Legislators on the defense and internal affairs committee of parliament have queried the rationale of keeping thousands of officers due for retirement in the army warning of the dangers “a disgruntled group of soldiers in the military poses to national security.”
The committee on defense and internal affairs scrutinizes votes on account for ministry of defense, internal affairs, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, Uganda Police and Uganda Prisons.
The query was among a host of issues pertaining to the above ministries and security related government departments that the committee highlighted in its report to the House on Friday.
“It’s not only unconstitutional but also a gross violation of human rights of soldiers. Keeping such a disgruntled group of soldiers is a threat to national security,” the report reads in part.
In an interface with legislators on the committee last month, UPDF’s top brass led by defense minister, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, poured cold water on concerns about overdue retirements in the army attributing the issue to “lack of funds and operational requirements.”
Regarding operational requirements, the UPDF is in the throes of peace keeping missions in Somalia and South Sudan, besides combat operations in Central African Republic.
However, the main reason for failure to retire officers who have applied to be discharged from the forces, according to Joint Chief of Staff, Major General Wilson Mbadi, and Army Spokesperson, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, is the financial implication such a decision would entail.
“Government has retired thousands of soldiers since 1986. Most of these, their benefits remain unpaid. There would be no point in retiring more before we clear these arrears,” Ankunda told New Vision.
Ankunda said that UPDF has a retirement policy citing a rule that makes it obligatory for anyone at the rank of Major who clocks 50 years to retire.
Already UPDF, according to Mbadi, is struggling to clear sh1b in outstanding pension claims meant for 68,042 officers who have been retired from the army.
Since 1992, Ankunda revealed, UPDF has retired 50,200 soldiers while between and 2008, a total of 5300 officers and men were retired from the forces.
Citing the example of Brig. Henry Tumukunde who has openly voiced his desire to retire from the army, MPs Ssemujju Nganda and Muwanga Kivumbi last month berated government for keeping recalcitrant officers in the army as a punishment.
“The entrance and exit doors of all professional armies ought to be as wide as possible. If someone cannot be promoted beyond a certain rank, retire him,” Nganda said.
On the issue of the smoldering offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgency, the committee mooted the idea of engaging the DRC government with the aim of encouraging many of the rebel combatants to “embrace amnesty.”
The report warns that although the ADF seem to be on the run in DRC’s straggly jungles, the rebel outfit still poses a threat, yet UPDF’s top echelon cannot rule out a protracted ‘lukewarm’ insurgency given the restiveness of the region the rebel outfit is operating.
The Amnesty Commission was established in 2000 through the Amnesty Act, with a mandate to facilitate forgiveness of armed combatants as a means of encouraging a peaceful end to the many armed rebellions raging in the country.
By Moses Walubiri, The New Vision