100 Kadogo deserters seek Museveni’s pardon

Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu, Army deputy spokesperson

What you need to know:

  • Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu, the army spokesperson, said desertion is a serious offence and the deserters therefore would have to appear before the court martial before they even think of being pardoned. “Desertion is an offence and there is a process through which we determine whether they should serve jail time or not. We have records and basing on time served as a soldier as well as conduct, the court will determine their fate otherwise I don’t speak for the president but he has a prerogative of mercy against such individuals,” Lt Col Kakurungu said.

Former National Resistance Army (NRA) child soldiers, popularly known as kadogos, who deserted the army, are seeking President Museveni’s pardon as their commander-in-chief.

Many child soldiers joined the army at tender ages of 12 -16 towards the end of the second regime of Milton Obote that saw Mr Museveni capture power in 1986.

Mr Charles Katende, who was speaking on behalf of more than 100 deserters, said fellow army officials are afraid of associating with them on grounds that they are deserters.

“Sometimes, we have ideas that can help in the development of the former kadogos but we can’t approach the colonels, generals, lieutenants and commanders because they don’t want to be associated with us who deserted yet we need their help and are willing to help us,” Mr Katende said.

He added: “Being young and stupid, we didn’t even know that leaving the army was a crime, we knew it was bad but we didn’t fully understand its consequences. By the time I was old enough to understand the full meaning of desertion, I was already too deep into my new life away from the barracks.”

He joined the army at the age of 13 in 1983 but left unceremoniously.

Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu, the army spokesperson, said desertion is a serious offence and the deserters therefore would have to appear before the court martial before they even think of being pardoned.

“Desertion is an offence and there is a process through which we determine whether they should serve jail time or not. We have records and basing on time served as a soldier as well as conduct, the court will determine their fate otherwise I don’t speak for the president but he has a prerogative of mercy against such individuals,” Lt Col Kakurungu said.

The association of the kadogos has 300 members with more than 100 deserters. It was established to help the development of former child soldiers who went to Mbarara army school.

What law says

According to the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Act cap 147, anyone who absents themselves for more than 21 days is considered to have deserted the army, and therefore commits a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years.

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