Wednesday, July 25, 2012
BY MICHAEL MUBANGIZI
Shs 672m per day, 245bn per year
The UPDF is to spend Shs 672m every day on its operations in Somalia this financial year, The Observer can reveal.
Available documents indicate that the money Uganda will pay for the presence of 6,700 UPDF troops in the chaos-marred county will increase by 78 per cent. The operations previously cost Shs 376m per day.
This appears to contradict the widely held view that any major costs of the Somalia operations are borne by the United Nations and the African Union. The figures are contained in the budgetary estimates for the ministry of Defence policy statement for the year 2012/2013.
Dated June 30, the statement was recently presented to Parliament for approval by Defence minister Chrispus Kiyonga. It shows that the UPDF will increase its budget for the United Nations-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) from Shs 137bn last financial year to Shs 245bn in 2012/2013.
This means a Shs 107 billion increase which translates to 78% rise in the Amisom funding. The figure particularly excludes the wages paid to UPDF soldiers in Somalia. The ministerial statement attributes the sudden rise in funding, “to increment in forces and equipment taken to Somalia for the Amison mission.”
At 6,700 troops, Uganda currently has the largest contingent of troops in Somalia. The overall Amisom strength in Somalia currently standards at 17,730 troops. Other countries with forces in Somalia are Kenya, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.
Amisom’s Shs 245bn is the second largest share of the ministry’s Shs 913bn budget, after the wage bill (Shs 325bn). Others are non-wage recurrent expenditure (Shs 230bn), capital (Shs 103 billion) and taxes (Shs 10 billion).
The Amison budget alone is higher than what many government units receive. It, for instance, exceeds the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs budget that is estimated at Shs 186.9bn.
According to Simon Mulongo, the Vice Chairman of Parliament’s committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, the overall responsibility over troops in Somalia lies with UN and AU. He, however, said that troop-contributing countries sign a memorandum of understanding with the AU.
In this, they, among others, agree to contribute personnel and equipment like guns and vehicles. This is, however paid for by the AU in form of partial refunds for wear and tear. This is usually paid to the ministry of defence through its account with Bank of Uganda.
He said his committee was yet to discuss Kiyonga’s estimates. He, however, said the increment could be due to a decision by AU and UN to increase troops in Somalia. Col Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF spokesperson, also says the allowances for UPDF soldiers in Somalia are paid by AU, although the Ugandan government continues to pay the soldiers their UPDF salaries.
He was, however, quick to add that salaries alone could not take Shs 245bn. He says this includes costs for their maintenance and deployment while in Somalia. It includes money for equipment that they uses, “we have equipment ranging from SMGs to tanks,” he said revealing that soon they will signing a memorandum of understanding in Addis Ababa to start using helicopters as well.
“Generally, our tasks have increased nationally and regionally,” he said, justifying the overall increase in the ministry budget.
Asked about the partial refunds from AU for the wear and tear of machines, Kulayigye referred to previous cases of delays by AU to pay allowances for Ugandan troops, saying that is the very reason they need to be prepared financially. “We must be prepared to continue servicing the equipment.”
When we contacted Defence minister Dr Chrispus Kiyonga, yesterday evening, he was in a meeting and asked us to call him later at night. We hadn’t succeeded to him by press time.