|Ugandan fighters serving under Amisom on guard in the outskirts of Mogadishu. PHOTOS BY RISDEL KASASIRA|
In fact, Somalia was declared the most dangerous place in the world to live in by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in January after assuming office. Mr Ban was indeed right because attacks against Ugandan and Burundian forces intensified following the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in January 2009 and Amisom which had given priority to the security of key installations in the capital, namely at the airport, seaport, presidential palace and later the strategic Kilometre 4 (KM4) junction, increasingly became a target of extremist attacks.
Al Shabaab was controlling more than 70 per cent of Mogadishu and Amisom was in charge of only State House, Aden Adde International Airport, seaport and the strategic KM4 junction, which connects the above three key government installations.
Due to this restrictive mandate, Amisom forces could hardly advance towards al Shabaab positions. It was until after the mandate was changed to allow the Ugandans and Burundians carry out pre-emptive strikes that tense and fierce battles were fought and al Shabaab started losing ground to Amisom.
But Amisom beat back these attacks though suffered heavy casualties. Many Burundians were killed in Hoshi.
Pte. Jack Ojok was in Bondere at the time under Lt. Col. Mbusi Lukwago, who commanded one of the UPDF battalions in el-Hindi, talks about the night al Shabaab attacked them and they had to withdraw.
After this battle, the al Shabaab carried the dead Ugandans, dragged the bodies on the streets and published the pictures.
One group opposed the proposal to allow humanitarian aid get to the famine-stricken population while the other was all for it. This created a sharp divide and the groups started fighting each other.
The second phase began in June 2012 with “Operation Free Shabelle” commanded by Brig. Paul Lokech, which saw Amisom forces spreading out of Mogadishu and capturing Afgooye.
“We have fought in DR Congo, Northern Uganda and in Rwenzori against ADF. Therefore, this terrain is good for us,” he says. With this favourable terrain tilting in favour of UPDF, the al Shabaab have abandoned the frontline and have resumed ambushes, sniper attacks, roadside bombs and assassinations. “They have melted and dispersed into the civilian population. They are now using asymmetrical warfare. They are using improved explosive devises and ambushes,” Lt. Gen. Andrew Guti, the Amisom force commander, says.
Before the second phase started, Somalia was divided into four sectors with Uganda operating in Sector One, which includes Middle Shabelle and Banadir region.
Uganda Battle Group 11 under Col. Joseph Balikkudembe are 94km south of Mogadishu advancing to link up with the Kenyans who are still stationed in Kismayo while Battle Group Nine commanded by Col. Stefano Mugerwa is 120km north of the Somali capital.
Unlike in the past, at least 20 ships from Europe, Asia dock every week and goods are delivered to different parts of Mogadishu. International companies like Coca cola have reopened in Mogadishu in 20 years.
The security officer, Adden Ade international airport, Maj. Amos Mukiibi, says the number of passengers has increased from 1,000 to between 15,000 and 33,000 every month.