Uganda People’s Defence Forces [UPDF] has started the process of withdrawing troops from the Horn of Africa nation where it has been battling Al Shabaab insurgents for many years.
Brig Richard Karemire, the army spokesperson, told the state-run New Vision TV that UPDF with withdraw its first batch of soldiers from Somalia next week ahead of the December 31, deadline.
He said the withdrawal is in line with giving a chance to Somali national army to take charge of security and national affairs. The first batch will comprise of 281 soldiers.
Uganda had earlier withdrawn from Central African Republic where it had spent eight years hunting for Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] warlord Joseph Kony.
In August 2017, the United Nations Security Council today extended its authorization of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until 31 May 2018, approving a reduction of its uniformed personnel to a maximum 21,626 by 31 December 2017, with an eye towards the gradual handover over of responsibilities to Somali security forces.
A further reduction (from the current maximum of 22,126) to 20,626 uniformed personnel by 30 October 2018 would follow, unless the Council decides to accelerate that pace, taking into account the capabilities of Somali security forces.
Emphasizing that the long-term objective for Somalia, with international support, is for the Somali Security Forces to assume full responsibility for security, with AMISOM remaining critical during the transition, the Council welcomed the recommendation by the AU-UN review for a “gradual and phased” reduction and reorganization of the Mission.
Uganda has lost several soldiers during their decade-long peacekeeping mission.
The East African country was the first to deploy troops under AMISOM into Somalia in March 2007.
So far, Uganda has provided all four AMISOM Force Commanders with the recent outgoing being w Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti was replaced by Lt. Gen. Silas Ntigurirwa from Burundi.
The Ugandan contingent remains the largest contingent in AMISOM with 6,223 troops based in Sector 1 which comprises of Banadir (Mogadishu), Middle and Lower Shabelle regions.
They are led by Sector Commander, Brig. Dick Olum, who replaced Brig. Michael Ondoga. The current Deputy Force Commander Operations and Planning Major General Geoffrey Baraba Muheesi hails from Uganda.
Until now, Uganda has deployed 12 battle groups into the Mission area. The recently deployed Battle Group 12 joined their Burundian counterparts in Baidoa.