Kenya: AU indicts Ugandan troops for civilian killings in Somalia

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) -Three Ugandan soldiers have been indicted for the killing of civilians in Somalia’s southern port town of Marka in July ahead of their trial by an African Union-appointed military tribunal, the head of the AU peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Maman Sidikou said on Friday.

The AU official said investigations confirmed at least seven civilians were killed by a contingent of Ugandan troops in Marka, a town formerly held by the terrorist Al Shabaab group.

“I would like to offer sincere and profound condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and indeed to the people and the Federal Republic of Somalia,” Sidikou said in Nairobi.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the AMISOM troops shot dead unarmed civilians, among them, family members who refused to flee the town in the face of an AMISOM offensive because they were celebrating a wedding and hoped the soldiers would have provided them with security.

AMISOM announced the setting up of an independent Board of Inquiry to look into the incident. The independent investigation would unearth further evidence for use to try the three Ugandan soldiers.

“We have established that seven civilians died following an incident involving our troops. At this juncture on behalf of the African Union, I would like to offer my sincere apology for these deaths. We regret these deaths,” Ambassador Sidokou said.

The AMISOM soldiers drove into the town of Marka on 21 July, where the local elders accused them of opening fire on unarmed civilians, including children in a play field, killing almost two dozen people.

“Since we established that there was a credible (prima facie) basis for a further and thorough investigation of the allegations, we instituted a process of investigations to establish further facts into the circumstances that led to this tragic incident,” Sidikou told reporters.

Reports from the incident have been varied with claims that up to 24 people were killed while other reports indicated the killing of 13 people at the former Al Shabaab stronghold of Marka.

In one incident, the HRW documented the killing of six men, who were pulled out of their house as they celebrated a wedding and shot, others were wounded amid allegations the soldiers resisted attempts by family members to seek medical assistance for the wounded.

“I would like to commend the Commanders for taking appropriate and responsive action in dealing with this matter in line with the Mission’s conduct and discipline procedures," Sidikou said.

"Furthermore, to establish any additional culpability, I have instituted a board of inquiry composed of military, civilian and police officers who are not from the contingent concerned to ensure impartiality.

"The investigating board will work closely with the local community leaders, the regional administration and the Federal Government. The board will also conduct its work in a transparent manner and guarantee confidentiality and safety of potential witnesses who may appear before the board,” Sidikou told reporters.

He pledged that the AMISOM troops will continue to uphold the inviolability of civilian lives as sacrosanct.

“We will continue to make sure that as our soldiers carry out the mandate of supporting the Somali people and the government in the fight against al Shabaab in this very difficult environment, we do not lose sight of this cardinal principle,” he added.

-0- PANA AO/AR 21Aug2015

21 august 2015 18:36:01

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