The Minister of State for Defence and Veteran Affairs, Marksons Oboth has revealed that officers of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) who were involved in extortions during the recent recruitment exercise have been apprehended.
“It is not a secret that there are some rotten tomatoes amidst the great UPDF. A few isolated cases of extortion were reported, investigated and apprehended,” said Oboth Oboth.
He added that others accused of extortion were locals who were taking advantage of unsuspecting recruits.
“We will engage MPs in the next recruitment so that they can relay to the locals. The recruitment is not a one-time matter and we are benefiting from your recommendations,” he said.
He was responding to a report of the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs on the alleged unfair and discriminatory recruitment by the UPDF that was presented on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.
Presenting the report, Ruhinda South County MP Dononzio Kahonda said the committee noted that there were some undisciplined soldiers who purportedly turned themselves into recruitment officers and extorted money from vulnerable recruits, parents and guardians.
“The committee recommends that the public should be encouraged to report cases of bribery and extortion with evidence so that prosecution can be conclusive,” he said.
The committee also found that the recruitment process was marred by influence peddling from politicians and soldiers of higher ranks, thereby affecting the process.
“They usually mount a lot of pressure on the recruitment office and this destructs the officers undertaking the work. The big people in this country should give space to the recruitment process to follow the well-stipulated procedures and guidelines,” read the report in part.
UPDF Representative, Charity Binababo called on politicians to desist from influence peddling saying that it is one of the biggest challenges faced in such recruitments. “When we want a disciplined force and we are the ones who are engaging in influence peddling, we need to look at how we are doing things. While we blame the LCs that they are corrupt, we have to do a soul search because we have all participated in influence peddling,” she said.
She also clarified that not all those who express interest in joining the forces will be recruited.
“Elimination will continue because when we go out to recruit 3,000; we cannot recruit 4,000 because the budget cannot allow,” said Binababo.
Sarah Opendi who presented the petition on 06 July 2022 leading to the committee’s report, maintained that there was no transparency in the recruitment process. “We should allow the local leaders who have the right information to guide in the recruitment exercise,” Opendi said.
Nebbi District MP Agnes Acibu said that the recruitment left a lot to be desired, saying that out of the 57 slots for her district, only 11 were recruited.
“Even district authorities were not allowed to move closer to recruiting officers. The exercise was pathetic,” she said.
Chekwii County-Kadam MP Moses Aleper accused recruiting officers of considering relatives. “In Nakapiririt, those who were recruited were not from there. Recruiting officers mobilised their relatives and they are the ones who benefited,” he said.
Dokolo North County MP Moses Ogwal called for involvement of local leaders in identification of locals for recruitment, to avoid cases of recruiting people from other districts.
Nabilatuk District Woman Representative, Sylvia Awas said the recruitment was biased. “There was no verification of candidates. In Napak District, the numbers were limited while some districts in Karamoja were not even considered,” said Awas.