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Somalia: soldiers shock Museveni with more leaks

Monday, October 14, 2013

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In a bid to get to the root of the reported theft of UPDF food rations in Somalia, President Museveni on Thursday staged a surprise inquiry, questioning soldiers fresh from the battlefield.

After hours of listening to personal testimonies from low- cadre soldiers, the commander in chief was dumbfounded, sources at the meeting said.

Among other shocking things Museveni learnt that his commanders demanded money to influence the award of army contracts. It is said that at least one commander earned $50,000 (Shs 130m) to deliver a contract. The money was reportedly found stashed in his bed.

Museveni was reportedly surprised to hear that even some of the senior officers he wanted to investigate the scam, were implicated.

The Observer has learnt that after presiding at the Independence day celebrations in Rukungiri last Wednesday, Museveni moved to Singo army training school, in Nakaseke district on Thursday. When he reached the training camp, he called a meeting with the fresh returnees.

All the rank and file turned up but Museveni reportedly asked all commanders, right from corporals to leave. After the commanders left, the president asked the soldiers to speak freely.

Every soldier handpicked to speak read out his number and name, which Museveni’s aides wrote down. Every single statement was recorded. In that meeting, sources say, soldiers pulled the veil off the widespread corruption in Somalia, involving high-ranking UPDF officers. Soldiers confirmed they ate one meal a day, which was of very poor quality.

They further said the dry rations given couldn’t last a week, yet they were continuously in harm’s way. Because of the poor welfare, the soldiers’ morale to fight the al-Shabab militants was hugely dampened, they said.

The president, our source said, was very disturbed by the firsthand accounts of the soldiers. In the meeting, Museveni was also told that some senior army officers were cutting deals with contractors. They claimed that one captain was found with $50,000 stashed under his bed.

Interviewed for this story, Army Spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda confirmed that the meeting took place. He said Museveni met the soldiers to welcome them back home and to thank them for their role in Somalia. He said the president held two meetings at Singo.

“Yes, the president ordered the commanders out of the meeting and told them to wait for their meeting. He met soldiers, first and then separately met with their commanders,” Ankunda said.

Ankunda said the president had been deeply concerned by the alleged theft of army logistics in Somalia. He, however, declined to comment on the specifics of what transpired in the meeting.

“It would be speculative if I tell you what transpired in a meeting that I didn’t attend,” he said.

But our source said Ankunda attended the meeting.


Last month, Daily Monitor reported that the president ordered an investigation. Uganda has more than 6,000 troops in Somalia, making it the biggest contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

The presidential order for an investigation followed revelations by US officials that the UPDF are good fighters but some of their commanders are “thieves”. In the story, Museveni is reported to have warned his army chiefs that he was itching to sack anyone found culpable.

While flagging off a contingent of UPDF soldiers to Somalia, the president said: “These white people called me that your army is very good but they are also thieves. I don’t want thieves in this army; any commander who will condone corruption, I will sack.”

Ankunda said that indeed the army was investigating the claims, particularly the theft of army logistics like fuel and food in Somalia and the Central African Republic. Last month, the president replaced the UPDF, Amisom command.

Ugandan soldiers in Somalia who made up Battlegroup 9+ early this year. Photo: Amison

Museveni recalled 22 UPDF officers including the Amisom contingent commander Brig Michael Ondoga, who was replaced by Brig Dick Olum. Last week, the president also recalled Col Joseph Balikuddembe.

“We shall leave no stone unturned,” Ankunda said, stressing that anyone found culpable would face the court martial. Other senior army officers being investigated include Col Johnson Muhanguzi, Lt Col Sam Kirya, the Logistic Officer, Capt Joy Atugonza and the Operations Officer, Lt Col Chris Ogwal.

Parallel probes

In August, the commander  of the Land Forces, Maj Gen David Muhoozi, flew to Somalia. Though he was meant to inspect and morale-boost the troops, sources within the army say, he was there to investigate the corruption. Detectives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) have been in Somalia several times investigating the food theft allegations.

Ankunda said the army’s Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) was also investigating the allegations alongside CMI. The SIB team includes Capt Michael Kanyamunyu, Maj Kakuru and Maj Edmond Agaba.

Sources say, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba has also dispatched an investigative team, while the deputy Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Lt Gen Charles Angina, has also instituted an anti-theft crack unit, to clean up the force.

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