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Tears as bodies of crash soldiers arrive

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The bodies of the seven Uganda Air Force soldiers, who died in a plane crash in Kenya on August 11, arrived in the country yesterday afternoon. They were received by army officials, relatives and friends at the Entebbe Air Force base before being preserved at the army mortuary in Bombo.

Tears flowed as the bodies of the seven officers were off loaded from the white private chartered plane at the Entebbe Air Force base.

The plane touched down at 2:30p.m, sending relatives, into sobs. Not even the heavy rain that started shortly after 1pm could drown the tears of the servicemen’s wives and children, who had pitched tent at the airbase as early as 9am.

The relatives were overcome by grief after seeing the coffins, some fell on their knees, wailing and screaming out names of their loved ones as the coffins, draped in Ugandan flag were carried out. Friends and army officials had a hard time trying to comfort them.

Among those who died in the accident was Captain Williams Letti Spear, who had served in the force for 25 years and his co-pilot Lt. Patrick Nahamya who had served for eight years. Others who died in the crash include 2nd Lieutenant Robert Mushabe, Warrant Officer II David Kakube, Lt. Nelson Mulumba, S/Sgt. Mweshezi Rahumat and Sgt Charles Lukwago.

“Being a housewife, I am worried. I cannot comprehend how I shall fend for the children,” said Ms Juliet, widow to Capt. Letti, amid sobs.

“I talked to him on Saturday, and he said they were still stranded in Mombasa. When I asked him what he was doing in Mombasa, he said ‘That is where we are,’” she told Sunday Monitor.

Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, praised the deceased soldiers, calling them gallant sons of Uganda, who died defending their country, the region and Africa.

He gave the relatives an assurance that the government would ensure that the orphans do not drop out of school.

“We [government] will stand by their wives and children to ensure that the children continue with their education, and to lighten the loss of their loved ones,” he said. These were brave people, and they died fighting a just cause.”

Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima comforted the soldiers present, telling them that “in war, there will be moments of celebration and mourning.”

However, both the army officials and Ministers present dismissed allegations that the MI-24 helicopters that crashed on Mt Kenya on August 11, were junk.

They urged Ugandans to be patient and wait for the probe team to investigate and issue a report into the cause of the crash. President Museveni on Tuesday appointed a probe team led by Gen. Salim Saleh. It is not known when they will start work.

They army also used the opportunity to reiterate its commitment to pacify Somalia.

“We have made so much progress in Somalia. We have sacrificed so much. We have to accomplish our work of liberating Somalia,” Mr Kiyonga said.

He said Uganda had been asked to provide helicopters to ensure the campaign against the al-shabaab insurgents moves into high gear. The three ill-fated MI-24 choppers were flying to Garisa enroute from Uganda when they crashed. Only one, M-17 reached Garisa.

The bodies have been taken to Bombo Military Hospital for post-mortem, which will be conducted today.The bodies will be transported on Monday to their respective home districts for burial on Tuesday.

nwesonga@ug.nationmedia.com

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