UPDF to spend Shs250m daily on DR Congo war

UPDF soldiers display solar panels they reportedly recovered from an ADF base in eastern DR Congo last year. Photo / Ministry of Defence. 

What you need to know:

  • The mission dubbed Operation Shujaa. was launched in late November last year, about a fortnight after suspected Islamist militants masterminded twin suicide bombings in Kampala, in which six people died and scores sustained injuries.

In a written submission delivered to Parliament on Friday afternoon, government has indicated that it needs at least Shs89.7b to finance the Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ (UPDF) operations against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The document is, however, devoid of the breakdown of the items or activities upon which the funds, if approved, are supposed to be spent on.

The money is part of Shs6.736 trillion that the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs plans to spend on items and activities outlined for the Financial Year 2022/2023.

The mission dubbed Operation Shujaa. was launched in late November last year, about a fortnight after suspected Islamist militants masterminded twin suicide bombings in Kampala, in which six people died and scores sustained injuries.

The document that, among others, carries responses to some of the queries which Parliament tasked the Ministry of Defence to respond to, was meant to be deliberated upon by ministry officials and the MPs on Friday.

However, this didn’t happen as legislators on Parliament’s Committee of Defence and Internal Affairs threw out the ministry officials, who were led by State Minister of Defence Jacob Oboth-Oboth and Joint Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Eric Kyanda, for failure to avail their detailed 2022/2023 Budget Framework Paper.

Pleas from ministry officials to discuss contents in the document also were unheeded to as lawmakers demanded that the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, together with the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Wilson Mbadi, and his deputy, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, attend in person for any discussions to go on.

Even when the discussions on the document are scheduled for Monday, legislators have threatened not to approve the Shs89.7b since government deployed UPDF in DRC without the House’s formal notice and approval.

“You are aware that UPDF is in Congo and yet Parliament has never approved that operation. So how can Parliament plan for that money when we never sanctioned that operation?” Mr Abdalla Kiwanuka, the Shadow minister for Defence told the Sunday Monitor.

Relatedly, the Butambala County lawmaker, Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, opposed the request, reasoning that the operation is unsustainable since the country’s economy is already constrained.

“Our economy cannot afford that and government should now know that we don’t have the money because we have already failed to raise money for the Parish Development Model, money to pay wages and support the health sector,” Mr Kivumbi told Sunday Monitor.

He suggested that Uganda’s military be withdrawn from DRC and government reverts to other peace sustenance programmes.

“The situation demands that we have a quick exit from the DRC because we cannot afford the luxury of such wars. It is high time we invest money in peace initiatives within the country,” Mr Kivumbi said.

Parliament mandate

Since efforts by Parliament to have government file a formal statement on the operation in DR Congo were futile, the MPs intended to use the opportunity to press ministry officials for a response on the matter.

“We want to know under whose mandate the mission in DR Congo is being executed. How is it that the taxpayers must fork out billions to sustain that operation in DR Congo without legitimising the whole operation? So, these are some of the questions that we want to respond to,” Lwemiyaga North MP Theodore Ssekikuubo said.

When approached for a response on the matter, Mr Oboth-Oboth declined to divulge details since the document had not been formally discussed in the committee.

“Take it that it is not a [presented] document because the members [of the committee] didn’t even want to look at it. So, we can’t answer questions on it until we present,” Mr Oboth-Oboth said.

Legislators on the said committee are expected to rule on the matter after their interface with the ministry officials.

Background

The operation

In late November, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) launched air, artillery and ground attacks against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in eastern DR Congo in a retaliatory move on the Islamist militants for, among others, lauching terror attacks on Uganda.

Operation Shujaa is under the command of Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga. The UPDF contingent comprises artillery, armoured, infantry and special forces.

The UPDF and their DR Congo counterparts attacked ADF camps in Tondoli, Beni and Yayuwa.

The attacks were reportedly scheduled to run for about six months but it is unclear whether the timeframe will be stretched further since the Forces faced a number of challenges, including navigation difficulties occasioned by heavy rains and impassable roads.

The Defence ministry had planned to spend at least Shs6.7 trillion but only Shs3.353 trillion has been allocated, thus a creating a deficit of Shs3.383 trillion.

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