One of the commanders at the time of the attack by Al Shabaab on a UPDF base in Somalia last week has been arrested, President Museveni has revealed.
“There is one called (Major) Okia. He is the one who told the soldiers to run away. So he is under arrest,” Museveni said during the ongoing NRM Caucus retreat at Kyankwanzi.
Al Shabaab militants last week attacked a UPDF forward operating base in Buulo Mareer, approximately 120km southwest of Mogadishu in Lower Shabelle region.
The attack sparked heavy fighting between the UPDF and the militants who later overran the base killing several Ugandan soldiers and others were taken as prisoners of war.
Details of the attack have since remained scanty after the African Unions Transition Mission in Somalia(ATMIS) as well as the Ugandan army chose to remain tight-lipped about the details including the number of casualties.
However, President Museveni has in last one week tactfully provided details pertaining the attack.
In a statement released on Saturday night, the president said Ugandan soldiers at the base panicked.
He added that the forward operating base had enough equipment to have been used to subdue the attackers.
“Those defences are quite strong although they are guarded by light weapons. There were two tanks, two 14.5mm anti- air-craft guns and a 107mm Katyusha rocket launcher. Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganized them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment,” he said.
Speaking on Thursday, the president insisted that there were mistakes that cost the Ugandan army the base.
“The terrorists ran away and now we are getting more facts about what the mistake was. The mistake is really corruption but we shall get the details,” he said.
He said Maj Okia who is now under arrest had told soldiers to run away after the militants attacked.
The president said Maj Okia had previously worked in the army shop.
Earlier this week, Museveni accused some UPDF commanders of deploying their relatives and cooks in Somalia.
“..it seems at some stage, some of the people who organize put names of their bodyguards, personal assistants and cooks. They create some sort of adhoc instead of integral units. The investigation will go on and you will see. Somalia is a very dangerous place, if you go there without a plan, you end up in a bad situation for yourself, some of these people do not look at the mission but the money,” Museveni said.
“It seems one of the suspect factors in the incident could be corruption again by some of these new players in the army. In Somalia, the UN gives big allowances, someone told me that you can get Shs38m in a year when deployed there. Now some of these people ( we suspect) who are selecting people to go to Somalia are not doing the right thing as we were doing before.”
He said that previously, deployments were done by picking from combat units but that at some stage, all this was abandoned and the commanders started selecting who to deploy and that most of these are their relatives and people known to them.
Museveni said they did this on the basis that Al-Shabaab has been ‘quiet’ for some time.
“Sending welfare cases on a combat mission is the cause of this problem,” he added.
“This was not Al-Shabaab, it was out internal weaknesses which must be addressed. This business of not listening to the NRA, the mercenary attitude of selfishness, money etc. We are sorry about the death,” Museveni added.