ARUA CITY. Former Uganda army soldiers in the President Idd Amin government have renewed calls to the government to be paid their gratuity and pensions.

The ex-service men, many of whom are now in their late 60s and above are mainly the ones who chose to retire after the fall of the former Idd Amin led government in 1979 rather than join any liberation force.

The ex-service men voiced their request during a thanks giving celebration organised by the Uganda National Historical Returnees 1986 West Nile chapter at the home of former vice president Gen Mustafah Idirisi on Saturday. Organisers say the day is used to remember the past and charter a way forward free of wars but peace, harmony and economic liberation.

Maj. Ratib Mududu, the chairman of Arua city veteran’s association lamented how they are living a miserable life despite serving Uganda diligently.

“We were not Amin’s soldiers, we were Uganda’s soldiers, we served this country diligently, why are we not paid, why are we being punished?”, he lamented.

Maj. Mududu also sighted the selective rewarding of the former service men saying other senior officers had been left out.

“Look at my former chief of staff Maj Gen Yusuf Gowon, he looks very miserable, he has nothing yet government constructed houses for Maj Gen Isaac Lumago in Koboko and Gen Mustafah Idirisi, Late Gen Bamuze and others”, Mududu added.

He said the ex-service men remain the most trusted people in communities serving as security committee members and remain faithful that the NRM government will one day hear their cries and answer them.

Maj Gen Yusuf GowonMaj Gen Yusuf Gowon listens attentively during the function. PHOTO BY CLEMENT ALUMA.

Mr Abdalah Mahmoud, one of the founders of Uganda national historical returnees 1986 West Nile chapter expressed happiness that the prayers by the elders to have a peaceful election were heard.

“We as elders gathered here before elections that we may have a peaceful election in this region and the youths heard our voices, we are happy that they voted president Museveni”, Abdalah said.

He however prayed that this time the president gives cabinet ministerial positions and promote many others in the forces so that the trust in him among the people in the region continues to grow.

“Our prayers right now are that we have fulfilled all our obligations, the youth heard our pieces of advice and overwhelmingly voted president Museveni”, he said

Abdalah continued “this region has not had people in positions of influence since Hon Zoe Bakoko Bakoru in early 2000s, we would now like to see our sons and daughters being appointed as cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries, ambassadors, DPCs and others being promoted in civil service and army ranks…we deserve it, when we shall see all this happening is when we shall say happily that yes, our future has indeed been secured”.

He said many youths in the region look forward for employment opportunities in various sectors if the region is wired with electricity.

But Hajj Hussein Okudriga, an elder and a prominent businessman in Arua city called for an end to hatred of one another and work for the development of the region.

“We have not been serious in West Nile, we might be asleep, we in this region have suffered as a result of wars, we went to exile, our properties were looted and no one talks about compensating us yet in other regions things are different, let us unit and work as one and support our leaders but not pull them down, time for politics is over”, Okudriga said.

Hajj HusseinHajj Hussein Okudriga speaks during the function on Saturday.

In October 2009, Ugandan appeals court ordered the government to pay four-point-five trillion shillings (about two billion US dollars) in reparations to army officials who served under former Presidents Idi Amin and Milton Obote. In its ruling, the court said the former troops are still part of the national army and are therefore entitled to the same treatment and benefits as current regular soldiers. But the army said it would appeal the ruling.

Lead attorney for the former soldiers, John Matovu, said promises that were made to them were not fulfilled.