Uganda is engaging the African Union to resolve the financial debacle that is facing UPDF soldiers serving under African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The development follows reports that UPDF soldiers are reportedly demoralized after several promises by their commanders to pay within days failed to materialize. The soldiers have gone without their allowances for over six months.
Uganda has the biggest contingent of soldiers serving under the UN- funded Africa Union Mission in Somalia-AMISOM numbering at least 6,000 soldiers and 200 police personnel. Other countries with troops in Somalia are Burundi (5,435), Ethiopia (4,395), Kenya (3,664), Djibouti (960) and Sierra Leone (850).
UPDF spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda confirmed the delay and said the army leadership is also surprised that the money has taken this long as opposed to the known delays that could last at least three months.
“We are more seriously engaging AU such that our soldiers are paid. We are doing whatever it takes, our soldiers need this money,” Ankunda said.
Similarly, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia Lydia Wanyoto is optimistic that financial gaps will be filled in the shortest time. She described the trend as unfortunate but hastens to add that the arrears will soon be offset to zero.
However, Wanyoto says the problem isn’t a Ugandan case since other troops like Burundi, Kenya and Djibouti are in a similar situation.
She added that focus is more on the welfare of the troops in terms of accommodation feeding and other tool enablers for the soldiers to execute their mandate which are vital than the allowances.
Wanyoto dismissed fears that the AU is cash strapped saying there are other players who have showed financial commitment to secure peace building in Somalia. She said because of the progress, more money from donors is flowing into Somalia.
Meanwhile, UPDF spokesman Paddy Ankunda also dismissed reports that the government of South Sudan owes UPDF Ugx13bn in operation allowances.
These were deployed to rescue the South Sudanese Government from being overthrown by a section of renegade SPLA members led by former vice president Dr. Riek Machar.
Ankunda said that the status agreement with South Sudan doesn’t detail logistical help except the fuel for operations and patrol. He said it was a spirit of patriotism which took UPDF to S. Sudan in order to rescue and ensure the continuous flow of economic benefits Uganda was reaping.
“You know how we got into Sudan, it was survival, when that government is on fire it is Uganda that most loses. So we looked at how much we get before asking how much we spend in having a standing force inside,” Ankunda said.