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Uganda: Why Museveni is recalling 1,500 army veterans for the Somalia Mission (PHOTOS)

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CHANGE OF GUARDS – Recent times have witnessed enhanced manoeuvres geared towards the usual duping of army veterans.  As usual, it is trying to counter the fluid and uncertain political situation relating to heightened opposition activism and souring relations with Rwanda.  From the usual empty promises of payment of retirement benefits and countrywide registration, now the army has announced that it is recalling 1,500 army veterans for retraining and deployment to the Somalia peace keeping mission under AMISOM.  The Army Spokesperson confirmed to the media;
     “Physically and medically fit UPDF Veterans will be given an opportunity to serve under AMISOM after retraining…….we have had almost 29 Battle Groups in Somalia.  Almost every soldier has gone to Somalia and some have gone back the third time.  This was a good opportunity for our comrades to serve if there is an opportunity, we give them.  We’ve not forgotten our brothers.  The deployment still fits within the support roadmap if AMISOM towards the Somali transition.”
This development is laughable because such army veterans are physically and mentally unfit. The regime is just exploiting their social and economic vulnerability.
The above development has prompted the army Veterans in Ankole sub-region to accuse government of intentionally refusing to pay attention to their grievances. The Regional Chairperson for FRONASA, Rtd Sgt Apollo Mabati expressed concern over the fact that most Ugandans resent veterans.
“People don’t want war veterans………..I found a war veteran who had been a Lieutenant and was the first to escort Museveni in the bush in 1981. Can you imagine he should be a Brigadier now but when you see him you can’t believe it.  Let them take their medals and ranks but lobby jobs for our children. This is historical. We are the ones who started the bush war in Luweero. After surviving death, arrests and so on, let our children get jobs,” he lamented.
To get a clear understanding of why the AMISOM is the preferred bait for entrapping the army veterans, we are here below reproducing a five years old article;
Thursday, 6 November 2014
at 08:58
Since 2007 Museveni’s army has been in Somalia and boosts of the highest number of troops (6223) of the other five contributing countries. Ever since his army has been stationed in the capital Mogadishu and occupies the so-called Sector One that covers the Presidential Palace, Parliament, Ministry headquarters, international airport and seaport. The so called ‘Uganda Contingent’ is the custodian of the shaky Somali government.
When it had just taken up the Somali venture, the Minister of Defence informed the Uganda parliament that there had been a Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and African Union (AU). The MOU stipulated among others the hire charges for the military equipment and the 50,000$ compensation for the dead and injured and the 125$ deductions from the monthly payments of each soldier that was according the Defence Minister supposed to cover administrative costs.  Since then, as to how much was accrued from the hire charges remains a mystery and the recent crush of the Ugandan helicopters in Kenya en route to Somalia is a classic example of Uganda’s unaccounted losses. Even the compensation for the dead and injured is not paid to all beneficiaries; the very few lucky ones who access it undergo a lot of stress as one must be ‘connected’ to powerful officers in order to get paid.
Initially, Ugandan soldiers would serve only six months in Somalia before they are replaced but later it was changed to one year. Since then different contingencies of Ugandan troops have served in Somalia. Given Uganda’s lion’s share of troop contribution, in the next few years either every member of the Uganda army will have served in Somalia or the lucky ones will have served there twice or more. In Museveni’s army where until the emergence of the Somali mission welfare for ordinary soldiers was very appalling, the opportunity to serve in Somalia is almost every soldier’s dream. The lowest pay for a soldier in Uganda is 326000 shillings (about 130$).
With little pay, poor welfare and rampant theft by commanders, the advent of the Somali mission was God sent. While serving in Somalia the same lowest paid soldier earns 828$ (about 2,000,000 shillings) on top of his usual salary back at home. For ordinary soldiers, it is only a tour of duty in Somalia that can land him/her to earn good money, proper clothing, medical and housing facilities that he/she never hoped to ever get. That is why after the tour of duty in Somalia a good number of them opt to desert the army. The army has been deducting some 200$ from each soldier serving in Somalia against their will under the guise of contributing to the army Credit Society (SACCOS).
The army tried a loan scheme in the late 80s that was mismanaged by Brigadier Elly Kayanja who swept it clean and it collapsed in its infancy. With the 50,000$ (about 127 million shillings) entitlement as compensation for the dead and injured, many Ugandan families whose loved ones perished in Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Luweero and northern Uganda wish they had died in Somalia!!! The survivor benefits for fallen soldiers has always been swindled in highly organised syndicates involving army officers and officials in public service and banks. Some years back arrests and suspensions were made in this regard, but we are yet to see prosecution and recovery of the stolen survivor’s benefits.
However, the cost of getting the opportunity to serve in Somalia is high. The different Unit commanders demand a monetary bribe for candidates to be nominated before proceeding to the AMISOM Peace training school in Uganda. Even while at the training school the candidate is subjected to further bribery in order to qualify or else, he can be eliminated on flimsy grounds of medical, indiscipline etc. In some cases, candidates are seconded by their God fathers in the army and government.
Once they have made it to Somalia, the ordinary soldiers still face the wrath of their thieving commanders who sell off their essential supplies like fuel and food. However, the practice is not new; it has been a tradition right from the time of the guerrilla war in Luweero, in power and even during other military adventures in the DRC and Sudan. In the bush during the early 80s Museveni argued that “it was vital to maintain a healthy command structure” at the expense of the ordinary soldier. Museveni has been condoning thieving in the army in order to win loyalty by his commanders. From the army, the vice spread to the other government sectors and has not taken root in the general Ugandan society. Primitive accumulation of ill-gotten wealth is one of the identities/qualifications of cadreship of his ruling clique.
It took a top an American government official to rise alarm before Museveni pretended to act against thieving officers. While flagging off a contingent of his soldiers to Somalia at Singo in December 2013 Museveni revealed thus “These white people called me that your army is good, but they are also thieves”. Museveni went on to say that he did not want thieves in his army and that he would sack whoever condoned thieving. Thereafter, a series of uncoordinated investigation teams descended on the Ugandan contingent in Somalia.
Amidst allegations of shielding the big fish, a few officers were arrested and arraigned before the Court Martial so as usual to hoodwink the public and the donor community. It has since been revealed that it was not only there thieving for personal gain but in some instances even directly aiding the enemy Al-Shaabab. The Uganda army is alleged to at some point knowingly trained 10 members of the Al-Shaabab, sold fuel and ammunitions to the militant group.
Currently a number of army officers including the Commandant of the Singo based Peace training school have been suspended pending investigations into allegations of selling slots meant for the Somali peace mission. The allegation is not news to the authorities and therefore the current suspension could be more prompted by the recent Human Rights Watch reports of sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women by Museveni’s army.
Museveni can not take any tangible disciplinary action against his army officers for thieving because he lacks the moral authority. He is using the Somali Mission as a tool to hold the west at ransom, to improve the welfare of his soldiers and attract military aid. He does not wish to see the Somali Mission ending and that is why whenever he is faced with a critical political situation at home it’s when the Al-Shabaab intensifies its attacks in Mogadishu. Whenever the west question his totalitarianism, he threatens to withdraw his troops from Somalia and then they back off.
The Uganda Contingent in Somalia is at the heart of the successive Somalia governments. For the last consecutive seven years, it has been ranked by Transparency International as the world’s most corrupt government. In Museveni and his army, the Somali government finds a matching partner. The Somali government is accused of gross misappropriation and mismanagement of millions of dollars in donor assistance and domestic revenue arising from the Uganda army-controlled Mogadishu international airport and seaport.
The Museveni army contingents in foreign lands like was the case in DRC have a reputation of smuggling, aiding smuggling, engaging in business, aiding businessmen and warlords in return for financial gains that benefit top level officials. Unlike what happened in DRC, here has been information block out in the Somali mission partly because of the complicated geographical proximity but more so due to eroded vibrancy in journalism in Uganda. It is highly probable that there are multi-billion fraudulent defence deals involving Museveni and the Somali government targeting donor funds.
Welcoming the returning contingent, the army Chief Gen. Katumba Wamala told them thus “After one year of sacrifice, of sleeping under the sun and the bad weather, use the money you have got to change your lives. At least build a two-bedroom house that you will always remember that you were part of the Uganda representation in Somalia.” While the advice to properly utilise the hard-earned cash is fine, one wonders the fate of those who do not get the chance to serve in Somalia.
The statement also encourages bribery by other soldiers in order to get selected for the Somali mission as the only way a Ugandan ordinary soldier can build for himself a two-bed roomed house. One would have expected the army chief to urge the returning soldiers to put to use the experience gained from serving in Somalia instead of focusing on the cash earned. No wonder the mission is a money-making venture disguised as a peace keeping mission.
It is not clear if the desperate army veterans are aware that AMISOM is scheduled to end in 2021.  Going by the mandatory one year tour of duty, it’s just a few veterans that will serve under AMISOM.  However, given their dire welfare situation, even serving in Somalia for just two months will earn them not less than five million shillings which to the majority of them would be a dream come true.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: July 04, 2019 at 03:38PM

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