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{UAH} MPs challenge defence ministry officials on sectarianism

MPs challenge defence ministry officials on sectarianism

Parliament gives ultimatum on LC polls

Adolf Mwesigye. File Photo.  

By Ibrahim A Manzil

Ministry of Defence officials and senior officers from the Uganda People's Defense Forces have been put on the defensive over claims of regional imbalance and sectarianism in appointment of top technocrats and commanders.

Led by Defense Minister Adolf Kasaija Mwesigye, the officials on Wednesday fended off criticism from mainly opposition members on the Parliament's Defense and Internal Affairs Committee.

Shadow Internal Affairs Minister Muhammad Kivumbi (DP, Butambala) lifted the lid off the controversial issue saying: "I have been a constant voice advocating for national representation in the UPDF especially in the administration. It is fairly absurd, skewed in one region I want to see whether progress has been made."

Mr Kivumbi read out names of officials from the Finance department of the Ministry of Defense, saying all but one "come from the same region."

Irritated by Mr Kivumbi's claims, Mr Mwesigye said: "I don't think it is proper for us to look at people through sectarian lenses, these are public servants most of whom are posted by the Ministry of Public Service."

Lt Col Bright Rwamirama, the State Minister for Veteran Affairs, said Mr Kivumbi's statements were incorrect since the region he says benefits is a minority in the ministry.

"It is not fair to read names selectively…even the region they are saying to be a majority is a minority," retorted the visibly irritated Lt. Col. Rwamirama.

Not done, Obongi County MP Hassan Fungaroo Kaps reinforced Mr Kivumbi's allegations, warning Committee Chairperson Judith Nabakooba (NRM, Mityana) against "protecting sectarianism."

"What we raised here is not promoting sectarianism but we are fighting it…madam chair don't protect sectarianism," he said.

Ms Nabakooba had warned the MPs against "going personal and promoting sectarianism."

Chief of Defense Forces Gen David Muhoozi rebuffed Mr Fungaroo's claims, saying: "I come from West Nile."

He added that "the leadership is sensitive to regional balance," by reading out names of commanders he said are sourced from all parts of the country.

Mr Simon Mulongo, a former MP and security analyst, in a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor said "the question of regional balance has been there in the ninth Parliament, we took it up to challenge the establishment and the explanation has been historical."

He added: "We are not yet there but I think there is an attempt to correct it as you can see in the new structure… I think Kivumbi should make his criticism constructively."

Mr David Pulkol, a former External Security Organisation chief told Daily Monitor that lack of regional balance in the army is a recipe for disaster.

"The army is not an enterprise of the private sector. This is ethnocentrism which must be resisted," he said.

UPDF Act amendment

Mr Kivumbi asked ministry officials whether they have any plans to realign the section of the UPDF Act because whenever President Museveni summons the Army Council, he omits Gen Mugisha Muntu (the leader of the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change) yet he is number one on the list of council members provided in the Act.

In response, Mr Mwesigye said they have a Bill to amend the UPDF Act to incorporate such issues.

Mr Fungaroo asked whether Gen Muntu ever gets invited to the meetings, to which Mr Mwesigye responded in the affirmative.

Gen Muhoozi later told Daily Monitor that Gen Muntu receives invites because "as far as I know, nobody has stopped Gen Muntu from attending the Army council meetings they send a [military] radio message, it (invitation) is not personal."

Asked whether Gen Muntu, a retired officer, has equipment to receive the radio message, Lt Col Rwamirama said he (Gen Muntu) is privy because he has an aide but he doesn't want to attend because of his political inclination, nobody would stop him.

Gen Muntu neither answered nor returned repeated phone calls to his known mobile phones.

He did not respond to several text messages.

Mr Mulongo, however, said Gen Muntu's attendance of the Army Council meetings will be "a threat to national security because FDC is not just a political opposition, it is opposed to the establishment."

 "It is true that our troops from Somalia have not been getting their allowances from the month of October to March because the AU (African Union) has not paid the allowances. However, their local salaries are going to their accounts."


Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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