In an exclusive interview at the Sector One Headquarters in Mogadishu, Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) Brigadier General Peter Gaetano Omola shared insights into the current situation in Somalia and the challenges faced by foreign troops.
Overview of the Security Situation in Somalia
Brig Gen Omola highlighted the significant progress made in Somalia since Uganda first deployed troops in 2007. With improved safety for locals, infrastructure development, and returning diaspora contributions, the nation has seen positive changes. The interview emphasized the reduction of Al-Shabaab’s threat and the expansion of controlled areas.
Challenges Faced by UPDF in Somalia
The interview shed light on the challenges, including floods affecting roads and settlements, saline environments causing equipment wear, and the persistent threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by Al-Shabaab. Coordination with NGOs to support the local population and the impact on mission cash allowances were also discussed.
Progress in Degrading Al-Shabaab
Brig Gen Omola shared the UPDF’s success in degrading Al-Shabaab’s threat, expanding their operational areas, and contributing to the establishment of a functioning government in Somalia. The interview highlighted the positive impact on the economy, with increased flight and seaport activities translating to enhanced revenue and regional security.
Status of ATMIS Transition and Challenges
The discussion moved to the transition of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Africa Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). Brig Gen Omola outlined the phased drawdown plan, successful handovers in sector one, and the challenges faced by the Somali government in meeting the established timeline.
Concerns About the Current Exit Timeline
Expressing concerns about the feasibility of the December 2024 exit timeline, Brig Gen Omola emphasized the need for a careful transition to prevent deterioration of the security situation. He suggested that the concept of drawdown might not align with the ground reality.
Advice on Exit Timing
Brig Gen Omola recommended a flexible approach to the exit timeline, acknowledging the importance of strategic leadership in guiding the mission’s conclusion. He emphasized ongoing preparations for handing over security responsibilities to Somali security forces.
Benefits for Uganda and Future Opportunities
The interview highlighted the potential benefits for Uganda, including regional peace, employment opportunities, and increased trade between the two countries. Brig Gen Omola encouraged Ugandan businesses to explore opportunities in Somalia.
Investigations and Compensation for Bulamarer Incident
Brig Gen Omola addressed the completion of investigations into the Bulamarer attack, with recommendations implemented. He assured ongoing efforts to compensate the families of the fallen and injured soldiers and discussed measures taken to prevent similar incidents.
Ensuring Maritime Security
Regarding maritime security, Brig Gen Omola assured that Somalia’s waters are now safe and free of piracy. He explained the roles of the marine component, international missions, and the training provided to the Somalia Navy to maintain security.
Supporting Somalia National Army and Unity in ATMIS
Brig Gen Omola praised the strength of the Somalia National Army and highlighted ongoing efforts to support their capacity-building. He emphasized collaboration among ATMIS forces, including troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Eritrea, and Djibouti, as well as uniform police units from various countries.
Soldier Preparation and Training
The interview concluded with insights into how troops are prepared for missions through training at the peace support training school and additional in-mission training, such as countering Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED).