The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), General David Muhoozi has said the world was stunned by the speed at which UPDF deployed combat-ready soldiers in South Sudan in December 2013.
UPDF dispatched tanks and commando forces to secure South Sudan’s Capital, Juba after dissident Vice President Riek Machar declared war on President Salva Kiir’s government.
The commando battalion inside the presidential palace compound had been split along tribal lines with the Neur – Machar’s clansmen refusing to be disarmed by their Dinka counterparts.
The war spread to the army headquarters as militia groups wreaked havoc in the Capital city, leaving thousands dead.
Machar would later assemble thousands of troops known as ‘White Army’ before announcing on BBC radio plans to capture Juba in the next 12 hours.
At the time, armoured vehicles carrying Ugandan troops were crossing into South Sudan at a fast pace.
Museveni also rushed to Northern Uganda for the last inspection of military rehearsals by the special forces.
When Machar attempted to ‘march’ onto Juba, the advance was stopped by UPDF warplanes. The ambushes were also cleared by UPDF’s armoured vehicles.
Speaking on Friday as he welcomed back 529 UPDF troops who were part of the fifth United Nation Guard Unit (UNGU V) in Somalia and another 1,406 troops of Uganda’s 25th Battle Group to Somalia, Gen Muhoozi revealed details on the deployment in Juba.
“Some people thought that since we were engaged in other operations like in Somalia we would not be able to respond to the call of confidence our brothers in South Sudan made on us,” said Gen Muhoozi.
“Others expected us to respond in months but they were surprised that in one week our battle group was in Juba and we had changed the situation,” he added.
The UPDF quickly secured the presidential palace, army headquarters and vital state installations such as the airport and ministries.
Gen Muhoozi noted that the model performance of UPDF in its internal and external operations stems from its exceptional qualities that also distinguishes the force from other armies.
“You serve in an extra-ordinary force that is distinguishable from other armies by its character, discipline and capabilities,” he said.
The General stressed that no matter the situation, the UPDF troops have always maintained high morale, resilience and courage to overcome all odds even in moments when sceptics thought the force would not make it.
Meanwhile, Muhoozi said the African Union intervention in Somalia was a wise undertaking that has positively paid off.
“We are now counting successes in Somalia due to the selfless contribution made by you and your predecessors towards the betterment of the situation in the Horn of Africa,” said Muhoozi.
The General said despite challenges such as delayed payment of mission allowances due to circumstances beyond UPDF control, the troops have maintained their pan african spirit and remained focused on their duty.
The function was held at the UPDF Peace Support Operations and Training Center (PSO-TC) in Nakaseke District.
General Muhoozi commended the troops for raising the Ugandan flag high in the foreign missions from where they have just returned after serving for one year.
He said Africa is still faced with many challenges that Africans must strive to resolve as united people.
“It is in this spirit that we went to Somalia; extending a liberation struggle of Africa. A stable Somalia is a stable Africa,” he said.
The General noted that Somalia is not very far away from any African country and what affects the country affects in a way all African countries.
The Commander Land Forces, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, revealed to the troops a plan to deploy some of them to command and nurture the recently recruited local defence forces.
The troops received a month of post mission counseling and training in Somalia prior to their return home and another two weeks on arrival at PSO-TC.
The counselling and training were officially closed on Friday in the same ceremony to receive the troops. The CDF granted the troops 45 days to rest and recuperate.
The UPDF recently deployed its sixth UNGU to secure the UN Mission in Somalia and the twenty eighth battle group under the African Union mission in Somalia.
The first battlegroup was deployed in 2007 and UNGU in 2014.
Uganda’s UNGU deployment followed the need to secure the UN Mission in Somalia when it shifted its offices from Nairobi to Mogadishu.