UPDF good fighters but thieves, US tells Museveni

UPDF soldiers after they were flagged off by President Museveni for peace keeping mission in Somalia in March. Photo by Wandera Ouma.

What you need to know:

President Museveni received briefs that water and electricity bills were being inflated.

President Museveni has ordered an investigation into corruption in the army following an alleged comment to him by unspecified US officials that the UPDF are good fighters but some of their commanders are “thieves”.

The President, who apparently had earlier received briefs that water and electricity bills were being inflated, with some senior commanders also passing on bills from their homes or those of their relatives to be paid under the military expenditure, was forced to warn all his army chiefs that he was itching to sack anyone found stealing military logistics.

Mr Museveni issued the warning two weeks ago at Singo in Nakaseke District where he had gone to flag off a contingent of UPDF soldiers going on a peace mission in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Before flagging off the contingent, Mr Museveni is said to have held a meeting with his top commanders whom he reportedly scolded over reports that logistics in Somalia were stolen. The meeting was attended by the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, his deputy Maj Gen Charles Angina and the Chief of Military Intelligence (CMI) boss Brig Charles Bakahumura, among others.

Brig Bakahumura had earlier written a report to the President revealing that there had been theft of army logistics in Somalia. One of the revelations was that an American firm that had won a contract to work on security roads in Somalia had instead been gifted with UPDF fuel by commanders who reportedly sought financial rewards.

President Museveni reportedly told his commanders that “these white people called me that your army is very good but they are also thieves. I don’t want thieves in this army; any commander who will condone corruption, I will sack”.

Sources said Mr Museveni told his commanders that he would not tolerate actions that undermine the achievements of the Force.

The Americans reportedly lauded the dedication of UPDF foot soldiers but hold a grim view of their commanders.

Defence and army spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda confirmed that the President met the commanders before the ceremony, saying “I was at the ceremony but I didn’t attend the meeting he had with the leaders.”

“After that meeting, he emphasised that if anybody tampers with soldiers’ logistics, he will not walk away with it,” Col Ankunda said, adding: “We are investigating theft of fuel and food.”

Mr Museveni’s anger reportedly stemmed from the CMI report that exposed what sources described as massive theft of logistics and “mistreatment” of soldiers in Somalia. Besides, the President had also received reports of mismanagement of logistics at the military training school in Kimaka, Jinja District, including alleged diversion of resources meant for HIV/Aids affected soldiers.

The CMI discovery of events in Somalia nearly put Gen Wamala on Museveni’s bad books after it emerged that the former had reportedly tried to dissuade CMI from probing the misuse of logistics in Somalia.

Sources said CMI sought permission from Gen Wamala to travel to Somalia but he allegedly wrote saying the exercise would strain the military budget and that the logistics involved in Somalia were foreign. However, CMI carried out the investigation and submitted the report to Mr Museveni together with Gen Wamala’s letter of objection.

Efforts to reach Gen Wamala for a comment were in vain as his phone was off by press time.

Col Ankunda said CMI carried out the investigation and that another investigation is ongoing with a view of prosecuting anyone found culpable. He, however, said he had not seen Gen Wamala’s letter to CMI.

“I can’t confirm what was discussed in that meeting but what I know is that the President expressed his frustrations at the way some commanders were handling logistics,” he said.

In the meeting, sources say, Mr Museveni directed that Brig Michael Ondoga and Col Johnson Muhanguzi be court-martialed over alleged mismanagement of logistics in Somalia. Mr Museveni reportedly told the commanders that he had cancelled Brig Ondoga’s deployment as military attaché to Nairobi. By the time of cancellation, Brig Ondoga was undergoing diplomatic induction at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the new directive, Mr Museveni has reportedly tasked CMI to give him a report on how logistics are handled in all army projects. The construction directorate of the army is said be messy as well while in Mbuya, some army equipment were reportedly stored in drums yet money had been allocated for construction of stores.