set up an elite Somali counterterrorism unit, the Danab Advanced Infantry Brigade, in which the US troops have been assisting in operations against Al-Shabaab.
The US forces have also been collaborating with Amisom, especially the Kenyan confinement, in the drone pre-emptive attacks against Al Shabaab leadership.