Ugandan MPs Oppose Relocation of UN Base From Entebbe

Ugandan lawmakers oppose a recommendation from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the U.N. move a major logistics base out of the country. The lawmakers say the move would be an injustice, given the sacrifice that Ugandan troops have made in Somalia over the years.

A letter this month from Guterres to the U.N. Advisory Committee recommended the logistics base be moved from the Ugandan city of Entebbe to Nairobi in Kenya. The move would be part of an effort by the U.N. to reduce its 45 regional centers around the world to four.

The base currently supports 11 U.N. missions in Africa, including missions in Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan's Darfur region. Hundreds of Ugandans are employed at the base.

Legislators argue that Uganda is being cast aside despite its location in the heart of a region plagued by immense conflict.

The motion before parliament was introduced by Theodore Sekikubo, who noted that Uganda was the first country to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia in 2007.

We lost four choppers. We have lost untold numbers of lives. We have paid the ultimate price. And therefore it's so undiplomatic, it's so discomforting that this reciprocity is being paid in the negatives," Sekikubo said.

Ugandan soldiers make up the largest contingent in AMISOM, the African Union mission in Somalia, which has been protecting the Somali federal government and fighting militant group al-Shabab for more than a decade.

Legislator Ssemujju Nganda says if the U.N. can't appreciate such sacrifices, it can leave.

The auditor-general in various reports has been complaining that the U.N. doesn't want to pay at Entebbe. In fact we should be celebrating that they are leaving. Because they occupy our old facility, the old Entebbe Airport for free. The money that you want to get as a result of employing 1,500 Ugandans is money that you can get when you develop the old airport and it begins serving the regional market, Nganda said.

Uganda's prime minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, says the government is engaging with the U.N. secretary-general so that an amicable settlement can be reached.

It was convenient, it was cost effective. It was in the long run cheaper for the U.N. to run its services using Entebbe.... And, in our view, that center should remain.

U.N. committees are expected to discuss the proposed relocation of the base and make a final decision in July.

Source: Voice of America


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