- Associated Press - Thursday, November 6, 2014

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - Uganda’s military has suspended 15 soldiers who were peacekeepers in Somalia over various allegations of misconduct, a military spokesman said Thursday.

The suspended soldiers include two generals who were deployed to Somalia as part of the African Union force there.

He said the action was part of what he called “a general performance assessment” of Uganda’s peacekeeping duties in Somalia, but did not specify the allegations against the former peacekeepers.

The suspensions follow a Human Rights Watch report last September that cited the sexual abuse and exploitation of Somali women by African Union troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The rights group said at the time that African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi, relying on Somali intermediaries, “used a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid, to coerce vulnerable women and girls into sexual activity.” Some soldiers had refused to wear condoms, passing on sexually transmitted infections, the group’s report said.

Maria Burnett, a senior researcher in Africa for Human Rights Watch, said Thursday that she hoped there would a full investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse. “We are pleased to see that there are a range of investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse within AMISOM,” she said, referring to the African Union mission in Somalia. “We hope investigations ensure the safety of victims and witnesses, and we look forward to a public report with more details of the inquiries and any prosecutions.”

This is not the first time Ugandan troops in Somalia face allegations of misconduct. Last year about 40 Ugandan soldiers, including a brigadier-general who held a position near the top of the peacekeeping force, were recalled from Somalia and arrested over allegations they stole from the mission.

Since 2007 Ugandan troops have been deployed to Somalia, where the African Union force helps the country’s Western-backed government to fight the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab.

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