The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, has cautioned Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers who are set to be deployed to Somalia to be vigilant during the festive season since that is when al-Shabaab intensifies attacks against African Union troops in the country.
Gen Muhoozi gave the caution to 2,414 soldiers on Friday at Peace Support Operation and Training Centre, Singo. They are going to be deployed in Somalia this month under Battle Group 29.
“You are deploying around the festive season. Do not go in a festive mood because the threats of attack are highest in this period. Therefore, do not get surprised when you are welcomed with fire. If welcomed with fire, you must also respond with significant fire,” Gen Muhoozi said.
According to a statement issued by the army, Gen Muhoozi told the battle group under the command of Col Edward Kaddu that al-Shabaab has an intelligence network that closely monitors UPDF combat readiness and can strike unannounced.
The al-Shabaab has always targeted African Union troops during the festive season in December. In 2014, they attacked a UPDF officers’ mess and killed four soldiers.
After the attack, the then al-Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters that it was planned and carried out while people celebrated Christmas.
The army boss told the troops to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that they can remain effective and relevant.
“The army wants you alive for your own good, for your family and for your country. It is your responsibility to keep healthy,” he said.
The Commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, told the soldiers to observe maximum discipline and warned of “punitive measures on any soldier that will fall short of the set disciplinary standards”.
The commandant of Singo Training School, Col Bonny Wolimbwa, said the battle group underwent six months of pre-mission training.