Gen Aronda On The Spot Over UPDF Desertions


for sale geneva;”>While the country might never ever know the amount stolen, salve it is believed over Sh20bn was lost in the shameful heist.

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The soldiers, who formed part of the elite force mandated to protect the life of the President and his family, were seen carrying sacks of money in dollars and shillings before fleeing the scene.

Security sources say Museveni could not believe what he was told: that his own guards had raided a treasury at state house.

However, it is important to note at least Shs300m was stolen from then Principal Private Secretary to the President, Amelia Kyambadde as Museveni planned to travel to eastern Uganda in 2010.

The huge sums of money were kept in a briefcase at Nakasero.

As if this is not enough, in November 2011, Shs100 million meant for operational expenses was stolen from Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Aronda Nyakairima’s office.

Cpl. Fred Asingwire who was working as the pay clerk in the office of the army chief disappeared from his duty station after the money went missing.

The incidents speak volumes of the state of mind of UPDF soldiers.

The desire for quick wealth has replaced the spirit of sacrifice, patriotism, dedication and perseverance in harshest of storms on which the NRA was founded.

Early last week, UPDF political commissar, Col Felix Kulayigye painfully released a list of 400 soldiers who had deserted the army.

Sources say the list is longer, adding, the army feared embarrassing itself by outing all the names of deserters.

Deserting carries a death sentence in the army, making it a risky venture. However, this has not deterred soldiers from taking the “path of death.”


The question that many have fallen short of answering is: why is that we are seeing desertions in an army that takes over shs1.1 trillion shillings per year to run its budget.

UPDF has since reported numerous achievements including enhancing its capabilities through acquisition, upgrading and maintenance of strategic weapons and weapon systems and fulfilled the core mission of the national force for effective defence of Uganda and her interests.

But unceremonial departure of soldiers has left UPDF with facial lacerations and dampened the mood of those excited about joining the army.

Scholar William H. Baldwin tries to examine causes of desertions in his works: “The Canadian Extradition Treaty and Family Deserters.”

He cites alcohol consumption and drug addiction; mental deficiency or weakness, degeneracy, fear of punishment for offenses and failure to appreciate seriousness of offense and lack of discipline.

Other reasons are “illness or physical overtax including illness, instability, irresponsibility, fatigue from unknown cause and fatigue from excessive duty, weakness of character and youth and wander lust.”

Sources say UPDF thrives on a strict code of conduct which is religiously applied without fear.

While this is good for enhancing discipline, it has led many to quit the force for their personal safety.

This was evidenced by the disappearance of Pte Okot Odoch after the shooting of 10 people in Bombo Town Council recently.

He was hunted down by the military intelligence for close to two weeks until he was arrested.

Cpl. Fred Asingwire’s disappearance after the loss of Shs100m in Aronda’s office also confirms the intensity of fear of reprimand among soldiers.

Other causes of desertions in UPDF are illness of soldiers’ close relatives such as children, parents or wives.

“Some are dissatisfied with unjust treatment of soldiers who are denied a chance to go home to visit their ailing dear ones, leading to escape from duty which eventually turns into desertion,” a source told Chimpreports.

Private Nicholas Mucunguzi who shot and killed five people at Top Bar in Kampala in May 2009 after losing his money to prostitutes had earlier been denied permission to visit his ailing mother in western Uganda.

Another reason as to why UPDF is registering increased desertions is the soldiers’ failure to obtain transfer or discharge from the army. Some, especially in advanced age, look at the future where they can start small businesses to earn a living other than staying in the army.

Several soldiers have been publicly complaining of the army’s refusal to allow them to retire.

Former spymaster Brig Henry Tumukunde has been at loggerheads with his bosses over their failure to retire him.

In 2010, Uganda was treated to some drama when a soldier who announced he would challenge Minister Kabakumba Matsiko’s hold on Bujenje County parliamentary seat in the 2011 general elections sued Aronda for refusing to let him quit the force to participate in elective politics.

Kasumba was quoted by the media as saying his continued stay in the army was “unreasonable” since the institution’s medical board recommended his discharge.

For junior officers who feel mistreated by refusal to discharge them usually leads to desertions.

Other factors include failure to carry out enlistment promises, poor handling by superior officers, dissatisfaction with environment and the organization, discontent with station and conditions which are out of control, friction with noncommissioned officers, general dislike of service, homesickness; poverty of dependents, lack of royalty; entanglement with women, cowardice and desire to marry.

How to stop desertions

In order to cut down on rate of desertion in any organization, experts say it is necessary to attend to men found to be mentally deficient; irresponsible or young, unstable or easily influenced.

There is also need to control addiction to drugs or excessive use of intoxicants and also lay off the physically weak, ill or physically deficient.

It is also suggested that those known for a weak character or criminal record should be discarded and soldiers who are discontented, disgruntled or homesick let to visit their families regularly.

Some soldiers are always needed at home due to financial troubles or serious illness of family.

And with the increasing cost of living, soldiers’ salaries must be raised to at least shs500, 000 from Shs300, 000 per month. They also should be given basic commodities such as sugar, soap, clothes at discounted prices in army shops and their children provided free education to university.

Living conditions such as barracks must be made comfortable and kept clean and dinning messes run efficiently with properly cooked food.

Sources who preferred anonymity so as to speak freely further note that to reduce on the number of desertions in UPDF, punishments should not be administered with undue strictness but with leniency to enhance reform of character.

The army must encourage co curricular activities to reduce on “stress” and make the profession enjoyable. Others say a proper amount of entertainment should be furnished and consequences of desertion explained properly.

It is also feared some desertions are fuelled by fears of deployment in war zones such as Somalia and DRC.

It is equally important to note that during bloody battles, especially Somalia; Defence rarely reveals the exact number of its victims to avoid dampening morale of soldiers and losing public support for such missions.

But this hurts soldiers. “There was a time in Somalia when over 30 of our comrades were taken down by Al Shabaab in one night but I saw in a newspaper that only 2 had died. I felt like breaking down,” said a soldier who deserted from the army and now runs a shop in Makyindye, a Kampala suburb.

The legacy of Aronda will be defined not only by the successes against LRA warlord Joseph Kony and disarmament exercise in Karamoja but how he handles the welfare of men and women who sacrifice lives to keep the nation safe.

A rise in the number of desertions will be a slap in the face of his career.


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