Published On: Wed, Sep 21st, 2016

UPDF Officers Disagree Over Somalia Rape Claim

Kampala — Two senior officers of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) have disagreed on claims that some of its soldiers under the African Union peacekeeping operations in Somalia raped or sexually exploited Somali girls and women.

Col Godard Busingye, the Deputy Chief of Legal Services in the Ministry of Defence, yesterday said some soldiers were arrested and charged in the military court for the alleged sexual offences.

In stark contrast at the same workshop, the commander of the 4th Division in Gulu, Brig Muhanga Kayanja, maintained the army’s previous position that the Human Rights Watch accusation of sexual abuses and exploitation of Somali women against the UPDF peacekeepers were baseless.

Brig Kayanja insisted that no Somali woman had come up to officially report a complaint against the Ugandan troops for having sexually abused them.

Col Busingye, who was speaking at a two-day sensitisation and training workshop on documentation and investigation of sexual violence cases in conflict areas especially the Great Lakes region, further explained that before the Human Rights Watch report 2014 was released, the UPDF had already started investigating its own soldiers for the alleged sexual offences.

“About the report of the Human Rights Watch, it came after we had initiated investigations into sexual harassment of Somali women by our soldiers. I remember one case was before the General Court Martial and others were handled by lower military courts…” Col Busingye said yesterday.

“We also need to admit that there are challenges of getting these cases of sexual violence in Somalia given their Sharia law that makes the women fear to report such incidents for fear of being stoned to death…” Col Busingye added.

When asked on the sidelines of the workshop whether the court martial had convicted some of the implicated soldiers, Col Busingye said the last information he received was that the accused were still on trial.

In 2014, the UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, described as “baseless” the report by the Nairobi-based Human Rights Watch that implicated Ugandan and Burundian troops in Mogadishu in rape and other sexual abuses against Somali women who sought food and medicine from the peacekeepers.

“On our part, we don’t condone acts of sexual harassment by our soldiers. But this is not true. If these acts were happening, we would have detected and arrested the culprits. Human Rights Watch is just being insensitive to the sacrifice our soldiers have made,” Lt Col Paddy Ankunda reacted to the HRW report findings upon its release in 2014.

Implicating report

The report in its recommendations also called upon Uganda and other troop-contributing countries in the African Union peace mission in Somalia and the donors to urgently address these sexual abuses and strengthen procedures inside Somalia to seek justice.

During the research, the HRW interviewed 21 Somali women and girls who revealed having been raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian troops.

The report, which did not cover areas in Somalia controlled by other troop-contributing countries like Kenya and Djibouti, also said that the African Union peacekeepers rely on Somali intermediaries, and used a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid, to coerce the vulnerable women and girls into sex.

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