28 August 2012

Uganda: MPs Want UN Compensation for Crashed Choppers

Photo: New Vision
In Parliament: Minister of State for Defense Jeje Odongo (right) and Gen. Katumba Wamala demanded that the government explain its memorandum of understanding with the UN and the African Union over its mission in Somalia.

Members of Parliament have urged government to explore the possibility of getting compensation from the United Nations (UN) for the equipment and army officers lost in the recent triple helicopter clash on Mt. Kenya.

Reacting to a three page statement about the crash by state minister for defense, Gen. Jeje Odongo, in the House on Monday, MPs Jacob Opolot (Palisa), Simon Mulongo (Bubulo West), Cyrus Amodoi (Toroma) and Abdi Chemaswet also demanded that government explains its memorandum of understanding with the UN and AU over its mission in Somalia.

"What kind of compensation will Uganda and the families of the bereaved get from this loss? Since Uganda has played a commendable role in AMISOM, government should explore possibilities of UN compensating it for this loss," Opolot said.

A retired UPDF officer, Amodoi said government cannot afford to let go of the issue of compensation since it costs a fortune to train fighter jet pilots and crew.

In a debate which the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, made brief on account of its "sensitive and security nature," MPs Fungaro Kaps, Geofrey Ekanya and Mulongo called for a UN endorsed team of aviation experts to buttress the Board of Inquiry (BOI) into the crash that president Yoweri Museveni has appointed.

"The BOI must be expanded to include competent independent people outside the Uganda air force; people with the ability to mine data from the black box, know when the choppers were procured and listen to communication between the pilots and the communication tower," Ekanya said.

Opposition legislators Roland Mugume and Fungaro cast doubt about the ability of the Salim Saleh led inquiry to get to the root of the crash citing "conflict of interest."

"Saleh played a role in the procurement of junk helicopters sometime back. How do you make such a person to investigate this crash," Fungaro asked, as he called upon the House to reject the Saleh led BOI.

However, Odongo and Gen. Elly Tumwine allayed fears about the ability of the BOI to produce an impartial report.

The duo said sensationalizing and theorizing about the crash was hurting the sensitivities of the bereaved families.

The three combat (Mi-24) helicopters were en route to Somalia, following a UN Security Council resolution number 2036, which sanctioned the deployment of attack helicopters to buttress the African Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) offensive against Al Shabab.

Seven UPDF officers perished in the disaster while fourteen were rescued.

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