Peter Ekandjo – The Jungle Fighter: The Battle of Omboloka

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The Battle of Omboloka took place in November 1980. It was not unique in nature, as it formed part of our routine fight against the colonial forces in the area of our operation. However, prior to this battle, we had a major joint operation against an enemy military base at Okongo in the current Okongo Constituency of the Ohangwena Region. The joint operation, which involved over 300 fighters from various units, had to be called off after we learnt that the enemy soldiers used to vacate the base during the night. The units involved in this operation included the Regional Headquarters, Detachment A and Far-East Detachment. Commanders Rasarus Amuntele Shihepo of Detachment A and Philipus Shikuma Kamati of the Far-East Detachment jointly commanded the operation.

They were also supported by various regional chiefs from the Regional Headquarters such as Chief of Operations Martin Shalli, then then Chief of Artillery Festus Shikongo Nexale and Utoni Nujoma, Regional Medical Chief as well as other commanders.

The joint operation was initially equipped with seven 82-millemetre mortars, two 122-millimetre Grad-P commonly known as G-P, 10 sixty-millimetre mortars and other heavy firepower.

The entire fighting unit started off from the Far-East Detachment in Ohandabo after thorough joint combat briefings by the commanders. From Ohandabo base, about 50 km from the Angola-Namibia border, we crossed the border at Omboloka village north of Okongo military base. Before the fighting unit left Ohandabo, a reconnaissance team comprising 10 cadres and led by Cde Sackey and I was already inside Namibia around Okongo gathering information about enemy activities.

During our reconnaissance mission, we were able to establish that enemy forces were aware of imminent attacks on their base by our fighters, hence they had started vacating the base to spend the night surrounding Okongo village, probably waiting for the fighters to arrive and fall into their trap.

After briefing the mission commanders, it was decided that the unit should be divided into four groups to engage enemy foot soldiers wherever we found them in the operational areas.

This new order substituted the aborted attacks on the military base at Okongo. I was placed in one of the four fighting units commanded by comrades Kalute and Oscar Hamukoto. The two were detachment reconnaissance and engineering commanders respectively. Since the day the main unit was divided into four, we had been hunting for the enemy forces around Okongo base to engage them.

At last, while we were at Omboloka looking for the enemy forces on the fourth day after embarking on the assignment, we received information suggesting that enemy forces had arrived in Onamatadiva from the direction of Epalala la Hamukoto village. It was then decided that five reconnaissance cadres led by Cde Sackey and I should go to that village to confirm the presence of enemy forces and if possible lure then to follow our footprints up to Omboloka.

We left Omboloka at around 12h00 for Onamatadiva where we found some of the enemy forces collecting water from the wells in the centre of the village, while others were moving towards us in the eastern direction. We waited until we were sure that they were actually moving in our direction so that they could notice our presence in the area. Fortunately, however, the enemy came directly towards us, prompting us to head back to Omboloka. Moreover, we only walked about one kilometre from where we were before we stopped in the bush to ascertain whether the enemy was pursuing our footprints. It did not take us more than 10 minutes before we could hear the noise of enemy soldiers coming towards us therefore we had to move fast so that we could warn our fighting unit about the approaching enemy forces. The unit was waiting in ambush along the bush road from Okandemwena village, about 25 kilometres south of Omboloka.

From Onamatadiva we used a bush road, which joined Omboloka-Onandemwena road. We laid our ambush about two kilometres from the intersection of the said two roads, hence, once we entered the main road we decided to run in the middle of the road to give the enemy the impression that we were afraid of them. We wanted the enemy to assume that we were getting further from them so that they would also start running after us.

The enemy fell for our trick and reached our ambush disorganised, running and at times trotting. The majority of the enemy troops were walking in the middle of the road while a few were on the edges of the road. By then our ambush was laid on the west edge of the road. Our fighters had dug out trenches along that road ready to slaughter the unsuspecting enemy troops. Our trenches were well covered with grass and fresh tree branches such that the enemy troops would not notice our presence easily. We waited until the majority of them were within killing range before we opened fire simultaneously. Cde Kalute had instructed one fighter to fire first before all of us could send a volley of fire into the enemy troops. Other fighters were strictly ordered not to open fire unless they realised that the enemy had noticed our presence.

I was on the northern flank near Commander Kalute, who was near the fighter who opened fire first. Therefore, when the enemy soldiers at the front reached us, the majority of them were already in the middle of our ambush. The sub-shooter opened fire, hitting the nearest soldier, before the battle commenced in earnest. We were shooting in a crossfire fashion such that the enemy got confused. The enemy did not respond adequately to our first round of fire, probably because they did not expect us to be there. Our firepower was heavier and so stormy that the enemy was forced to retreat first before regrouping to fight back. After the first round of fire, our commanders ordered us to advance into enemy positions. As we surged forward, under relatively minimum enemy fire, suddenly the enemy troops started to fire back forcing us to take cover to open fire.

We engaged each other for about 20 minutes before we extinguished enemy fire. Later the enemy stopped firing and we again moved forward into enemy position. We were advancing cautiously because of thick bushes. One could hardly see far; hence to avoid fatal injuries, we were forced to move slowly.

As we were moving forward, a few enemy soldiers were shooting at us, probably those soldiers who were injured. This random shooting by remnant enemy soldiers resulted in one fatal injury and two minor injuries on our side. Moments later, as we tried to pinpoint the few enemy troops left behind, three enemy helicopter gunships arrived shooting south of the battle scene. Three enemy soldiers were firing shots in order to prevent us from going forward. Later, our commanders ordered us to retreat to avoid more casualties from enemy airpower. Since the enemy helicopter gunships took some minutes before firing at our positions, we were able to evacuate the deceased and all the injured comrades.

We left the battle scene in the northern direction until we crossed the border into Angola.

However, before we crossed the border, we had to bury the dead comrade west of Omboloka near the border inside Namibia.

The border was three kilometres from the battle scene, hence, it did not take us long to reach the borderline. We crossed the border to make the enemy think that we had actually returned to our bases in Angola. However, when we reached Okambolokwena, which is situated along the border inside Angola, we crossed back into Namibia passing east of Omboloka. By that time, enemy helicopter gunships were hovering firing into the bushes north-west of Omboloka as well as across the border inside Angola.

After we crossed back into Namibia, we went straight to Eendobe village where villagers slaughtered a big ox for us in appreciation of our attacks on enemy troops.

Six reconnaissance fighters were sent back to the battle scene the following day to assess the extent of damage inflicted on the enemy forces, ascertain the general effectiveness of our firepower during the fire exchanges with enemy forces, and recover anything left behind by the enemy forces and our own fighters.

by Staff Reporter

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