UPDF bosses suspended over stealing food

What you need to know:

Different mission. Despite sufficient supply of food, fuel and blankets by the UN to peace keepers in Somalia, UPDF commanders reportedly sell the items to civilians.

Kampala

The Ugandan soldiers deployed on a peace keeping mission in Somalia often take one meal a day following alleged theft and selling of food by commanders, Sunday Monitor has learnt.

Other logistics such as blankets and fuel are also reportedly sold. The army leadership in Kampala is reported angry over the matter and has launched investigations. Some administrative sanctions have already been taken by way of suspending some of the commanders while others are in detention.

“Yes. It’s true there is some investigation going on surrounding the mismanagement of soldiers’ logistics,” said Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, the Chief of Defence Forces.

Soldiers under the Uganda Battle Group 10 (UGABAG10), a contingent on African Union peace keeping mission in Somalia [Amisom], are reportedly unhappy with their welfare. Those mainly affected are in operation areas like Baidoa, Masila, Albesika, Lego, Baidogoli, Balahaba and Afagooyo.

While food is adequately provided by Amisom, UGABAG10 leaders reportedly divert the food before it reaches the operation areas. The food is reportedly sold to the civilian population in the usually hunger hit horn of Africa country. Although there were similar complaints before, sources said UGABAG10 had done it a little too much.

In Kampala, the High Command reportedly called for harsher sanctions against the commanders. Apparently, all the UGABAG10 commanders have either been suspended or moved away before the end of the contingent’s time in Somalia.

“There are commanders suspended as investigations go on. They will be brought to court for trial if found with a case to answer,” Gen. Wamala. He would not confirm nor deny the names mentioned here saying, “I wouldn’t want to mention them when they have not had a chance to defend themselves.”

Brig. Michael Odonga, the first commander of UGABAG10 was moved to Kenya as a military attaché while Col. Edson Muhanguzi who took over from him, was also suspended and placed under investigations by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence. LT. Col. Kansiime who deputised Col. Muhanguzi was detained at a prison in the Sea-port of Mogadishu and reportedly awaits transportation back to Kampala.

UGABAG 10’s intelligence officer one Maj. Mbaire was also suspended for reportedly failing to detect the diversion of food and other logistics meant for soldiers in the frontline. An administration officer whose names we couldn’t readily establish, took over intelligence work.

The soldiers are entitled to a good diet that includes chicken and fruits, especially apples. However, while a section of UPDF’s contingent that stayed at the UN base camp ate daily, those in far-flung areas sometimes ended a day without a meal.

Ironically, their other counterparts, especially Burundians, have their welfare reportedly uncompromised. Sources in Mogadishu said even the UPDF soldiers, who stayed at the UN base camp, received inadequate food rations which they have codenamed “kibawo”. Those outside the UN camp only receive dry ration called “Halal” three days in a week. The Ugandan soldiers are shy to enjoy Halal saying most of them get stomach complications after eating.
Their commanders reportedly cut the rations to save for the market.

Apparently, the foot soldiers are nostalgic about the reign of Brig. Paul Lokech who commanded UGABA8&9 during which soldiers would receive food as allocated to them.
Brig. Lokech was appointed military attaché to Russia but he is reputed to have fought against diversion of logistics and insisted on soldiers receiving what was due to them. During his time, Burundians and Ugandans shared logistics without conflict.

In April, Burundians were cooking and eating together with Ugandans inside the Ugandan Contingent head offices but Burundians protested and wrote to African Union and United Nations, accusing Ugandans of stealing food. The UN had to intervene and separated them from Ugandans.

Every soldier was entitled to two packets of milk daily but only one is served and at times it wasn’t served. After separating food stores, the Burundian contingent enjoys good quantity of food on a daily basis to the admiration of their UPDF counterparts.

While Amisom delivers fruits like apples and packed juices weekly for the soldiers to enjoy each day, the Ugandan contingent commanders reportedly give the soldiers four apples and one bottle of juice every two weeks.

Other logistics stolen include fuel and blankets. A source narrated a scenario in which a fuel truck was drained and fuel sold but one of the commanders directed an administration officer to sign vouchers acknowledging receipt of a tank full of fuel. When the officer refused to sign the vouchers, he was reportedly suspended by his commander and ordered back to the UN base camp from the operation areas.

The UN supplied blankets to the Ugandan contingent but only soldiers in the 39th and 45th battalions received. Others in 25th battalion and those in specialised units reportedly didn’t get blankets. A battalion has 700 soldiers meaning that out of 3,500 soldiers under UGABAG10, only 1,400 received blankets which were valued at Shs50,000each. The remaining 2,100 soldiers did not receive meaning Shs105million worth of blankets disappeared.

Action against misbehaviour
The mischief has reportedly forced the army chiefs to recall UGABAG10 by August 31 instead of September 18 when they were officially meant to return. This has also drawn fear among the foot soldiers that their allowances might not be paid in full since the army bosses in Kampala were unhappy.

Their worry is premised on reports that when the UGABAG 3 contingent earlier ‘misbehaved’ by protesting delayed payment of allowances, the majority of them missed out on promotions and deployment. Some of the injured soldiers also missed their entitlements upon return home.

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