The African Union (AU) has awarded service medals to a contingent of troops from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), in recognition of their role in furthering the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
The troops from UPDF Battle Group XXVII (UGABAG XXII) will soon rotate out of the mission having served for more than one year, due to disruptions brought about by the covid-19 pandemic.
Deployed in April 2019, the outgoing battle group has been conducting anti-insurgent operations against Al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle region that include areas of Arbiska, Albao, Baledogle, Afgooye, Lantabur, seaport, the parliament, the State House and the main AMISOM base camp.
The group will be replaced by Battle Group XXX (UGABAG XXX), which will assume security responsibility of the same areas.
“We are proud to preside over the medal ceremony to honour our heroes, brothers and sisters of the UPDF contingent of Battle Group 27 who have completed their tour of duty and therefore are being decorated today with the AU peace medal for their exemplary work that they have done,” said AMISOM Deputy AMISOM Force Commander in charge of Logistics and Support, Maj. Gen. George Owinow while presiding over the function.
Maj. Gen. Owinow lauded the battle group which was instrumental in the capture from the Al-Shabaab, the four bridge towns of Sabiid-Anole, Bariire, Awdheegle and Ceel Salini, for making a “solid contribution” not only to peace in Somalia but the entire region.
“The journey that we started to secure this country will go on to the end until this country is secured, because if Somalia is not stable and is not secured, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and the region is not stable,” Maj. Gen. Owinow.
He further noted that the UPDF has been the cornerstone of AMISOM operations, being the first country to deploy in the mission, owing to the lead role that Uganda has played in contributing to regional and continental peace and security.
On his part, the Deputy Commander of Ugandan troops in Somalia, Col. John Winston Mugarura praised Battle Group XXVII for their professionalism, discipline and commitment to the AMISOM mandate and fostering good relations with the local communities.
“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 regional peace and security,” Col. Mugarura said.
The Commander of Battle Group XXVII, Col. Sam Kosiya Kutesa said the troops who had stayed in Somalia for one year and five months, had shown a deep sense of commitment and sacrifice, while operating in tough conditions on the frontline.
He lauded their efforts in conducting a number of Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the local communities in their areas of responsibility and encouraging restoration of peace.
A number of UPDF soldiers who were decorated with the medal expressed joy for being recognized and for successfully completing their tour of duty.
“Given the efforts that I have put in, to achieve this medal, it is evident that I have really contributed to the peace process, stability and economic development within Somalia,” Lt. Col. Fred Kakaire said.
Captain Selina Awino said, “The award of this medal at the end of the mission makes me feel recognized and appreciated, that after being here for all this time, my efforts are being recognized and appreciated.”