and Catherine Bekunda
MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday questioned the defence minister, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, on allegations that the Government planned a deal to swap Ugandan oil for Russian jet fighters.
Russiaâ€™s state-owned radio, The Voice of Russia, on Monday reported that Uganda was planning to sign an agreement for the purchase of six fighter planes and pay for them with oil money.
â€œThe Government has stated that oil money will be used strategically and in a transparent manner. There is no way the NRM could commit in advance the petroleum national resource as described by the Russian media,â€ Kiyonga stated.
However, several MPs cautioned that this was not the time for Uganda to buy jets because it was not necessary as there was no threat of war.
Charles Gutumoi (Independent) said in Uganda the media breaks stories and the Government denies but they later turn out to be true.
â€œWe have been talking about our military might. Can our army improve without jets. If you have to buy jets we must be informed because we donâ€™t need to learn it from the media,â€ he said.
Michael Ocula (FDC) said it was disturbing to learn that the Government planned to use large amounts of money to buy arms when some people cannot access basics like food.
â€œThis is not the time to buy jets. It should have been previously when the war was raging. The defence ministry should concentrate on improving the welfare of the army,â€ he said.
Charles Ekemu (FDC) said the army spokesperson, Lt. Co. Felix Kulayigye had confirmed plans to buy the jets when money is made available.
Alex Onzima (FDC) demanded that the minister explains what steps had taken to ensure that the media that reported the matter is reprimanded and asked to apologise.
Jack Wamanga (FDC) said he had lived in Russia for long and his experience is that the Russian media do not publish anything about Africa and now that it was reporting about Uganda, there must be truth in the report.
Reagan Okumu (FDC) said Uganda was not facing any threat to intensify the acquisition of such sophisticated equipment.
Abdu Katuntu (FDC) said developed countries were struggling to get rid of their nuclear arsenal.
â€œLet us as a country not become victims of the oil curse,â€ he said.
Maj. Guma Gumisiriza (NRM), however, argued that procuring arms did not have to wait for insecurity to knock at the door.
â€œIt is not true that developing countries are getting rid of their nuclear arsenal,â€ he said.
Adding that developed countries are only destroying obsolete technology. â€œWe cannot have a state that is not defended,â€ he said.
Emmanuel Dombo (NRM) said the Government should be transparent and provide information to Parliament to avoid speculation.
Charles Oleny (Independent) said it was worrying to hear about such a deal at this time in Uganda.
â€œI am happy that this statement is assuring us that there is no such deal or planned deal.â€
Stephen Kagwera (NRM) demanded that the Government should be more transparent on the issues of oil.
On Monday, Kulayigye said there had been discussions with the Russians about the jets butthe deal had been dumped because of cost.
But yesterday, he was reported to have said the army would buy the planes if it got the money.
Parliament queries Russian jet deal