Soldiers' allowances were also slashed from $1028 to $828
(L-R) UPDF Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, State Minister for Internal Affairs Bright Rwamirama and Internal Affairs Minister Adolf Mwesige appearing before the Internal Affairs Committee of Parliament. Photo by Maria Wamala
Although the United Nations has made it clear that it will not compensate the UPDF for the destroyed equipment, the army is not about to give up the fight.
UPDF Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala told MPs on the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs that UPDF will continue demanding for compensation through both legal and diplomatic means.
Katumba told MPs that it is extremely demoralizing for UN to refuse to compensate the UPDF "yet a small country like Uganda is sacrificing a lot for the mission." The UPDF is claiming for compensation for two choppers that crashed on the way to Mogadishu and a number of other army equipment that had been damaged over time during the peace mission.
"We are not giving up. We shall continue knocking on every door and use all the available means to have our equipment paid for. How can UN which inspected and cleared the choppers turn around and say they were not in the mission area?" Katumba wondered.
Katumba said the UN and AU decision not compensate the UPDF and also slash the soldiers' allowances from $1028 to $828 makes the UPDF rethink about their role in Somalia and whether they are still relevant.
"Without being honoured, how can another country be motivated to send their troops and equipment? Without support, where do we get the moral strength to continue? We think it's time for us to review our role in Somalia and whether Somalis deserve to be helped by us," he argued.
In August 2012 UPDF lost two MI-24 helicopters when they crashed near Mount Kenya. The choppers estimated to cost of $10m (about sh35b) were heading to Mogadishu to beef up an AMISOM offensive against Al Shabaab in the war-torn Somalia. Seven UPDF soldiers were killed and 24 others injured.
Katumba said for the years the UPDF has been in Somalia, they have also lost other equipment including tanks, earth moving equipment and many others.
According to Katumba, Uganda may never be compensated for the destroyed equipment on ground that the choppers had not entered the mission area in Somalia.
The United Nations caters for the transfer of ammunition of the UPDF in Somalia; in return the force is required to protect key government installations and diffuse the threat of the terror group Al-Shabaab. The African Union acts as the go-between for the UPDF and the UN.
Led by the Minister of Defence Adolf Mwesige, the team from the ministry of defence was appearing before the committee to brief members on the recent evacuation of Ugandans from South Sudan and the state of soldiers in foreign missions.
The officials also informed the committee that in addition to reducing the troop's allowances from $1082 to $828 per soldier, AU has not remitted the funds to AMISOM for the last 9 months.
The European Union (EU) pays allowances for all AMISOM peacekeeping troops in Somalia, while the United Nations (UN) pays for logistics, including food, transport and reimburses troop-contributing countries for tear and wear of the military hardware.
The EU releases money to AU, which channels it to troop-contributing countries to pay their soldiers.
Before January this year, soldiers were paid a mission allowance of $1,028 (about sh3.7m) every month and government deducts an administration cost of $200 (about sh730,000), meaning each soldier would take home a net of $828 (about sh3m).
Uganda has the biggest contingent of soldiers in Somalia and a number of police personnel.
During the meeting, the MPs asked the team to table the AU agreement and find out whether it is still viable to keep the team in Somalia.
"It was agreed that AU funds the mission. But if they are changing, then we should review the agreement," the Committee chairperson Rose Masaba said.