Based on intelligence reports by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Internal Security Organization (ISO) indicating that Rwanda is planning a regime change in Uganda, President Museveni directed his Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija to request parliament to authorize government to urgently borrow $100m equivalent to Shs380 to fund UPDF classified military activities. Subsequently, on 4 April 2019, Parliament approved the request, bringing the defence classified budget to a total tune of Shs1.2 trillion for the current year and pushing the entire defence budget to Shs2.4 trillion from the earlier budget of Shs2 trillion approved by parliament.
While presenting the request, Mr. Kasaija informed parliament that this money is needed urgently to improve the capability of Uganda’s defence and security forces and to enhance security infrastructure without giving details because it is under classified expenditure.
Ugandan military sources however, told The Great Lakes Eye that during the first meeting which President Museveni held with his security Chiefs last month to discuss Rwanda’s “aggression”, Brig. Abel Kandiho and Col. (Rtd) Frank Kaka Bagyenda of CMI and ISO respectively told the President that they have intelligence reports indicating that Rwanda is preparing to attack Uganda and that it has deployed spies to infiltrate different government departments including security. They requested the President to increase their operation funds in form of classified expenditure to be able to counter this threat.
Classified expenditure normally include such spending as purchase of strategic weapons, intelligence collection, facilitation to sources, Presidential spending deemed secret, etc.
Some opposition MPs who expressed mixed feelings over the abnormal increase of the classified budget, querying whether the money may not be hidden away and used by the government at a later stage for political activities against the opposition were silenced by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Jacob Oulanyah, that there was no debate. “We had discussed this matter and there should be no further discussions,” he said before putting the question for the members to adopt the committee report.
It appears that the perceived threat of Rwanda to Uganda is a creation of the Ugandan intelligence services to justify the use of the classified budget allocated to them. Majority of people, military and civilians alike both in Ugandan and Rwanda, whom The Great Lakes Eyes talked to, dismissed the idea of Rwanda being in preparations to attack Uganda. In fact, a highly placed military source in Uganda indicated that unlike in the past five years, there is no risk of an immediate military conflict arising from Rwanda, South Sudan, the DRC, Kenya, or Tanzania against Uganda. He added that the military alliance which Uganda signed with Kenya and Rwanda in 2014 precludes the risk of a military confrontation between three countries. When asked why then the military has requested for supplementary classified budget, he said; “corruption and embezzlement in Uganda’s security services is a serious problem because it increases the size of defense budget.”
The source decried elite corruption in Ugandan security organs coupled with unequal treatment of army units as well as misappropriation of resources leading to a less effective military. He observed that it’s only the Special Forces Command (SFC) under Maj. Gen Don Nabasa (a Muhima), the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) under Brig. Abel Kandiho (Muhima) and Internal Security Organization (ISO) under Col. (Rtd) Kaka (Munyankore) that are better funded, trained, and equipped compared to other units, and that they are not under direct authority of the CDF, but rather overseen by officers with family ties to the President or First Lady. This preferential treatment of some officers with family ties to the first family has caused disaffection among some officers and no wonder, in 2016 majority of soldiers in the barracks did not vote Museveni despite the fact that he is their Commander in Chief.
It should be recalled here that several UPDF officers, defence officials and civilians connected to the First Family have been implicated in illegal tenders. For example in 1996, Gen. Salim Saleh, while then Commander of Counter Insurgency Operations against LRA in northern Uganda, awarded his aviation company a monthly tender of US$400,000 to supply commodities to UPDF soldiers in the north. Also, in 2013, he bypassed Ministry of Defence legal procedures to grant a lucrative contract to a British company called Consolidated Sales Corporation (CSC) to supply four Mi-24 attack helicopters to the UPDF at a cost of US$12 million and Saleh received a commission of one million USD. The four helicopters later turned out to be defective and their true cost put at US$ 7 million.
It is also on record that between 1990 – 2003, some UPDF commanders with ties to the first family had kept ghost soldiers (especially deceased soldiers) on the military payroll, thereby inflating the size of the army to enrich themselves. It is estimated that about 15,000 ghost soldiers were then on the military payroll.