What you need to know:
- Claim. Sgt Nakiryowa joined the National Resistance Army in July 1981 when she was 13 years, later being transferred to the then guerilla army’s bush headquarters to cook for the then rebel leader Museveni.
- According to her discharge certificate dated May 20, 1997, the reason for discharge was “normal discharge” and she was described as “a hardworking and disciplined soldier”.
KAMPALA. A woman who cooked for President Museveni during the Bush War in Luweero has sued government for forceful retirement from the army and failure to pay her retirement benefits.
RO 185, Sgt Christine Nakiryowa was in 1997 surprised to see her name on the list of retirees from the army yet she had not applied for retirement.
She filed her case at the High Court in Kampala several years ago demanding Shs179m.
Sgt Nakiryowa joined the National Resistance Army, now UPDF, in July 1981 when she was 13 years, later being transferred to the then guerilla army’s bush headquarters to cook for the then rebel leader Museveni.
After capturing power in 1986, she worked under 1st Division in Lubiri before she was moved to Mbuya under chief of personnel and administration from where she was retired.
“I was in Mbuya then working as a security officer when I received a discharge certificate from one Ngobi that I had been retired from the army,” she says.
According to her discharge certificate dated May 20, 1997, the reason for discharge was “normal discharge” and she was described as “a hardworking and disciplined soldier”.
Ms Nakiryowa also says she looked after Museveni’s young brother, Gen Salim Saleh, when he was shot and injured in Bukalabi, Luweero District.
From the time she was discharged from the army, Ms Nakiryowa says she has moved to different UPDF offices to get her package but has not been helped.
She says she has been to UPDF pensions office, State House, talked to Gen Saleh and Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, the chairman of the NRM Veterans League, to no avail.
“Even Gen Saleh whom I thought would help has not. He was asking whether I had received the medal. Why should he tell me about the medal when they have refused to pay my retirement package?” she asked.
Gen Saleh told Sunday Monitor that Sgt Nakiryowa was “a good fighter” in the bush and made a very big contribution.
“I know her. She did a lot during the Bush War. But she is among the early retirees who do not qualify to get pension, according to the UPDF Act,” Gen Saleh said.
Gen Saleh referred this newspaper to State minister for Veterans, Col Bright Rwamirama, whom he said handles issues to do with army veterans.
Col Rwamirama did not answer nor return our phone calls yesterday.
In 2007, she applied to rejoin the army but her application was rejected.
In a letter written by Maj Gen Muhwezi on September 3, 2009 to the UPDF Joint Chief of Staff, he said he remembers Ms Nakiryowa well during the Luweero Bush war and asked that she be helped to get her retirement package.
“I remember the lady so well during the Bush War days. I didn’t have a record of her until recently. She has been promised on several occasions to be assisted in your office and elsewhere until to date, yet the cost of travelling and catering for dependents is no longer affordable without this support, which indeed Sgt Nakiryowa genuinely deserves as a patriot and our comrade,” Maj Gen Muhwezi wrote.
Before Maj Gen Muhwezi wrote, the former Chief of Pensions, the late Col Albert Kareeba had also written to the Joint Chief of Staff on July 1, 2009 saying Nakiryowa had not filed a claim for pension.
“She has been advised to fill forms in Bombo to start her pension claim process and she will then be paid in due course,” Col Kareeba wrote.
Sgt Nakiryowa said she had earlier in 1999 submitted her personal details to UPDF but she again resubmitted them to the Chieftaincy of Pensions. A year after resubmitting her particulars, she went to Bombo, the headquarters of Land Forces, but was told that her file was missing.
She later met President Museveni at State Lodge Nakasero who directed the then Security minister Amama Mbabazi to follow up her case.
The former ADC to Mbabazi, Lt David Tibamanya, then wrote to the Joint Chief of Staff, saying the President had directed that Nakiryowa’s case be handled.
“While His Excellency was meeting mobilisers at State House Nakasero, Sgt Nakiryowa raised her issue and the President directed Hon Amama Mbabazi to handle it. After studying the matter, it was realised that it’s your office, which should handle her case,” Lt Tibamanya wrote on May 18, 2009.
The challenged Section 15(6) (d) read: (6) The Commission shall not investigate. (d) any matter involving behaviour which is considered to be. (i) immoral and socially harmful, or (ii) unacceptable, by the majority of the cultural and social communities in Uganda.
Justices’ word: “This case brings into sharp focus once again on the acute tension that exists between the urgent need to protect the public and the fundamental rights of the individual. The first responsibility of government in a democratic society is owed to the public and it is to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens. It is the duty of the court to do all that it can to protect and uphold that principle.”
Benefits. After failing to get help, in 2013, Ms Nakiryowa through her lawyers, Mpagi, Kayongo and Company Advocates, went to the High Court and sued government for failing to pay her retirement benefits.
Law. The law stipulates that after serving for nine years, a soldier is entitled to pension for 15 years upon retirement.
Different view. Army Spokesman, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said: “The government is willing to pay and already has a budget to clear the backlog. We appeal to the concerned individuals to reach out to our office for assistance.”