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Ex- Uganda Army soldiers lose over sh4trillion case

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st January 2009 03:00 AM

THE Supreme Court has ruled that former soldiers who served in the defunct Uganda Army that was disbanded after the overthrow of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979 are not entitled to salary arrears and gratuity.

THE Supreme Court has ruled that former soldiers who served in the defunct Uganda Army that was disbanded after the overthrow of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979 are not entitled to salary arrears and gratuity.

By Hillary Nsambu and Anne Mugisa

THE Supreme Court has ruled that former soldiers who served in the defunct Uganda Army that was disbanded after the overthrow of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979 are not entitled to salary arrears and gratuity.

Over 45,000 former Uganda Army soldiers had sued for salary arrears, as well as unpaid pensions and gratuity estimated at sh4.5 trillion.

They claimed that they had never been discharged from the armed forces.
The Court of Appeal in March 2007 overturned a High Court judgment and ruled that the ex-soldiers were entitled to gratuity.

The High Court judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, had originally dismissed the ex-soldiers case.

Consequently the Attorney General appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment yesterday ruled: “The former Uganda Army soldiers have never belonged to and they do not now belong to the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF).”

The Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, headed the coram. The other justices were John Wilson Tsekooko, Joseph Mulenga, George William Kanyeihamba and Bart Katureebe.

The former soldiers, most of them in their late 60s, who had jammed the court, grouped outside the court after judgment and appeared very furious over the judgment.

Through Matovu and Matovu Advocates, the ex-soldiers had contended that they were all at material times employed in the Uganda Army.

They said due to political changes in the Government, in 1979, they were disarmed and detained in various prisons and were subsequently told to wait for further deployment, which never materialised.

They further said since then, they had not been deployed despite their readiness to serve their country.
In the lead judgment, Kanyeihamba, said the Court of Appeal overlooked or ignored the national importance of ensuring that army commanders must be in constant touch and in unquestionable and visible command of their troops.

Kanyeihamba blamed the ex-soldiers for not taking steps after they were demobilised to seek absorption or deployment in the new army individually or through their association, known as the Uganda Army Servicemen Development Association.

The ex-soldiers also argued that they had never been dismissed, discharged, suspended or interdicted from service.
However, the Attorney General denied the ex-soldiers claims.

The court ruled that the successive legal notices since 1979 terminated the services of the former soldiers in the Uganda Army.

The court agreed with the High Court trial judge that the UPDF is an entirely new army from those that existed before it and as such the former soldiers do not belong to it.

George Ssenkaali, one of their leaders, told The New Vision after court that they had no choice but to abide by the court’s decision.

Ex- Uganda Army soldiers lose over sh4trillion case

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