The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has jailed nine Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers serving under the mission for misconduct and for violating the rules and regulations of peacekeeping.
The jail terms ranged from a year to three years. ‘‘The soldiers were found guilty of pursuing personal interest and endangering operational efficiency of the UPDF, contrary to section 124 of the UPDF Act,’‘ an AMISOM statement released on Tuesday said.
The group comprised senior and junior officers who were found guilty by a UPDF Divisional Court Martial sitting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. They were part of a group of soldiers implicated in a fuel racket that was busted by AMISOM officials in June this year.
It is a message that goes out to soldiers and officers of the UPDF that if you commit an offence, you will face the law and face it very harshly.
AMISOM (@amisomsomalia) August 16, 2016
Whiles delivering the sentence, Chairman of the court Brig. Gen. Dick Olum said, “The prosecution has proved all the accusations of pursuing personal interest and endangering operational efficiency beyond reasonable doubt.
The accused persons are hereby convicted of the charges against them and this conviction is given under my hand and seal this 15th day of August 2016. You are convicted as charged,” Gen. Olum said.
He further averred that the jail terms meted out to the officers were to serve as a deterrent to others. He bemoaned how the actions of the soldiers had endangered the lives of their colleagues in the fight against insurgency.
“The sentence that military courts give out to soldiers who have committed a crime is a deterrent sentence. It is a sentence that sends out a message to the rest of military personnel whether back at home or in any other mission out of the country. It is a message that goes out to soldiers and officers of the UPDF that if you commit an offence, you will face the law and face it very harshly,” Gen. Olum added.
The AMISOM statement gave the names of the convicted officers as: Maj. Sulait, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment and dismissed with disgrace from the UPDF; Maj. Kundu Weyaula, one year and demoted to the rank of Captain.
Warrant Officer II Kakooza Mathew, 18 months imprisonment; Staff Sergeant Abwot Richard, 18 months in prison and demoted to Sergeant, and Cpl. Sekandi Ronald was handed a two-year prison term and also dismissed with disgrace from the army.
Others are Lance Corporals Kasule Budala and Atugiriire Dennis, both sentenced to 18 months in prison and demoted to the rank of Private; Private Tibaijuka Expedito, two years imprisonment and dismissed with disgrace and Private Mwanja Noah, 18 months in prison.
The nine are part of 18 soldiers who were earlier arraigned before the same court for selling fuel belonging to the Mission. They were charged after five soldiers were arrested in June, in connection with the illicit sale of fuel in a scam involving civilians in Mogadishu.
However, out of the 18, two pleaded guilty and were immediately charged, six were acquitted and one turned into a state witness, leaving the nine, who had denied any wrongdoing, to face trial.
This is the court’s first time of sitting since it was set up. Uganda is the highest contributor to the 22,000-strong AU force fighting Islamists terror groups in Somalia.