By John Ikani
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) says five Ugandan soldiers serving with the AMISOM have been found guilty of killing seven civilians, with two sentenced to death and the other three given 39-year prison terms each.
“After sitting from 2-12th November 2021 and reviewing all the facts including witness statements, the Court Martial on 12th November 2021, found the soldiers guilty of killing the civilians,” an AMISOM statement issued late Saturday said.
The convictions came months after Kampala instituted legal proceedings in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, after the allegations of civilian casualties in the town of Golweyn emerged in August this year. The soldiers will be repatriated to Uganda to serve their sentences.
“Our mission in Somalia is to degrade Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. In doing so, we absolutely have every responsibility to protect the civilian population,” said Brigadier General Don Nabasa, commander of the Ugandan contingent.
AMISOM has some 20,000 soldiers in Somalia deployed to fight an insurgency waged by Al-Shabaab jihadists. Although the Al-Qaeda linked militants were ousted from Mogadishu a decade ago, they continue to stage deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere.
One too many
This is not the first time Ugandan soldiers in Somalia have been implicated in illegal activities. Human rights groups have alleged cases of sexual misconduct and civilian killings, but when investigations have been conducted by AMISOM, the soldiers are routinely exonerated.
In 2013, Uganda recalled 24 officers — among them the contingent commander Brigadier Michael Ondoga — for allegedly selling food rations meant for soldiers. Ondoga was exonerated by a military court in 2015.
In 2016, nine Ugandan soldiers were found guilty of illegally selling fuel meant for AMISOM to civilians — the first time such a case was tried in Somalia since the AU mission deployed in 2007.
Kenyan officers have also been accused or profiting from the illegal trade in charcoal in southern Somalia.