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“My husband is an honourable man who has fought for this country; why make his family suffer? Why are they not paying him?”

Monica stares poignantly at a blank wall in the living room of her newly rented two-room house nestled in the sprawling Bwaise slum in Kampala. She cuts a forlorn figure as she ponders where to get money to buy food for her family. Monica (not real name) is the wife of a UPDF soldier in Mogadishu on African Union duty.

During our conversation, her seven-year-old son storms into the house unannounced. He has been sent away from school during mid-term exams because his tuition is not yet paid. Monica shrugs and mutters a few words — here is yet another problem. Since November 2011, the Ugandan soldiers in Somalia have not been paid a single penny.

According to the contracts they signed, the soldiers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) are supposed to be paid a monthly salary of $750 (about Shs 1.8m) from the African Union peace fund. Of that money, $100 (about Shs 250,000) is given to the soldiers for upkeep whilst in Somalia, while the rest is paid directly into their bank accounts in Uganda to support their families.

“My wife tells me there has not been a single penny in the account since last November. While other civil servants get their salaries at the end of the month, we receive ours five months late,” said a source who did not want to be named. Although Amisom spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda acknowledges that the soldiers have not been paid in time, he blames the African Union.

Speaking on phone from Mogadishu on Tuesday, Ankunda said, “We are aware that the soldiers have not been paid since November 2011; there is a lot of bureaucracy within the AU and this is totally out of our control.”

Ankunda further told The Observer that the general chief of staff is in talks with the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa and the money could be ready “today” (Tuesday). However, another UPDF officer serving in Somalia disputed Ankunda’s version, claiming that the AU pays the money promptly.

“The public should know the truth; the contract states that AU remits the money to UPDF, which in turn pays us. We are fully aware that AU has been fulfilling its obligations faithfully. The problem is within UPDF,” said the angry officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added: “To make matters worse, they (UPDF) take off $200 (about Shs 500,000) from our monthly salaries. That was not in our contract. This is an abnormal tax because it leaves us with mere peanuts.”

When The Observer contacted Ankunda again yesterday, he denied the soldiers’ claims. “UPDF has no control over the money,” he said. “AU advances it through Bank of Uganda, which in turn distributes it to the soldiers’ accounts.”

Monica’s husband left Uganda in 2009 for the Somalia mission, which aims to shore up the fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and defeat the AlShabaab militants. With a salary much better than the paltry monthly earning back home, Monica’s husband hoped his family would share the spoils of an ugly insurgency. But today Monica regrets her husband’s absence. Fighting back tears, she narrates one grim episode after another. She says she has never been as miserable as she is today since his departure. Monica was recently kicked out of the house she was previously renting and opted for a cheaper one in Bwaise after selling her household items.

“By July 2010, I had not received money for months; I’ve suffered a lot with my three children. I’ve not heard from my husband since then and I don’t know whether or not he is alive. Fellow women mock me, saying my husband abandoned me,” she laments.

Monica has resorted to selling tonto, a local brew, to eke a living. She also plans to relocate her family to the village.Yet she is not the only one facing such a plight. In Kitintale, another Kampala suburb, Jennifer (not real name) had to change her children’s school because she could not afford the tuition. Like Monica, she too has resorted to doing odd jobs, which she says are not deserving of an army officer’s wife.

“My husband is an honourable man who has fought for this country; why make his family suffer? Why are they not paying him?” Jennifer asks. She says she plans to mobilise other soldiers’ wives to protest against the situation.

These stories open a murky window into the daily trials and tribulations of UPDF soldiers serving in Somalia.

“UPDF breached all the terms of the contract that we signed with the UN,” complained one officer who asked not to be named. “First, it was the salary, then the visiting rights and our work leaves. This is betrayal of the highest order.”

Some of the officers The Observer spoke to said they have, on a number of occasions, raised the issue with their bosses in Somalia, but to no effect.

“Why should we wait for half a year to receive a chopped-up one month’s salary, yet Kenya and Burundi pay their soldiers even before month-end? Even the Somali guards whom I personally trained earn better than us,” one soldier complained.

The soldiers, nevertheless, said the $100 upkeep is given to them on time and their places of abode are fairly good.

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Comments

 
+3 #1 alfonso 2012-03-16 01:19
I want these people come back and fight for Uganda , they know how to do it and when
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-6 #2 Betty Long Cap 2012-03-16 01:35
My son-in-law said it was not uncommon for Russian soldiers to wait as long as one year for back wages. That was balm to my daughter's friend working under contract as a medical doctor in Saudi when once again his monthly paycheck was late.

Breach of government contracts seems to be a universal problem.
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+8 #3 thomas miles 2012-03-16 07:20
This cancer( orruption) will be the nemesis of Gen yoweri museveni,s govt.why is it that Burundi pays money promptly? wy even do you levy $200 from the poor soldiers who have volunteered to risk their lives not in the defence of their mother land but a foreign country?

its sad that UPDF leadership still believe that we are living in the NRA era when patriotism was the motivating factor, Today soldiers have needs like their pot bellied commanders, they have fees to pay, rent or medical bills. How does the UPDF account for the $200? are we hiring our services?
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+7 #4 Fred Bali 2012-03-16 08:39
Look at all this corruption! Indeed, m7's govt is so heartless,talk of the karya-sausages of this world, busy enjoying sausages as our boys in uniform face death everyday, on empty stamachs. What a shame, copper will pass thru' their skulls one day, God willing and they will vomit those sausage.
Keep hope alive our boys in Somalia
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+13 #5 Apollo Ekelot 2012-03-16 10:32
Just wondering whose job these galant men and women are doing. "Peace keepers" my foot! The guys are not keeping peace but engaged in some game around "regional politics" How else can some one be keeping peace in far away Somalia when there is no peace in his own heart and home?

The only thing these men benefit is the little pay they receive. Unfortunately the persons whose egos and influence is being propped up by the partriotic sacrifice of these men and women are metting out a whole hell of injustice on them! It is not fair to ask some one to sacrifice both his/her blood as well as family for a cause the objectives of which seem covert. Now they say AU is bureacratic! Why only so when dealing with Uganda? For goodness sake these partriots do not deserve this kind of treatment! Iam not
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+13 #6 Apollo Ekelot 2012-03-16 10:33
Just imagine it was your families subjected to such injustice! You have all this money to steal, to spend in profligate expenditures, pay bribes, shuffle MPs from Kampala, to Entebbe, to Kyankwanzi to influence the making and passing of decisions many see as being parochial and you can not pay these men their well deserved wages God forbid!

When we wanted fighter jets we broke all the rules and even brought our economy on its knees! When we feared the elections might slip out of our hands, we made a supplementary budget of $ 300 million! When the leader of the NRMs own entrepreneurs league "lost" markets which he secured corruptly we urgently compensated him with over $ 70,000,000 Not withstanding the fact that it was during election campaigns!

We gave MPs Ushs 20,000,000 to "monitor" NAADS which they never did any way because they were busy campaigning but we can not pay these men. Forgive the pun; this is surely going out of hand. Somebody should take responsibility for this.
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+6 #7 Kagombe 2012-03-16 12:37
Big Kudos to Observer for breaking this news. Let those who treat our gallants sons and daughters of the UPDF with impunity be exposed.

The truth sets free, and sunlight is the greatest disinfectant, as someone said. As they get global acclamation, our children are suffering. They will soon pay for these many sins.
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+4 #8 Godi 2012-03-16 12:39
I've worked 4 ten yrs in UPDF,when u raise a complain about disatsifaction in UPDF thefty by high level commanders,u are exposing yo life at a risk,if survivors can cry,pitty 4 deceased,thats our Uganda dear Ugandans.
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+7 #9 Raymond Otika 2012-03-16 13:05
The Kantian ethics dictates that a human being is an end in itself. Therefore it is a duty not to harm or use him as means to an end. By not pay the foot soldiers what is due to them in time, is causing harm to their families.

But in Uganda the commander in chief sacrifices the whole country (UPDF) as means to his ends. As a result it has a vampire chain of command that feeds off the ranks and file. E.g in the 20-year LRA conflict a quasi General from Acoliland bought of "Acholi Inn" (Hotel) like a pancake. How much does a General earn a month? So, a deduction of US$.200 (Shs.480,000) each, from a 6000 strong Amisom revolving force is a fortune (Shs.2.8 billion a month) per year!
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+1 #10 Dave 2012-03-16 14:52
This story if true depicts a very dangerous situation. It is one thing to have a restless and disgruntled civilian populace (without guns) but when the guys with the guns are forced into a situation where they consider throwing in their lot with the disgruntled masses then you have a potential Libya Part 2 just waiting to happen! Pay the soldiers!
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+7 #11 Nkongih lll 2012-03-16 17:07
I have much sympathy for this Monica lady who cannot afford to buy food for her family while her husband is stuck in Somalia. However, I would like to remind this lady that her husband IS NOT FIGHTING FOR UGANDA in Somalia .. hell NO!!! Uganda's sons of the Armed Forces SHOULD NEVER have gone to Somalia.

This Somali mission is a blatant ego trip devised by Uganda Armed Forces Command In Chief and his senior officers, purely for their own selfish and ulterior motives. I thought that Uganda had one of the best trained armies in Africa . I mean, if these soldiers are being shabbily treated, why not topple their masters' regime? Do not get me wrong, please! I am not calling for regime change in Uganda ..

I am only suggesting it to these soldiers to PUT UP or SHUT UP because at the end of the day, these soldiers and many Ugandans are well aware that funds meant to pay these soldiers salaries are already in some hotshot's bank account as we correspond. THAT IS UGANDA FOR YOU!!!
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-3 #12 Kusasira 2012-03-16 18:40
That is not very true, to say that families are starving. The soldiers on mission still earn their salaries and this money goes to their accounts.

What I note is that some soldiers do not want to give money to wives they do not trust. Some guys who did kyeyo in Iraq found their accounts empty after their tour of service!
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-1 #13 Betty Long Cap 2012-03-16 22:11
Quoting Nkongih lll:
I mean, if these soldiers are being shabbily treated, why not topple their masters' regime? Do not get me wrong, please! I am not calling for regime change in Uganda ..


Perish the thought of an overthrow. That would be treason or a second independence day depending on the outcome. I am not calling for regime change either.
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+2 #14 Steven Nsubuga 2012-03-16 22:29
Who diverted 30 million pounds out of the 100 millions that the British had meant for the regular Ugandan?
What have the British done or said about that diversion?
That silence says it all. Now you know who that man serves. It's not the Ugandan people but these masters.

Indeed, now you know who pays all the bills that supports the UPDF in Somalia. And you can now guess who diverts all the money that is meant for these poor soldiers. It must be said as well, that even with knowledge that these funds are diverted, the Americans have said zilch, nothing, nada, because the man is still serving their interests.

Equipped with all this knowledge about the theft of their hard earned sweat, these men continue to hold their nose and serve. They are willing PARTICIPANTS of the rape done to them....as are many Ugandans who have kept mum about what's going on.
What must stop is for people to be so kicked around like a ball by this filthy regime.
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+1 #15 PETER OKIROR 2012-03-17 09:17
Apoint of correction!
Am one of the peace keepers in Somalia. AU pays $1,028 per month, Ug govt deducts $200 per month to unknown sources, $100 is paid to asoldier for upkeep monthly and $728 is paid directly into sodliers account.

What eats soldiers mind is that Kenyan forces who recently joined AMISOM get their full amount ($1,028), the same with our sister forces in Burundi but why Uganda? Thank God we are not allowed to demonstrate otherwise we would all pour ourselfves on the streets of Mogadishu one day.
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-2 #16 Rutanywamaizi 2012-03-17 09:38
We should not allow to be used by alarmists. African Union does not have funds on its own hence the reason why they seek funding from donors. That delay is inevitable. Does this soldier trust his wife? If so, how much does he give his wife because, in real life, this family will always live on the UPDF salary not the AU mission pay.

To which school does this cild go? I hope it's not Kla Parents. It may be our right as children to deserve decent dresses according to the contract between our dad and his employer but does that mean we should criticize him because his employers have delayed to drop something in his pocket? Let's not lead our minds into behaving the primitive way simply because we want to hear failures only. What if the donors fail to release any funds?
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+2 #17 wodgot 2012-03-17 14:38
It's very good news to hear that UPDF soldiers who are deployed in Somalia are dying for the sake of charity while President Museveni and the selected Armchair Generals spend their dollars from Kampala.

My prediction is that, on their way back to Uganda,Presiden t Museveni will make sure that they are all disarmed as he plans to eliminate some of those identified hot-headed commanders who are amongst them. That's how President Museveni has always averted coup and instilled fear in the Army. Museveni already knows that these soldiers in Somalia are all concieved with revolutionary spirit and are ready to give birth to revolution when they come back.
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-4 #18 Pintu 2012-03-17 15:12
I agree with Kusaira. Given that the soldiers still earn their salaries at home, i don't expect the family to starve with 270000 for the lowest ranking soldier. Some of the women complaining might be one-time side-dishes for the soldiers, but claim them as husbands. Even the kids talked about may not belong to the soldiers. Those malayas should not spoil the name of UPDF and Government in general.
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+3 #19 Obalopiny 2012-03-17 17:22
When they want to steal elections they will raid the pubic coffers! When state house wants a huge supplementary budget approved they will find the money by hook or crook! When MP's want millions on top of their salaries they will find the money! When the dictator wants a new (toy) private jet they will find the money!

But when it comes to the things that actually matter, i.e looking after the welfare of the ordinary Ugandans then there is no money! Be it victims of nodding disease, jiggers, hardworking teachers etc etc etc. The NRM is not about serving the common man but narrow ruling elite interest only!
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+1 #20 Kebihimba 2012-03-17 21:01
Sincerely, can Shs270,000 earned by a UPDF 'man' correspond to the economy of Uganda?? i.e, rent, school fees for kids, medical care, bills and home use. My advice to Pintu is that he tones on his disrespectful language. How can you call gallant soldier's better-halves malayas. Is there no way The Observer can take off such demeaning contributions??
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