The Ugandan army contingent in Somalia has expressed readiness to participate in ‘Operation Indian Ocean’ – an African Union Mission (AMISOM) campaign to further neutralize Al-Shabaab forces in the war-torn country.
The Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF) which occupies Sector One of the mission will join forces with Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Burundi to attack strongholds of Al-shabaab like Kurtunwaary and Sablaale. Sector One entails controlling and securing of the capital Mogadishu.
Uganda contingent spokesperson Major Deo Akiiki said the forces are ready to enter battle despite lacking key ‘force enablers’ like utility helicopters and aerial surveillance drones.
Uganda is expected to form the bulk of the forces that will liberate the Barawe Port, a famed hub of the Somali insurgents linked to terror group, al Qaeda.
Barawe port is believed to be the ‘life-line’ of Al-shabaab for its location. It has been a direct supply route for weapons and also a taxation point.
The operation, according to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, will begin in a ‘few days’.
Operation Indian Ocean has been in the pipeline works of AMISOM often postponed due to the lack of resources and sometimes funding.
It was expected to follow immediately after ‘Operation Eagle’ where the Ugandan forces defeated Al-shabaab in ten towns of Somalia.
Giving insight into the reasons for its delay, Major Akiiki says the army was working on securing the gains made from Al-shabaab.
However, he also didn’t rule out that the month of Ramadhan forced the army to halt its operation. Akiiki says Ramadhan was a sensitive time for the army to be carrying out operations because the larger Somali population is Muslim and as such, they halted them until the period ended.
Asked if there were any operational deficiencies that were suffered by the forces, Akiiki responded that the rainy season in Somalia had affected a substantial part of their offensive.
All of the troop contributing countries depend majorly on their infantry transporting vehicles to re-arm themselves during battle, however, the rainy season coupled with the bad road network to halt the AMISOM operations.
Akiiki refutes claims of misunderstandings within the troop contributing countries and says the head office will release a communiqué to clear the air surrounding the delays in the operation.
Al-shabaab forces have of late been launching pockets of attacks in Mogadishu claiming lives of up to six politicians.
AMISOM’s mandate is seven months away from its expiry and the force is expected to have fully wiped out the extremist Al-Shabab militants by March next year.