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Chaos as Defence minister refuses to hand over chopper crash report to Parliament

Defence minister Adolf Mwesige and other officials appear before the Defence Committee of Parliament on Tuesday. Photo by Vincent Kasozi.

KAMPALA–The Minister of Defence, Adolf Mwesige, has clashed with MPs on the Defence Committee of Parliament over payment of Ugandan AMISOM troops and the 2012 Mt. Kenya UPDF chopper crash.

The MPs who include Theodore Sekikubo, Muwanga Kivumbi and Gilbert Olanya were quizzing the minister on why the troop allowances were cut by $200 to $828 and a debt of $10.6m as reimbursement for lost or damaged country equipment that remains unpaid.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union (AU) with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia. The Ugandan contingent remains the largest contingent in AMISOM.

The Butambala county MP, Muwanga Kivumbi, led his colleagues in demanding for answers regarding the reimbursements by the AU for damaged equipment and the compensation for three lost aircraft – the Ugandan choppers that crashed while on an AMISOM flight.

In August 2012, three UPDF Mi-24 combat helicopters crashed on Mt. Kenya enroute to Somalia leaving seven people dead.

Muwanga Kivumbi also demanded to know how much money the ministry had generated in reimbursements from the AU on depreciation of country equipment since the mission started.

“Because in the normal budgeting that money does not normally come through so we want to know under AMISOM where our compensation for equipment how much money you have generated since that mission started and where is it,” he pressed.

Ministry officials led by Mwesige were meeting the committee to answer queries raised on the ministry’s Budget Framework Paper for FY 2018/2019.

Muwanga also noted that the Ugandan soldiers in the AMISOM mission in Somalia have continually complained of not getting their pay and have 100$ deducted from their allowances as preparatory fees.

He wondered why the ministry does not use the money from the preparatory budget to pay soldiers while the funds from the AU are being processed.

His proposal was supported by the Mitooma county MP Donozio Kahonda.

On the issue of the chopper crashes minister Mwesige responded by saying that the country has had a series of meetings with the UN on the compensation of the lost aircraft and that a final position on the compensation from the UN was due soon.

“There have been arguments and counter arguments but I think we are now getting green light from the UN that indeed this was a worthwhile deployment that the aircraft had gone to Somalia to do a good job, so I think we’ll be getting feedback from the UN very soon,” he disclosed.

However, Kivumbi demanded that the minister avails to the committee the report that was produced following investigations into the chopper crash.

His demand was reiterated by Sekikubo who noted that the crash of the choppers was an issue of public importance and the report should not be kept secret by the ministry.

“…….And once you have a report and you keep it close to your chest and you only come to tell us about ongoing negotiations, I think it’s a disservice to this committee and to the country,” he confronted the minister.

Minister Mwesige retorted by stating that the report could not be published and cannot be made public because it was used to inform the restructuring of the air force.

The MPs, however, would not budge, saying that the issue will not be swept under the carpet. Sekikubo argued that the Defence Committee is being put to task for failing to hold government accountable on security matters. He was referring to the investigations into the Kasese riots and killings whose report has never been produced.

“You know we are being bashed on the floor of parliament Mr. Chairman that this committee ends up asking questions, we never conclude issues,” he lamented.

Mwesige held his ground, saying information relating to security is one of the most protected information in the hands of the state.

“If we were to disclose every report, every document every piece of information relating to security then clearly the foundation of the state would be threatened,” he argued.

Sekikubo was visibly frustrated and noted that the committee cannot continue to exercise its mandate if it was being denied information that it was entitled to.

“Why are you doing this to us? We are here you are doing your part let us do ours, but each time we raise these pertinent issues they say don’t ask, then to what extent are we mandated to carry out our oversight functions?” he complained.

The report is likely to never see the light of day as the committee deputy chairperson Budaka county MP Mbogo Kezekia who was steering the meeting ruled in favour of the Defence ministry.

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