Two UPDF majors have been charged in Somalia in regard to the May 2023 Al-Shabaab attack that left 54 soldiers dead.
Steven Oluka and Zadock Obor who are accused of ordering Uganda People’s Defence Forces – UPDF combatants to withdraw when Al-Shabaab raided their base, have been charged with offenses of cowardice.
The Court Martial chaired by Brig Gen Robert Freeman Mugabe and his team flew to Somalia at the weekend and heard that Oluka and Obor’s cowardice contravened UPDF Act’s sections 120 (1) (2) and 128 (1) (b).
The army leadership, including the Commander In Chief President Yoweri Museveni, have maintained that if Oluka and Obor had encouraged their subordinates to fight, Al-Shabaab wouldn’t have overrun the base to the extent of killing 54 soldiers, including the most senior commander Lt Col Edward Nyororo. Al-Shabaab issued a statement, including videos, claiming it had killed more than 120 UPDF soldiers.
“Maj Steven Oluka 47 years and Maj Zadock Obor on or around 25th to 27th of May 2023, while deployed as Officer Commanding companies in Bulomarer and Golweyne, did not encourage officers and militants under their command to fight courageously upon coming into contact with Al-Shabaab,” reads the statement issued by UPDF.
Oluka and Obor have also been charged with failure to protect war materials contrary to section 122 (1) (2) (h) of the UPDF Act, which involves four Non-non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Brig Mugabe explained that they had relocated to Mogadishu to access witnesses in the cases since most of them were in the mission area.
“Secondly, the General Court Martial has jurisdiction to try cases anywhere in and outside Uganda where UPDF is operating,” said Brig Gen Mugabe as quoted in a statement shared by Col Deo Akiiki the deputy Army Spokesperson.
UPDF has said that a Memorandum of Understanding and the Status of Forces Agreement with Somalia provide that each Troop Contributing Country has to try her own personnel while in the mission area.
Brig Mugabe will be in Somalia for two weeks hearing cases, and at the end of the sessions, those who will be found guilty will be given appropriate sentences, and those found not guilty acquitted. The Army said the judgments will depend on the circumstances under which the offenses were committed and evidence that will be brought to court.