MPs to army: Address the rampant desertions

Sunday May 19 2013
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UPDF soldiers at a public function

Members of Parliament have asked the army leadership to address the rampant army desertions which they said are of serious concern to the country.

The legislators directed the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) as a matter of urgency to conduct a study into why the soldiers are deserting the army.

“The committee notes with concern that while the army strives to improve the welfare of its forces, cases of desertion are reportedly high,” noted the MPs on the Parliamentary Budget committee.

The Budget Committee comprises all House committee chairpersons who make recommendations to Parliament. The suggestions later form part of the Budget report that is submitted to the President.

“The committee implores the army leadership to study the underlying causes of these increased desertions so as to effectively stem it,” the MPs highlighted in the report.

They also instructed the army to document the number of desertions to avoid payments to ghost soldiers who are no longer in employment to ease the financial pressure on the wage bill.
The Ministry of Defence recently told a House committee that more than 1,000 soldiers, in effect, a battalion, desert the army every year.

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The MPs on the Defence Committee then suggested that salaries for soldiers be increased to address the problem of “rampant” desertions.

Recently, the Daily Monitor broke the story of 400 soldiers, among them 37 members of the Special Forces Command, responsible for protecting President Museveni, who are believed to have deserted the army.
This was the highest number of reported desertions in the history of the UPDF since 1995, when professionalisation of the national army commenced with the promulgation of the Constitution

‘Not worried’
But the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, has since said there is no cause for alarm over deserters, saying such cases were those of indisciplined individuals who joined the army in the hope of becoming rich.

The rise in desertions raises questions about the discipline in the army credited for helping South Sudan achieve independence and kicking al Shabaab out of Mogadishu.

Analysts have pointed to remuneration as the major cause of desertion. For instance, a private in the army earns Shs310, 000 compared to what, for instance, a police constable takes home. However, soldiers serving in the Special Forces earn an extra Shs150, 000 monthly as a food allowance.

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