Uganda’s Ill-fated Peacekeepers
February 22, 2011 10 Comments
He was kicked, dragged, stoned and spat on. And thus the fate of yet another Ugandan soldier whose corpse was left to rot in Mogadishu’s notorious Baar Ubax junction was sealed. The unidentified soldier, complete in his military gear, was last night captured by Al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu’s Northern district of Boondheere after a fierce gun battle took place between the forces. It is the third day of intense battles in the capital and the death toll is also increasing. Bakara market, the city’s busiest, has been under constant shelling and the number of innocent civilians thought to have been killed there has risen sharply.
Local residents denouncing AMISOM’s indiscriminate shelling has risen far above the wailing mothers whose sons have perished under the rubble. The TFG has also been severely criticized by the population for failing to put an end to the ‘Bakara genocide’ or ‘Xasuuqa Bakaaraha’ as it is known locallly. It is the Islamists, Al-Shabab, however, who have been commanding the limelight and choreographing events in the last few days, and Mogadishu’s media has been inundated with the gruesome images of AU peacekeeper’s corpses lying in the baking Somali sun or being dragged through the streets by children. Yesterday morning two Ugandan soldiers were on display in the Maslax compound; today, the corpse of another Ugandan soldier is wasting away in Baar Ubax, surrounded by a crowd of cheerful Al-Shabab supporters eager to dissect it.
But the flragrant public display of enemy combatants’ corpses has become something of a spectacle here in Mogadishu. The body of the soldier, conspicuously displayed in one of Mogadishu’s busiest junctions, drew an unusually large crowd. People, young and old, were chanting praises of Al-Shabab. While taking these pictures, I heard some young men to the left of me chanting ‘Allahu Akbar – this is what you deserve. May you rot in hell.” An elderly lady squeezed her way through the tight crowd and spat on the face of the dead soldier screaming: ‘what brought him to my soil? what brought an infidel to my soil? go to hell!’ Another onlooker with a quizzical look on his face muttered: “is this the face of those who killed our sons? I wish they would have brought him alive!”
It is a bleak atmosphere. And while the Somali president, Sheikh Sharif, was busy congratulating his Ugandan counterpart for the election victory and for the continued support, the hundreds of chanting residents that huddled around the corpse of the soldier in Baar Ubax were congratulating the Islamists for killing the AU soldiers.
The corpse, dressed in a tattered uniform with a worn out Ugandan flag, still bearing the flamingo emblem, would soon be another statistic in Mogadishu’s merciless terrain. No ceremonial burial awaited him, no soldiers escorted him to the cemetery, no trumpets, no bands and no lugubrious songs of death and despair were sung at his funeral. Only the stumping of feet and the stampede of an uproarious crowd who viewed him as an invader – not a peacekeeper!