More than 900 veterans have petitioned the office of the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) over what they call illegal dismissal from the military training school pending deployment to a mission in a war-torn Somalia.
In their August 1 petition to the ombudsman, the veterans claimed to have been recalled into service under the directive of the President to join the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) in Somalia to combat the al-Shabaab extremists.
“We veterans of Battle Group 39 who comprise of EX. BG 30,31,32 and 33 do hereby file our petition protesting the manner the UPDF leadership at Singo PSO want to illegally dismiss us without considering paying our Mission 7 months compensation and TRG allowance,’’ part of the letter addressed to the IGG states.
“We do formally protest seeking expeditious investigation, justice, fairness in regard with compensation of seven months’ time wasted while on harsh mission training yet we had commercial business/farming we were transacting,’’ the letter added.
The group sought an audience with President Museveni on the matter and asked the Parliamentary Defence Committee to travel to the military training school in Singo to address matters involving alleged fraud, bribery, and corruption.
We were unable to reach the IGG for a comment by press time because she did not answer our calls.
But in an interview with this newspaper, the spokesperson of the UPDF, Brig Felix Kulayigye, urged those aggrieved to sue.
“I will not discuss the details with the Monitor, but if they are unhappy with the reasons given to them, let them go ahead and sue,” Gen Kulayigye said.
He added: “The only trainees entitled to training allowances are only those on salary and pension. The rest that are neither on the two schemes are only fed.”
On February 15, the UPDF ran an advertisement in different media publications recalling UPDF veterans for pre-mission training, calling upon able-bodied veterans to form part of the Uganda Battle Groups XXXIX (39) and XI (40) at Singo Peace Support Operations Training Centre (PSO-TC).
Around 2,100 UPDF veterans reported to their recruitment divisions around the country and underwent screening, a process that disqualified those who did not meet the requirements.
Some of the requirements were; owning an original national identification card, and discharge certificate, having to be 55 years and below, and undergoing a medical and physical screening.
The disgruntled veterans served in the UPDF, notably in the liberation war that ushered in the current regime and were discharged upon successful completion of their service.
Upon completion of the screening exercise, 1,900 veterans qualified to be admitted to the Peace Support Operations Training Centre (PSO-TC), a military training school located in Singo, Nakaseke County.
The new entrants to the military training school were subjected to a six-month pre-mission training preceding a deployment in the African Union /African Transition Mission in Somalia.
On August 9, upon successful completion of six months training, at the point of passing them out for the mission, they were instead handed letters of discontinuance due to failure to meet the training standards.
The letters authorised them to travel back to their respective villages in addition to giving Shs300,000 as transport facilitation.
This publication learnt from one of the veterans that he served in the UPDF for 18 years and receives a pension benefit of Shs145,000 per month.
He also claimed they received training allowances of Shs50,000 per month, payable in two installments, making a total of Shs300,000.
The veterans claim that they did not receive any compensation for allegedly being discontinued unfairly and without clear reasons.
They further alleged that all unsuccessful trainees in previous battle groups such as Battle Groups 31 and 32 were deployed to their respective divisions in the army and were earning a monthly salary of Shs200,000 per month for two years while the discontinued batch under Battle Group 33 received Shs2.2 million in compensation.
The Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, said his office received the notice of intended suit and that his legal team is going to scrutinise it.
“I received a letter on the matter and we are studying it. We are going to contact the Defence ministry for the details of their recruitment. If it is a legal matter, we will give our comment,” Mr Kiryowa said.