Uganda Chief of Defence Forces Gen Katumba Wamala. He has said that an
unknown number of the country's veteran soldiers returning from service
in Somalia have run away with uniforms, raising fear in military circles
that the combat fatigues could be misused. FILE | NATION MEDI AGROUP
Sunday, June 23, 2013
An unknown number of Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF)
veterans returning from service in Somalia have run away with uniforms,
raising fear in military circles that the combat fatigues could be
According to the new Chief of Defence Forces, Gen
Katumba Wamala, a manhunt is underway for these soldiers, who fall under
Reserve Forces, because their whereabouts remain unknown.
“Some of them have left the concentration area
with uniforms; we want those uniforms back because they may misuse those
uniforms,” Uganda Radio Network, a local online newswire agency, quoted
the army boss as having said.
The veterans are part of those recalled to duty
and deployed to Somalia under the aegis of the ongoing African Union
Peace-keeping Mission (Amisom) as Uganda’s 12th battle group contingent,
otherwise called UGABAG 12, to confront the Al-Shabaab.
Gen Wamala added: “We call upon you (masses) to
locate them, we need those uniforms, they are not supposed to have those
uniforms. They can have some of the insignia like their medals of
African Union, they have their scarfs of AU and some of those they can
have but not a full military uniform.”
It was not clear what the army leadership fears
are. There is, however, the possibility that rogue soldiers could use
the military fatigues to execute robberies, if not hire or sell them to
outlaws, including rebels and or al-Shabaab fighters.
Some elements in Uganda’s myriad security agencies
have previously been implicated in or convicted by court for hiring
guns to robbers, and turning to share the booty.
Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the military spokesman, yesterday denied any Reserve Force member made away with army property.
“All the combat uniforms they used are with us, he said, “There is no such a thing as veterans running away [with uniforms].”
When this newspaper shared the audio clip of the general’s account with the Spokesman, he did not respond to us.
The soldiers had been mobilised through their
command structures, which should make it possible to trace those wanted
up to their villages. Instead, Gen Wamala has turned to the masses to
volunteer information on the whereabouts of the ex-servicemen who took
more than the desert boots and AU insignia and scarfs they were
authorised to own.
“They can have the white boots, there are some
boots that we give them when they go to Somalia, they are kind of desert
boots. Those ones they can have. But they should not have the military
uniform because then they may misuse it,” he noted.
On official retirement, soldiers are expected to
surrender military weapons and other such property in their possession,
and are offered ceremonial uniforms for use during national functions.
The UPDF, and particularly its elite Special
Forces, has been rocked by desertions with at least 400 fleeing, some of
them with loaded guns. When Daily Monitor newspaper broke the story in April, the army announced it had re-captured 100 of the deserters but provided no details.
In a lengthy investigation, the Daily Monitor
established that the unprecedented wave of desertions from the SFC,
whose soldiers are famously proud of their unit, was linked to work
details they had been asked to carry out. Last August, SFC units were
deployed from Mityana District to work on President Museveni’s Kisozi
Ranch in Mpigi District.
The first batch was made up of 120 soldiers from
“A” Company. They were later replaced by another unit, which was
withdrawn in late March.