Friday May 11, 2018
By Halima Athumani
FILE - Ugandan lawmakers are seen gathered in parliament, in Kampala, Uganda, Sept. 21, 2017.
KAMPALA — Ugandan lawmakers oppose a recommendation from United Nations
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the U.N. move a major logistics
base out of the country. The lawmakers say the move would be an
injustice, given the sacrifice that Ugandan troops have made in Somalia
over the years.
A letter this month from Guterres to the U.N. Advisory Committee
recommended the logistics base be moved from the Ugandan city of Entebbe
to Nairobi in Kenya. The move would be part of an effort by the U.N. to
reduce its 45 regional centers around the world to four.
The base currently supports 11 U.N. missions in Africa, including
missions in Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and
Sudan's Darfur region. Hundreds of Ugandans are employed at the base.
Legislators argue that Uganda is being cast aside despite its location in the heart of a region plagued by immense conflict.The motion before parliament was introduced by Theodore Sekikubo, who
noted that Uganda was the first country to send peacekeeping troops to
Somalia in 2007.
“We lost four choppers. We have lost untold numbers of lives. We have
paid the ultimate price. And therefore it’s so undiplomatic, it’s so
discomforting that this reciprocity is being paid in the negatives,"
Ugandan soldiers make up the largest contingent in AMISOM, the African
Union mission in Somalia, which has been protecting the Somali federal
government and fighting militant group al-Shabab for more than a decade.
Legislator Ssemujju Nganda says if the U.N. can’t appreciate such sacrifices, it can leave.
“The auditor-general in various reports has been complaining that the
U.N. doesn’t want to pay at Entebbe. In fact we should be celebrating
that they are leaving. Because they occupy our old facility, the old
Entebbe Airport for free. The money that you want to get as a result of
employing 1,500 Ugandans is money that you can get when you develop the
old airport and it begins serving the regional market,” Nganda said.
Uganda’s prime minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, says the government is
engaging with the U.N. secretary-general so that an amicable settlement
can be reached.
“It was convenient, it was cost effective. It was in the long run
cheaper for the U.N. to run its services using Entebbe.... And, in our
view, that center should remain.”
U.N. committees are expected to discuss the proposed relocation of the base and make a final decision in July.