When last year’s verbal war broke out between State House and the Governor of the Bank of Uganda over the buying of ‘jet fighters’ without parliamentary approval, the Press Secretary to the President, Tamale Mirundi, told the nation that such approval was not necessary “because the country, with its newly-acquired oil, could be attacked while
We got the impression then that the ‘jet fighters’ were for defending Uganda against outside aggression, and I hope that is still the Government position. However, the sad news that three Uganda army helicopters crashed in Kenya over the weekend on their way to the battle front in Somalia appears to imply that our aircraft, be it ‘jet fighters’ or ‘helicopters’, is instead of guarding our oil and the country as a whole against outside aggression, being used to fight other people’s wars.While we are waiting for the Government to clarify the identity of the helicopters that crashed, it should also explain to the nation what else, in addition to army personnel, our country is contributing to the peace-keeping mission in Somalia. Even if the helicopters are not part of the Shs960 billion that was spent without Parliamentary approval, we need to know what our aircraft is doing in Somalia and who is paying the bill for their operations and maintenance.
That apart, engaging our aircraft in Somalia instead of using it to strengthen the security at the Congo border where a war is raging, should be a matter of great concern to our country. Parliament might not even be aware that our aircraft is in Somalia. What would Tamale Mirundi say if our country, ‘with its newly-acquired oil’ was attacked while our aircraft and other weapons are being used in operations in Somalia without Parliamentary approval?
My readers may recall my comment of July 13 last year under this column titled: ‘The Jets we are buying will not defend us against poverty’. The same can be said about the helicopters that have just crashed whose loss is not even greater than the lives of our soldiers who died in the crashes and, as I concluded, we should stop spending the little money we have in the hope of an oil boom which may never even reach many of our pockets.
I once asked what we were doing in Somalia and urged our government to let the Somalis fight their own wars. But the Government has not listened. Now we should ask ourselves: “Azina obulungi tava mu ddiiro?” (Does a good dancer never leave the floor?)
Many of our sister countries have refused to intervene, and although this country’s reputation as a peacemaker has been enhanced by our efforts in bringing some semblance of peace to that troubled country, it is high time we brought our boys and girls back home. Enough is enough!
Mr Kiwanuka is a journalist and retired foreign service officer. firstname.lastname@example.org