Congo Watch: The cost of war on LRA's Kony in DR Congo

Monday, April 13, 2009

The cost of war on LRA's Kony in DR Congo

From Peter Eichstaedt's blog post 13 April 2009:
War on Kony can be profitable
A story in the Daily Monitor reveals that, as many have suggested, the army is profiting from the recent three-month operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo against the Lord's Resistance Army.

This information only supports speculation that the Ugandan army didn't really want to capture Kony. After all, it would mean an end to the army's cash cow.

Enjoy this story by Chris Obore.

KAMPALA -- The revelation that the army spent Shs390 million a day during the three-month Garamba operation against the LRA, has divided some top army officers, Saturday Monitor has learnt.

The antagonism has also been worsened by the discovery that some junior army officers in collusion with their superiors had been stealing money meant for pensions and benefits for fallen and retired soldiers. Sources say the army chiefs are now trading accusations against each other over the leakage of that information to the public.

President Museveni, who is also Commander-in-Chief, has also demanded answers to what in military circles has been labelled “abnormal expenditure”.

Our sources said after Daily Monitor reported recently that the Garamba expedition against LRA’s Joseph Kony had drawn Shs35 billion ($17 million USD) from the public coffers, Mr Museveni reportedly called his top commanders and asked them to explain the huge expenditure.

“The President was furious with the Shs390 million a day bill, saying it is abnormal; the man was really hard on the army,” the source said.

Presenting a balance sheet of the Garamba operation to Parliament’s Defence and Internal Affairs Committee, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, justified the expenditure, saying although Kony was not captured, killed or forced to sign the agreement, the overall operation was a success as it had significantly impaired the rebels’ capacity to return and destabilise the country.

Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who appeared with the CDF, said the “little” money for the operation was not catered for in the budget, the reason his ministry was forced to ask for supplementary funding. MPs did not get details on how the money was spent.

But sources say Mr Museveni was not amused by the expenditure and accused some army officers of financial impropriety.

Apparently, the President was not aware of the huge expenditure until the story was carried by the Daily Monitor.

According to sources, on learning of the President’s dissatisfaction, a blame game at the defence ministry ensued, leading to the sudden transfer of the Undersecretary, Mr Fred Ogene.

Sources say some sections wanted Mr Ogene fired or interdicted but being a civil servant, it was not possible, considering the stringent laws governing his appointment.

But Defence and army spokesman Felix Kulayigye told Saturday Monitor: “He has been requesting for transfer for a long time, so I don’t believe he was forced out.”

Mr Ogene confirmed by telephone yesterday that he had been moved.“I don’t think the transfer has anything to do with Garamba; it might be but I was not told,” he said, adding: “I have been transferred to the President’s Office.”Mr Ogene, however, said what was given about Garamba expenditure was not the accountability but the highlights.

Pension scam

Meanwhile, Dr Kiyonga, has reportedly put more pressure on the army chiefs to explain why there was delayed detection of how money for pensions and benefits was stolen by paymasters.

Sunday Monitor reported recently that the army was investigating a racket involving officers who have been stealing money meant for retired soldiers and families of dead servicemen in a scandal that could eclipse the infamous ghost soldier scam that led to the sacking and prosecution of a former army commander.

The racket was being perpetrated through a chain of soldiers working in the Directorate of Records, Manpower Audit and Army Strength Management sections.

When the story was reported, Mr Kiyonga, who was then in South Africa attending to his ill relative, reportedly instructed his military assistant to dig into the matter.

When the military assistant swung into action, top army chiefs reportedly refused to cooperate because the investigation could end up at their doorsteps.

The Chief of Staff Land Forces, Brig. Charles Angina, who had instigated a covert fact-finding operation using a combination of military intelligence and staff officers to establish the facts; and later arrested some culprits, reportedly got furious that the information had leaked to the media.

Now Brig. Angina has reportedly deployed operatives to find out how his confidential information ended up at Daily Monitor.

When Kiyonga returned from South Africa, sources say he wrote asking for more information regarding the Mafia-like racket that had been fleecing widows and orphans of fallen fighters but he is reportedly getting lukewarm response from top army chiefs.

Maj. Kulayigye said he was not aware that Mr Kiyonga had asked for answers to the pension graft in the army but promised to reach to his military assistant.

He, however, later called back saying: “All phones are off, so I can’t help you.”But Joint Chief of Staff, Brig. Robert Rusoke, said yesterday that when the matter first came up, “he ( Kiyonga) was not around.”“But the PS will brief him,” Brig. Rusoke said.

Asked what the army had done so far, Brig. Rusoke accused Saturday Monitor of trying to sabotage investigations.“What do want us to say? The matter is under investigation,” he said.He said the Defence permanent secretary “has been in contact with Ministry of Public Service” because “we are working together with Public Service to investigate the matter.”

Last financial year alone, while Shs53 billion was released for payment of benefits and pension, not more than Shs10 billion was actually paid out to beneficiaries. The rest disappeared.

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