More than 5,000 UPDF peacekeepers serving under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) have received refresher training on children protection, most especially in conflict areas.
The one–week training which ended on 2nd July 2022 was organized by the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) Directorate of Human Rights in conjunction with Save the Children (SOS), a Non-Governmental Organisation.
The course benefitted officers and militants from different Forward Operation Bases (FOBs).
The Director of Human Rights in the UPDF and leader of the training team, Col Deo Karikona, visited troops as far as Barawe which is 209 Km South West of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
This is among the furthest point where UPDF has deployed; the others being Ceel jaale, Arbiska, Seaport, and Base Camp -Mogadishu.
According to Col Karikona, the refresher training was aimed at re-equipping commanders and militants on the need to protect children, especially in military operational areas.
The training also bridged the gap between theory and practice in a military theatre.
“The available protocols and laws, both international and domestic, make child protection training in the military, mandatory. We are currently going further to have the same ‘in- theatre’,” Col Karikona explained.
The Deputy Head of the training team, Col Ssozi Ssesanga, who is also the Chief Instructor at the Singo – based Peace Support Operations Training Center (PSO – TC), in Nakaseke district, applauded the UPDF leadership for putting emphasis on the protection of children during military operations.
“UPDF has the highest number of personnel trained in child protection and human rights in Africa, and we can’t take that for granted,” he said.
The Public Information Officer of the UPDF Contingent in Somalia, Maj Bilal Katamba, appreciated the training and averred that the protection of children is embedded in the UPDF ideology.
“Historically, protection of children is part of NRA/ UPDF ideology. Indeed, not children only but all vulnerable groups, including women, the elderly, disabled and even Prisoners Of War,” he noted.
Maj Katamba concluded by emphasizing that UPDF remains committed to the protection of vulnerable groups in all military operations.
The head of SOS in the training team, Mr. Njoroge Anthony, applauded UPDF for their impeccable record in protecting Somali children and in many other operational areas.
“We have never received any case of child abuse, neglect or exploitation by the Ugandan security forces working under African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS),” Njoroge told officers and militants at base camp Mogadishu, urging them to keep the record up.
The one–week training had officers and militants retrained on the six grave children’s violations, reporting mechanism, available international and domestic legal framework on children protection and the history of children protection in UPDF, among others.
UPDF first deployed forces in Somalia under AMISOM in March 2007 following authorization by the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.
The initial mandate of six months expired and was renewed to help stabilize the then war-torn country and the mission has since been transformed into a stabilization one; ATMIS.
The Government in Mogadishu has since recovered a greater part of the country from the terrorist Al – Shabaab group that was in control of the capital Mogadishu before AMISOM deployment. Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, were later deployed too.
The mission has since transformed from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the current African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), a move aimed at building the capacities of the Somali Security Forces to safeguard their own country.