In a harrowing ordeal, Ugandan soldiers managed to survive for six days while hiding from al-Shabab militants who had overrun their base in Bulo Marer, 110 kilometers south of Mogadishu, according to a spokesperson for the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF).
Brigadier General Felix Kulaigye revealed that the soldiers, including a lieutenant, resorted to hiding within and around the base until they were eventually found after the Ugandan contingent regained control of the area on Thursday.
During their hideout, the soldiers faced extreme conditions, surviving solely on urine.
General Kulaigye stated, “When we recovered, they were weak because they were only surviving on urine.”
Each soldier hid alone in separate locations, enduring hunger and physical discomfort.
The lieutenant suffered a severe leg wound and has received medical treatment, with hopes for a full recovery.
The rescue and survival of the soldiers come in the wake of President Yoweri Museveni’s disclosure that 54 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the al-Shabab attack on May 26.
Museveni expressed his grief on Twitter, stating, “We discovered the lifeless bodies of fifty-four fallen soldiers, including a Commander.”
To investigate the attack, Uganda dispatched a team led by land forces commander Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga to Somalia.
Museveni also highlighted that two commanders who ordered the soldiers to retreat have been apprehended and will face charges in the Court Martial.
Al-Shabab, the militant group responsible for the attack, recently released a video allegedly depicting the raid on the UPDF base. In the video, the leader of al-Shabab, Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, whose face remains obscured, bids farewell to the attackers.
The news of the soldiers’ survival and the loss of 54 Ugandan troops has left the nation heartbroken and shocked.
Simon Mulongo, a Ugandan diplomat and former deputy head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, now working as a security analyst, described the public’s reaction as one of shock and cruelty.
He stated, “They felt their deaths were cruel. Uganda had never suffered such a deadly attack.”
Mulongo acknowledged that the incident had sparked a debate regarding whether to withdraw troops from Somalia or continue the mission to achieve its objectives.
Brigadier General Kulaigye echoed the mixed sentiments within Uganda.
He said, “Some urge us to go on and make sure we revenge. Others felt the mission should get out because we are dying for other people, not for our country.”
Despite these varying opinions, Kulaigye affirmed that Uganda would not withdraw its troops unless directed by the African Union, emphasizing their commitment to pan-African duty and the pursuit of peace in Africa.
Mulongo emphasized that Uganda’s commitment to Somalia is driven by humanitarian reasons and the principles of pan-Africanism.
Although the two countries do not share a border, Uganda believes in the importance of a stable Somalia for economic, trade, and technological cooperation within the region.
Mulongo concluded, “We believe that stable Somalia is the only alternative we can have of a neighbor with whom we can bloc in terms of economics, in terms of trade, in terms of technological transfer.”
He further expressed the strategic significance of Somalia’s location in the eastern region and the potential benefits it holds for Uganda and Africa as a whole.