Two Uganda Peoples Defense Forces soldiers were put in jail on March 1 by the General Court Martial in Kampala for spreading false information.
In January, the two made and shared a video in which L/Cpl Apollo Bigirwa, 41, yelled at President Yoweri Museveni, Commander-in-Chief of the UPDF, about how he had treated them during the Somalia peacekeeping mission. The video was shown on TV and social media.
Pte Stuart Nuwahereza, who was also charged, put the video on social media, where it quickly went viral.
The two are among the thousands of veterans of the African Union’s mission to keep the peace in Somalia who haven’t been paid for years but live in fear and can’t say anything.
“False and wrong claims”
According to the GCM records, the prosecution said that L/Cpl Bigirwa and Pte Nuwahereza broke Section 137(1) of the UPDF Act 2005 when they “made and spread ill and false statements against the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and the Government of Uganda” by sending messages on different media platforms that said the government wasn’t paying UPDF soldiers in Somalia.
“The crime the convicts committed carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but since they are first-time offenders who have never wasted the court’s time by pleading guilty, a period of nine months and six months is appropriate for them,” said Brig. Gen. Freeman Mugabe, GCM Chairman.
Uganda has been in the news lately because it hasn’t paid its soldiers who serve in the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) and its predecessor, Amisom, for groups of soldiers who have been serving since 2018.
The EastAfrican has learned that the European Union, which pays all of the peacekeepers’ salaries in Somalia, has been running “high-level inquiries” between Brussels, Addis Ababa, Mogadishu, Kampala, Nairobi, and the capitals of other countries that send troops there for weeks
Reports in the media said that the veterans of the Somalia mission have not been paid, even though all allowances for Amisom/Atmis had been paid out by Brussels.
Both the EU and the African Union said they have no control over the TCCs once the money leaves the AU Commission and goes to pay the soldiers.
In fact, there is more and more pressure on Kampala to explain what happened to peacekeepers’ pay after it was discovered that the UPDF recently paid soldiers only a small part of their back pay.
On February 17, 2022, 2021, and 2020 UPDF soldiers from Battle Groups 34, 33, and 32 who were sent to Somalia got only four months’ pay instead of the 12 and 9 months they were owed.
Atmis says that the only group of former peacekeepers in Somalia who are owed some of their allowances, which are currently being processed, is Battle Group 34, which went to Somalia at the end of 2021 and came back on December 31, 2022.
“Atmis can confirm that the African Union Commission has paid all reimbursements to troop-contributing countries up to August 2022 and is currently working on reimbursements for September and October 2022,” said Gifty Bingley, the spokesperson.
She also said that Souef Mohamed El-Amine, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of ATMIS, is in contact with the AU headquarters and other parties to talk about Uganda’s failure to pay troops’ allowances.
A spokesperson for the EU told says the European Commission keeps a close eye on all of its financial instruments through audits, checks on spending, and its contracts with the African Union Commission.