DEFENCE minister Crispus Kiyonga has reaffirmed that city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia never acquired ownership of the prime land currently occupied by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
â€œThe Government has never sold that land to Sudhir and, therefore, his claim of ownership of the land cannot arise; it is not a genuine claim,â€ Kiyonga stressed in Parliament yesterday.
Kiyonga told the defence and internal affairs committee that the Government had given the land to the Kenyan government in exchange for a piece of land Uganda received at the coastal port of Mombasa.
The foreign ministry and the Treasury were already handling the transaction with the Kenyan government, he added.
The plot on Yusuf Lule Road has been at the centre of controversy and is now the subject of a court case. Sudhir, the owner of Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kabira Country Club and Crane Bank, has sued the Government, demanding that it vacates the plot.
â€œThe Government has decided to exchange the land for another in Mombasa. This is for strategic reasons. Acquiring a plot in Mombasa will give the country a better capacity to handle the countryâ€™s imports and exports,â€ Kiyonga said.
He explained that the defence ministry was rationalising its ownership of land, selling some plots it owns and buying others where they needed them. He said Kisekka Hospital land was also up for sale.
Kiyonga, flanked by army chief Gen. Aronda Nyakairima and other officers, was appearing before the committee to defend the supplementary budget for the ministry.
Briefing the committee on the military operations against the LRA in eastern Congo, he said the UN envoy to the LRA affected areas, Joaquim Chissano, had recommended to the UN Security Council that assistance be given to the regional forces. MONUC was already supporting the forces in Garamba, he added.
Kiyonga explained that his ministry needed a supplementary budget of sh103b on top of the sh400b allocated last year. Of this, he said, sh48b was required for capacity building projects.
Another outflow of sh50b was mainly due to the operation against the LRA in Garamba, while sh5b was for other unnamed expenditure.
The committee also heard that the UPDF disarmament in Karamoja was progressing and that the auxiliary forces, such as the Amuka and Arrow Boys, totalling about 40,000, had been paid.
Franca Akello (FDC), however, said there were still hundreds of auxiliary forces in Pader who had not received pay arrears.
Several opposition MPs questioned the regional balance in recruitment, promotions and welfare. They wanted the minister to explain the rationale behind these decisions.
Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala, the commander of the land forces, denied the claims, saying recruitments were done in the open, all candidates were treated equally and regions were allocated quotas to fill.
The MPs also questioned the logic behind promoting officers who had already retired from the army, referring to the recent promotion of state minister Bright Rwamirama and MP Guma Gumisiriza.
Responding to complaints from UPDF soldiers deployed in Somalia that part of their salary was cut, Brig. Robert Rusoke, the joint Chief of Staff, said they were being paid $750 per month but the Government retains $200, according to the agreement, leaving them with $550.
Asked to explain how two UPDF soldiers were killed in Garamba after the force had withdrawn, Nyakairima said the two were part of the intelligence team that was supporting the DR Congo forces.
â€œUPDF also does surveillance and reconnaissance. While doing these things, we come in contact with the LRA and we combat them and, definitely, we get injured or killed.â€
CMI land not sold to Sudhir - Minister