By Jessica A Badebye
The Uganda Peoples` Defense Forces (UPDF) has been at it again this week seeking a whopping UGX484.5billion (approx. £108.6million) to purchase classified military offensive and defensive equipment including tanks and guns before this financial year of 2014/2015 ends. According to sources close to the UPDF, the Ministry of Defense entered negotiations with a bank in Russia through a state-owned arms exporting company in mid-2014, to get a loan worth US$ 170m to procure the said classified military equipment.
Rosoboronexport is the Russian company that concluded the negotiations with the Ugandan Defence Ministry and the bank late last year. However, this time around, the dilemma is persuading parliament to accept and approve the loan as required by the Ugandan constitution (JSC Rosoboronexport is Russia’s state intermediary agency for the exports and imports of defense-related and dual use products, technologies and services).
A team of security officials including the commander in chief, defense forces Major General Katumba Wamala and the State Minister for Defense Major Jeje Odong together with officials from the Ministry of Finance appeared before the committee on National Economy to defend their seemingly earnest loan request in a closed session that barred journalists and parliament staff to neither cover nor attend. Most legislators however disagreed with the request presented by the Finance Ministry with an aim of speeding up the approval process. “We couldn’t agree with them since there was no appraisal report and the report of the last money we gave them for classified expenditure,” one of the legislators said.
The loan request has not only taken the general public with shock but also most members on the committee since the defense ministry was already given budget for classified expenditure in this current financial year that is remaining with three months to end. It is the norm for the state to purchase both offensive and defensive equipment whenever general elections are fast coming in the guise of beefing up security and terrorism alert, but these have often done more harm than good. Heavy deployment of the army on the streets and presence of armoured vehicles have instead intimidated citizens and corrupted their minds into changing their would-be choices during voting.