17 February 2019

Uganda: 5,000 War Veterans Camp for 2 Years Waiting for Pay

Kiboga — More than 5,000 Bush War veterans have been camping at Kitagenda Primary School in Lwamata Town Council, Kiboga District, for two years in their quest to meet President Museveni concerning their compensation.

Their leaders insist they will not leave until the President settles their long-standing compensation claims for property they lost during the five-year guerrilla war between 1981 and 1986.

The veterans, who have been camping at the school since May 28, 2017, claim they sacrificed a lot during the war that ushered Mr Museveni into power.

Mr Tomusange Jagwe Tindyebwa, the chairperson of the Patriotic Veterans Association of Kasejjere-Kigemuzi-Nkurumah Unit of Singo Sub-region, claim that whenever they make a follow-up on their compensation packages, government officials feed them on empty promises.

"Staying in a camp for all this period without getting what we want is so embarrassing. I appeal to the President to come out openly and tell us that his government is not ready to compensate us and we resort to other options," he said during an interview last Friday.

Before meeting them in January 2017, Mr Museveni had earlier in December 2016 donated 200 bags of maize flour, 50 bags of beans, 40 bags of rice and 10 cows to the group to enable them enjoy the festive season as they await to meet him.

Last year in February, when the veterans resolved to move to State House on foot, police intercepted them just a kilometre after leaving the camp.

Mr Muwanga Nkalubo, the association secretary general, claimed there are some politicians and civil servants close to the President who could have diverted their money.

"Ever since we pitched camp here, no government official, not even Hajj Edrisa Ssedunga [the chairperson of the Uganda National War Veterans Association], who claims to push for our interests, has ever visited us. Those people [in government] must know that if we had not fought in the bush, they could not enjoy the existing peace," he said.

Mr Nkalubo, however, said he is optimistic that Mr Museveni will meet them.

"If we were pessimistic, we wouldn't be here. The President knows we are here and I am sure when he visits Kiboga, as he plans to do, he will not leave without meeting us," he said.

The President is expected in the district this weekend to pass out youth who have been undergoing training in job creation at Bukomero Technical Institute.

However, Ms Doreen Keita, the deputy Resident District Commissioner, said government is working on the veterans' issues.

"Government has never forgotten its people, efforts are being made to ensure that whoever participated in the Bush War benefits for his struggle," she said.

Mr Denis Galabuzi, the State minister for Luweero Triangle, said the claimants are aware of what is being done to resolve their issues and wondered why they continue to run to the media.

"They chose to abandon their homes and camp at the school, but their issues have already been handled by the President. The last time I checked, everything had been finalised and we are at the climax of negotiations," he said.

Mr Galabuzi said the veterans could have lived a better life if they had effectively utilised the money government first gave them.

He said the claimants first received Shs200m from Gen Salim Saleh, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, and they later received another Shs240m that was released by the Office of the Prime Minister. The President also gave them Shs250 million.

The veterans are living in deplorable conditions and sleep in the cold.

They lack basic amenities such as clean water, health and sanitation facilities.

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