Over 400 troops from the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UPDF) are ready fordeployment in troubled Somalia to provide protection for U.N. personnel."Our basic task in Somalia will be to secure and protect U.N. personnel and theirinstallations in Somalia," Lt. Col. Wycliffe Kaita, commanding officer of the U.N.Guard Unit, said at a special ceremony held at the Singo Military Barracks onWednesday.The U.N.-UPDF Guard Unit is mandated with helping U.N. personnel carry out theirmission of assisting Somalis rebuild and develop their war-torn country.
The battalion was mandated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-moon in Februaryfollowing a decision that U.N. operation bases in Somalia should be equipped withtheir own guard units."This is a U.N. force, even though we are Ugandans," Kaita told Anadolu Agencywhen asked about the source of the mission's funding."All our activities will be funded by the U.N. for the entire period [that] we shall be inSomalia," he explained."We have been trained [and] equipped and are eager to undertake this missionsuccessfully," the commanding officer said.Even though the rules of engagement state that we're a peacekeeping force, we candefend ourselves if we're attacked by the enemies," he added.The battalion will depart for Somalia on Thursday morning following ten weeks ofspecial training."This mission is going to last for a year and, according to the memorandum ofunderstanding, it can be renewed," said Kaita.Kaita went on to say that Somali nationals should expect stepped-up activity on thepart of the U.N. mission.
"Now we're going to guarantee their security and then they should be able to moveout and do their work without any threat of being kidnapped or killed by themilitant group Al-Shabaab," he said.Al-Shabaab controls several towns in the south of Somalia, which has remained inthe grip of on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.The country had appeared to inch closer to stability with the recent installation of anew government and the intervention of African Union troops tasked with bringingAl-Shabaab to heel.ConfidenceUPDF spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda told AA that it was "the first time theUgandan army is deploying such a huge force."He lauded the U.N.'s decision to employ a Ugandan guard unit to protect its Somaliamission as a "vote of confidence" in Uganda's peacekeeping capability."Now there seems to be consensus in the U.N. family that the UPDF is very wellplaced to play a greater role in providing security," said the army spokesman.Until now, security for U.N. entities in Somalia has been provided by the AfricanUnion Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which has been stationed in the country since
2007.AMISOM currently boasts 22,000 troops from six different countries, including 7000soldiers from Uganda.