SOMALIA: UPDF Majors Dismissed For Cowardice Amid Al-Shabaab Threat

By Insight Post Uganda

Mogadishu, Somalia

An unusual incident has unfolded within the confines of Basecamp – UPDF Sector One Contingent Headquarters in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. 

It’s on these, currently flooding grounds, that the General Court Martial (GCM) at Basecamp has dealt a severe blow to two reputation of the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) with disgrace. 

Two high-ranking officers, RO/10855 Maj John Steven Oluka and RO/09572 Maj Zadock Abor, both seasoned veterans, have been dismissed from the army over charges of cowardice in action. They feared to battle against the Al-Shabaab extremists.

The court found both Majors guilty of the primary charge, Cowardice in Action, as outlined in section 120 (1) (2) (a) of the UPDF Act of 2005. The prosecution argued that on May 25th, 2023, while stationed at the Bulomarer Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Somalia, the Majors received intelligence briefings about an imminent attack by Al-Shabaab.

Shockingly, they failed to formulate a plan to deter the impending assault. So, when Al-Shabaab launched their attack the following day (on May 26th, 2023), Majors Oluka and Abor not only failed to inspire courage among their subordinates but abandoned their troops, retreating to the Golweyn FOB.

This act, labeled as “cowardice in action,” significantly tarnished the reputation of the UPDF, providing Al-Shabaab with an opportunity to raid and cause substantial losses in terms of both soldiers and equipment.

Maj Oluka faced an additional charge, Offences by Person in Command When in Action, in violation of section 128 (1) (b) of the UPDF Act of 2005. The prosecution argued that on May 27th, 2023, while commanding the rear protection force at Golweyn FOB during the search, rescue, and recapture mission of Bulomarer FOB, Maj Oluka’s actions led to the operation’s abrupt termination.

The chairman of the GCM, Brig Gen Freeman Mugabe, stressed the gravity of the Majors’ actions, stating, “Convicts’ act of running away from Al-Shabaab greatly impacted on the name of UPDF and gave Al-Shabaab opportunity to easily raid our forces. As a result of cowardice in action, a number of our soldiers and equipment were lost.”

The court, after careful consideration of both defense and state arguments, delivered its verdict. Maj John Steven Oluka was sentenced to dismissal from the defense forces, while Maj Zadock Abor faced the same fate. The chairman granted them a right of appeal within 14 days if they were unsatisfied with the court’s decision.

The severity of the punishment is highlighted by the UPDF Act of 2005, which stipulates that the conviction of cowardice in action or offenses by persons in command when in action could result in death or, in other circumstances, life imprisonment.

Other officers

In addition to the dismissal of the two Majors, several Non-Commissioned Officers also faced consequences. L/Cpl Alex Okot Anyatta received a sentence of 16 years, 7 months, and 20 days, while Cpl Hagai Twinemanzi faced 22 years, 9 months, and 24 days imprisonment.

Still, Sgt Ronald Obeyo was sentenced to 17 years, 6 months, and 19 days imprisonment, and Sgt William Kakooza, aged 55, received ten months and 18 days of detention for their failure to protect war materials, as per section 122 (1) (2) (g) of the UPDF Act 2005.

UPDF, a Formidable Force

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) stand as a formidable testament to military prowess in the African continent, earning their reputation as one of the strongest and most professional armies.

Their exemplary display of strength and strategic acumen was vividly demonstrated in their relentless campaign against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, effectively driving them out of Uganda and restoring a sense of security in Northern Uganda that has=d been lost for over two decades.

Moreover, the UPDF has been a steadfast guardian of peace in Somalia for several years, combating the notorious Al-Shabaab extremists. Their unwavering commitment and exceptional military capabilities have not only maintained stability in the region but have also garnered international respect.

Recently, in a joint operation Codenamed ‘Operation Shujaa’, the UPDF ventured into the challenging terrain of the Democratic Republic of Congo to confront the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels through Operation ShoJa.

This bold move indicates their dedication to eradicating threats and fostering stability beyond their national borders. However, the UPDF’s military campaigns are characterised by rare effectiveness, reflecting a level of operational excellence that has become their hallmark since their involvement in Somali peacekeeping missions.

However, salute to the UPDF’s brave men and women in uniform, whose unwavering commitment and courage have defined their success. “Your sacrifices and resilience not only secure Uganda but also echo across the landscapes where they serve, solidifying the UPDF’s reputation as a formidable force in Africa,” said a concerned Ugandan.


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