MPs say there is need for government to convince Parliament that it has not turned UPDF into a mercenary force
Parliament is probing the circumstances under which the Uganda government has sent UPDF troops to Equatorial Guinea.
The state minister for defence Col. Charles Okello Engora has confirmed that the Uganda government has sent troops to troubled Equatorial Guinea.
The minister made the statement on Tuesday in Parliament while responding to a presentation by Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo who said Ugandan troops had been deployed to Equatorial Guinea without seeking parliamentary approval.
"This is a matter of extreme public importance. Article 210 of the constitution gives Parliament mandate to approve deployment of our troops in foreign countries but this has been done without parliamentary approval" Ssekikubo argued.
The MP argued there was need for government to convince Parliament that it has not turned UPDF into a mercenary force to be hired by warlords and dictatorial regimes that want to keep themselves in power against all odds.
"Our forces have been sent out to protect a man (President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo ) who has ruling his country as a dictator since 1979. We need explanation over this continued disregard of the constitution and the power of Parliament" Ssekikubo stated.
The Government Chief Whip, who pleaded ignorance about Uganda's troops being in Equatorial Guinea, said, "I know UPDF is obliged to inform Parliament before such deployments. I don't know if it is true that we have deployed there. Therefore I am expecting the Minister of Defence to come and inform us" she explained.
Nankabirwa who by virtue of her position sits in cabinet meetings, dismissed allegations by Ssekikubo that government is disregarding the Constitution.
"Uganda government is obliged to respect the Constitution. It is not true that the Constitution is violated on daily basis" she elaborated.
As Nankabirwa was still labouring to explain, Okello entered the chambers and she asked him to throw some light on the matter.
Amidst murmurs from the legislators, Okello explained that the UPDF troops had been sent to Equatorial Guinea for training on the request of President Obiang Nguema.
But Ssekikubo rejected the explanation saying, "How do you send over 250 soldiers to a foreign country for training with equipment and arms? There are reports that more other soldiers are to be sent there.
Certainly, by any imagination this cannot be training as the minister says. It is not proper for our forces to be deployed to defend a leader who uses force to keep himself in power."
The Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah ruled that the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda should prepare to present to Parliament a statement with details of the deployment of the forces to Equatorial Guinea.
According to Brig. Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson, the UPDF troops have been deployed following a bilateral agreement between Uganda and Equatorial Guinea.
"The UPDF training team that has been deployed in Equatorial Guinea is covered by a bilateral agreement. An agreement was dully signed to cover that deployment," he said.
Karemire said the over 100 troops, who were last week deployed in Equatorial Guinea, are in the West African country to enhance training skills of Guinea soldiers there.
The one-year deployment agreement, Karemire said, is subject to negotiation at the end of the contract.