24 November 2013

Uganda: UPDF Generals Face New Probe Over Somalia

President Yoweri Museveni was last week headed for a major dilemma, after it emerged that some of his top army officers could be implicated in the Somalia UPDF corruption scandal.

The Observer has learnt that mid this month, Museveni ordered what amounts to an investigation of investigators. The development came after counter-intelligence information pointed at the possibility of grand-scale collusion in the scandal involving army officers deployed under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Details of the investigation are scanty, but it is understood that Brig Leopold Kyanda, the chief of staff of the Land forces, is heading it. Saturday Vision reported that the commission had 12 members. The army at the weekend moved to clarify that there was 'no new' investigation, only a continuation of the inquiry conducted by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.

Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesman, said that after the officers were recalled from Somalia, President Museveni instructed Kyanda to receive them and conduct further investigations.

"Brig Kyanda is independent; he has the mandate of the president, and he will investigate this matter to the last," Ankunda said on Saturday.

After the CMI inquiry, Brig Michael Ondoga became the face of the Amisom shame, where Ugandan commanders were accused of selling food and other logistical supplies, leaving soldiers starving and potentially in harm's way. Ondoga and other commanders are now being prosecuted before the General Court Martial in Kampala, over the scandal.

But sources now say that Museveni ordered Kyanda to conduct a wider probe that could cover senior officers based in Kampala. At the time of his recall in September, Ondoga was completing his second term as the Ugandan contingent commander. Sources said he had acquitted himself well in his first term.

It is also said that upon arrival in Somalia, Ondoga tried to implement changes to the supplies system to plug holes, something that disrupted the thieving racket. Instead of field units picking their supplies, the contingent command reportedly moved to 'push' the supplies to the field.

Museveni was also told that Ondoga had been involved in the arrest, prosecution and/or deportation of several officers over corruption-related offences. Another cause of suspicion emerged when some top-ranking army officers reportedly urged Ondoga to plead guilty of failure to detect the rot, while denying any personal intent to profiteer.

According to the Saturday Vision report, Ondoga's wife was also told to advise him to confess to the president and negotiate his way out of the dock. Ondoga reportedly rejected this.

"This general actually told Ondoga to prepare for life after the army," one source told The Observer, referring to a senior army officer.

The Observer has also been told about intercepted email communication between Ugandan military officers in Kampala and an unnamed American supplies company. Sources said that in the email, one officer warns the company against dealing with Ondoga, which in itself raised some suspicion.

The Observer understands that the terms of Ondoga's incarceration at Makindye have been somewhat relaxed. While his family was previously told to take him food only once a week, they are reportedly allowed to deliver and serve him food daily.

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