ARUA. Former soldiers of the Uganda Army (UA) have identified disunity and fragmentation of their veterans association into different factions as a major blow to their existence and bargaining power.
The Veterans of the different previous armies in the West Nile region have long struggled to catch the eye of the powers that be because of failure to form a strong group. This despite the former soldiers numbering in their thousands.
During the 32nd edition of the celebration of the national resistance movement (NRM) victory at Arua hill Boma grounds, the veterans complained of being sidelined by the district authorities; their attempts to have a meeting with the president who graced the celebrations were also thwarted.
However, the members under the leadership of former army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yusuf Gowan have realized their inner weakness and are now making new attempts to reunite the association.
“Now we want to foster unity, peace and solidarity with the government but above all to remind the government of the promises that were made by the president during the 2011 general campaigns in which each veteran was to get 10 million shillings if the NRM won the elections” Dr. Mubarak Kalfan, the secretary to the former UA mobilization task force said in a meeting at Oli division head quarters in Arua municipality on Thursday.
He said the group has written many letters to the office of the president without any reply. Dr Mubaraka who claimed the former soldier’s number more than 5000 in Arua municipality alone said countless meetings with the local leaders who promise to forward their complaints have also yielded no tangible fruits.
Mr Aroma Alex, the next of kin of the late Juma Ayiga wondered why pension forms have been filled with no results; “I have only obtained 1.2 million shillings in the past as a benefit but has waited for the 10 million in vain despite being asked to open account in the bank for the purpose, the account having over stayed has even been closed now” Mrs Jane Aliru, who worked at the Uganda army shop from 1971 complained.
The UA members resolved among others to form a bigger organization to push for their demands. Members also agreed to have regular meetings and step up mobilization to include more widows and the next of kin of the fallen former soldiers with the next meeting date set for June 10th.
Rtd Maj Ratibu Mududu, the vice chairman of the Arua veterans warned members against betraying their colleagues as has been the habit of some members if the association is to last for long and attain its purpose.
A military veteran according to the Uganda peoples defense forces (UPDF) is any Ugandan who has rendered military service to any of the successive government and liberation armies which were involved on all sides of Uganda’s liberation wars, has completed his/her service and no longer performs active military duties or is deceased and has not been dishonorably discharged from the military services of Uganda.
The statutory armies referred to include the Kings African riffles (KAR), Uganda Riffles (UR), Uganda army (UA), Uganda national liberation army (UNLA), National resistance army (NRA), and the Uganda peoples defense forces (UPDF).