Dr CRISPUS KIYONGA, 63, was in Parliament with a delegation from the ministry of Defense to defend the Shs 1.4 trillion Defense budget for the fiscal year 201516. After the three-hour heated exchange with the Defense and Internal Affairs committee, Kiyonga spoke to Deo Walusimbi about the key issues in the budget.
MPs are concerned about your reluctance to retire Gen Sejusa!
We have been in the parliamentary committee and we were presenting our budget. So, MPs were concerned about the irregular movements of General David Sejusa.
I have informed the committee that Sejusa, who is a four-star general, is still a serving officer of the UPDF and he is therefore governed by the UPDF Act and the UPDF code of conduct and he [Sejusa] is aware of that.
So, he will be handled in accordance with the procedures that govern serving officers.
But why have you delayed to okay his retirement?
Many people ask for retirement, but there is a procedure when you want to retire, but if your time is not due, [you will not]. And if you apply for retirement, it means, your application may be accepted, or it may not be accepted.
Now, the reasons vary from officer to officer there are those we allow to go and those we may not allow to go and it would be inappropriate to tell you that this officer was refused because of this, but as you all know, there are generals who have retired, there are those generals like (Benon) Biraaro who applied when their time was due and retired.
So, the case of General Sejusa should be left to us and it’s being handled in accordance with the procedures.
What explains the increase in your classified expenditure which has doubled from Shs 300bn to Shs 600bn in the forthcoming year 201516?
It’s true that this coming financial year, we need a significant increment in our classified expenditure in order to consolidate some aspects of our defence capacity. This is going to be a once-for-all purchase which is not going to be repeated and we have explained to the committee and my reading is that majority [of MPs] have understood.
Some said this classified expenditure is a conduit for money to pour into the 2016 elections.
I am assuring you that it cannot be because the ministry of defence or the UPDF are not the Electoral Commission. UPDF and the ministry of defense are not NRM, UPC, FDC or DP. The army has nothing to do with election campaigns, they ask for the money to protect the country.
If I may speak for the NRM, of which I am an official, we have been holding elections for many times, this is not the first time we are going to hold elections. Our campaigns are funded by well-to-do members of NRM, we ask and mobilize them and because they love their country, they want their party to stay in power, they contribute generously and facilitate the campaign.
So, there is no way the classified budget of the army can be used for elections.
Is it a coincidence that the classified expenditure [for buying military hardware] has shot up less than a year to the elections?
It’s a mere coincidence as you have said, you remember that when a member made that insinuation, I said that it has never happened, therefore this coincidence is innocent.
When we bought the [fighter] jets and other military equipment, the expenditure was in financial year 200910 and actually the supplementary budget we asked for at that time, was much higher than we are asking for now. We asked for $760m and there was no election, it was in 2011 when the other election had been in 2006.
Could you clarify on the reported arrest of ADF’s Jamil Mukulu?
I have seen in the media something, but for us in the army, we want to give accurate facts. What is true is that someone has been apprehended in the United Republic of Tanzania. There is a thinking that this may be Jamil Mukulu, but we don’t know. So, we are working with the authorities in Tanzania to see if this Ugandan who has been apprehended is Mukulu? Once we establish the facts, one way or the other, we shall inform the public.
The Shs 16.2bn extra request to facilitate UPDF’s stay in South Sudan also raised uproar in the committee. Why has our army’s operations in South Sudan become costly?
MPs wanted me to give the full budget of the expenditure on our mission in South Sudan. What I gave them is the incremental expenditure we need in order to successfully execute that mission. By incremental, I mean that the mission is funded by the Ugandan taxpayer 100 per cent and it’s being executed by the sons and daughters of Uganda in the UPDF.
They are not new soldiers, but they have been with us, with their commanders and other ranks. So, when a soldier goes to Juba, he doesn’t get a new salary. The salary that he has been getting according to his rank is what he gets. If he’s entitled to allowances, the same allowances he would get in Uganda, is what he’s getting in South Sudan.
If a tank is needed, he uses that tank which the taxpayer bought. However, because that is a different setting, there are additional elements we must give to this soldier and they are the ones costing us on an annual basis about Shs 16bn.
So, we are in South Sudan partly for Uganda’s interest because if the security situation there worsened, Uganda would be affected and [LRA leader Joseph] Kony would be back here. So, we are there to help the people of South Sudan, but also to protect our interests. So, the taxpayer gives the UPDF money to defend the interests of Uganda that is the term of reference for UPDF and we use the budget given to us, to defend our country…
Then why didn’t you give MPs details of the expenditure for such a good cause?
MPs wanted to know how many soldiers, tanks, etc, are in South Sudan, but we can’t do that because it would be jeopardising that mission, and I believe MPs understood me. You said South Sudan foots the fuel bill but you are also asking for money for the same and then South Sudan says it is meeting all the costs who is telling the truth?
Let me take the opportunity of this question to repeat this key point because you people of the press have been carrying some people’s stories that the UPDF mission in South Sudan is fully funded by South Sudan. This is not true, we [Ugandans] are the ones who buy food for our soldiers, we are the ones paying for the transport they use, and we are the ones providing for any military equipment they are using.
However, out of good courtesy, South Sudan has offered to pay for fuel, remember that South Sudan is a very young country, although they have oil, and don’t think that they are very rich, but these are people who have helped us in the past.
So, the only item they are picking is operational fuel which our troops use when they have operations within South Sudan. When we use a helicopter to drop something in South Sudan, the costs are paid for by us and we are paying for journeys between here and South Sudan.
So, that explains why there is that little money on fuel [component].
Source : The Observer