Ugandans right to query big Defence money – Gen Kavuma

Saturday July 10 2021
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Lt Gen Charles Angina (left), the former deputy chief coordinator of OWC, gives his handover report to Gen Salim Saleh in Gulu District on Wednesday. PHOTO/CAROLINE AYUGI

By CAROLINE AYUGI

UPDF Generals overseeing Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) programme have equated the state of widespread poverty in the country to an insurgency, which they say has forced government to increase spending on security.

The new deputy chief coordinator of OWC, Maj Gen Sam Kavuma, on Wednesday said it looks contradictory when a huge chunk of the national budget is allocated to the Defence ministry when the country is stable and at peace.

 Gen Kavuma was making his maiden speech at 4th Division headquarters in Gulu at a ceremony where Lt Gen Charles Angina, his predecessor, handed over office to him.

 Lt Gen Angina has been posted to Foreign Affairs for subsequent deployment in the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Gen Kavuma said they were once told that once the country becomes peaceful, most of the financial resources would be redirected to improving the welfare of the citizens, but the majority of Ugandans still languish in poverty.

 “Since the welfare of Ugandans have not been catered for and many still languish in poverty, it has created a state of insurgency that has forced the government to increase spending on security instead of fighting poverty,” he said.

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“The police had about 20,000 troops, but now they are 40,000 plus. Every time we are buying batons, tear gas, recruiting LDUs, etc. then you wonder; if there is no more insurgency, why are we doing this, who are we fighting?” Gen Kavuma asked.

 He said he was not shocked that the budget was instead increasing to tackle insecurity resulting from poverty among Ugandans.

“I want to appeal to everyone that until we solve this problem of poverty in Uganda, people will not be happy and we shall recruit and recruit and recruit more forces,” he said.

Gen Kavuma said the Defence ministry’s budget should have dropped since the country appears to be at peace.

“I remember the budget at that time was about Shs100 billion or Shs200 billion, but now 15 years later, we are in trillions. Meaning that even when we ended the insurgency, we are still at war,”  he added.

Mr Philip Idro, the principal advisor to OWC director, Gen Salim Saleh, echoed Gen Kavuma’s sentiments.

Mr Idro said security and development are inseparable.

“Just like the UPDF has concluded matters of peace, the fight has to be shifted to economic activities such as agriculture, industries and agro-processing,” he said.

 Mr Idro said: “Although the theme of this financial year’s budget is ‘Industrialisation for Inclusive Growth, Employment and Wealth Creation,’ only Shs1.67 trillion was budgeted for agro-industrialisation, while a whopping Shs6.9 trillion has been allocated for peace and security.”

Gen Angina, who handed over office in the presence of Gen Saleh, said the second phase of the OWC programme, which started this year and runs until 2026, will focus on clustering beneficiaries depending on enterprise choices based on their region’s comparative advantage.

“That strategy will enable them reap more benefits. The plan is to group about 30 households to form primary and secondary societies to pool facilities together, and sell their produce in a processed form,” he said.

 “This will also help in value chain addition because most markets require volume and when they can produce volume, it is also easy for us to give them industries and markets,” he said.

Issue

Gen Kavuma said they were once told that once the country becomes peaceful, most of the financial resources would be redirected to improving the welfare of the citizens, but the majority of Ugandans still languish in poverty.

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