The Ugandan contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia – Amisom has overrun Baidoa, the last bastion of Al-shabaab militias in Somalia.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces – UPDF contingent who are backed by Somali government troops entered the militia base on Tuesday without meeting resistance. Brigadier Michael Ondoga, the Ugandan Contingent Commander says the capture of Baidoa is significant because it will allow free movement of goods and people to the capital Mogadishu.
Ondoga says the fall of Baidoa also opens up the key supply route for humanitarian organizations to reach to the people who are in need of relief aid. He says the UPDF and other coalition forces will now operate with ease along the 241km stretch from Mogadishu westwards to Baidoa.
Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, the overall Amisom Force Commander, says the fall of Baidoa reiterates the African Union’s commitment to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia in its efforts to provide security to the population.
Major Henry Obbo, the Spokesperson of the Ugandan Contingent, says the fall of Baidoa is essential for the rapid deployment of ground troops. He says in the past the UPDF had been linking up with the Burundian contingent in Baidoa only through the air.
This comes just over a month after the UPDF also captured the headquarters of Alshabaab militias at Buur-hakba in late February. The town is located 64 kilometers southeast of Baidoa and had reportedly been the headquarters of Alshabaab since they were dislodged from the Capital Mogadishu and Kismayu.
Earlier in February, the Ugandan contingent captured a string of towns from the al Qaeda-linked militias further weakening the fighters. The towns included Jawar airfield in the middle Shabelle region, 100 kilometres north east of Mogadishu.
The capture of Jawar Airfield came days after allied forces pushed Al Shabaab militias out of three towns in Lower Shabelle region, including Barrire, Aw dheegle, and Janaale that are situated along river Shabelle.
Uganda provides the bulk of the 17,600 strong Amisom force deployed to stabilize Somalia, a country that has been without a functioning government since the fall of General Siad Barre in 1991. The other countries with troops in the war-torn horn of Africa nation include Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi and Sierra Leone.
The UN Security Council resolution mandates Amisom to conduct peace enforcement operations against hostile forces, using necessary appropriate force.