Over 900 Somali soldiers pass out in Ibanda..

Halkaan ka akhri

OVER 900 Somali soldiers trained in Uganda were passed out yesterday at Bihanga Army Training School in Ibanda district.

The group will this week rejoin the Somalia Transitional Federal Government forces tasked with restoring peace in the country.

Somalia’s first deputy prime minister and minister of defense Abdul-Hakim Mohamed and Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda’s defence minister, officiated at the function.

Out of the 907 soldiers who were passed out, 21 were trained officers and 170 as non-commissioned officers. Only seven trainees were females.

The Somalis trained alongside 119 Ugandans.

The colourful ceremony was also attended by the UPDF commander of land forces, Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala, the European Union (EU) ambassador and head of delegation to Uganda, Vincent De Visscher and Kampla-based France, Burundi, Somalia, UK, Belgium, Italy and Netherlands envoys.

This was the third graduation ceremony for Somali soldiers trained in Uganda. The first group had 558 soldiers, while the second had 713, according to Katumba.

He said the trainees had been given tough military skills, including drills, tactics, weapons and health and character training.

“We have given you a strong force, which has gone through rigorous training. Please do not use them as your personal bodyguards,” he said.

Hakim, commended the Government of Uganda and EU for their efforts towards bringing peace to Somalia.

“We are proud of these Uganda-trained soldiers and we believe they will strengthen our force and fight the al-Shabaab,” he said.

Hakim, however, said they needed about three to five battalions to form a strong force for Somalia. The battalions, he added, should be trained outside Somalia.

Kiyonga reaffirmed Uganda’s commitment to bringing peace to Somalia, saying since Uganda got peace by the help of the former Tanzania president, Julius Nyerere, and the Tanzanian army, they would use the same approach to help Somalia.

Meanwhile, De Visscher, said 1,000 Somali soldiers would be trained in Uganda next year.

He commended President Yoweri Museveni and the governments of Uganda and Burundi, other leaders in the region and African Union (AU) force in Somalia for their political commitment towards restoring peace and stability in Somalia.

The EU, he said, committed 215 million euros for development assistance to Somalia for the period between 2008 and 2013 and that the stability for Somalia and Africa was their priority.

He thanked the Government for offering a place where Somali soldiers trained and said the EU would soon provide water and sanitation facilities to all areas surrounding Bihanga.

Museveni recently visited Mogadishu to inspect the Uganda peacekeepers of the African Union troops. Uganda has about 4,500 troops in Somalia.

During the visit, he appealed for more international support to bolster the AU force.

Two hard-line Islamist insurgent groups control part of Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia. The AU troops have so far prevented the rebels from toppling the weak government by defending key sites.

Source: New Vision


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