KAMPALA — Pressure is mounting on the Ugandan government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to explain the killing of civilians by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in Somalia this week.
At least seven Somali civilians were killed during a gunfight between its Ugandan peacekeepers and al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab fighters.
Reports indicate bloodshed occurred on Tuesday following an ambush, while UPDF soldiers were on patrol along the Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region.
The African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia said it had started investigating reports that UPDF killed civilians during a gunfight.
“AMISOM has since received reports that civilian lives were lost. To this end, AMISOM has launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident,” it said.
— AMISOM (@amisomsomalia) August 11, 2021
AnEyewitness on Thursday told Rauters that the peacekeepers had deliberately killed seven civilians in the incident including his brother Omar Hassan who owned a farm in the area, a driver and five other farmers.
“AMISOM deliberately went to the farm and killed them,” he said.
Human Rights Watch has since called for action on the Ugandan forces for the incident, and demanded that Kampala launch an impartial investigation into the crime — over which Amisom has remained quiet.
“The investigation should be carried out with maximum protection for witnesses, and the Ugandan government should fairly prosecute any of its soldiers responsible for these criminal offences,” a HRW told UG Standard by phone.
AMISOM has delivered significantly on its mandate to rid Mogadishu and other strategic towns in Somalia of Al Shabaab terrorists since it started operations in 2007, but the peacekeeping force now finds itself at the centre of yet another storm of controversy.
The Amisom forces deployed around Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region are Ugandan troops.
Al-Shabab remains active threat
Al-Shabab emerged as a violent extremist movement in Somalia between 2006 and 2008 and aims to overthrow the Somali government and impose strict Islamic law.
Since 2009 Somalia has been gripped by a civil war, sparked primarily by al-Shabab, leading to the joint efforts of AMISOM to stem the insurgency which remains in control of large parts of the country.
The extremist group, which is allied with al Qaeda, frequently carries out attacks both inside and outside Somalia.