ARUA. The government of Uganda through the ministry of defense and veterans’ affairs has secured shs91billion for paying over 20, 000 war veterans in the country.

The development came to light on Wednesday this week when the state minister for defense and veteran affairs, Mr Christopher Kibazanga and the commissioner in charge of rehabilitation and psycho-social support in the ministry of defense, Mr Mike Mabonga Wambi visited the veterans in the West Nile region.

During the visit, Mr Mabonga confirmed that the verified veterans for whom the shs91billion has been budgeted will be paid before the year 2020 ends.

“We have got a budget worth shs91billion and payments have started and we expect that we shall consume this budget not later than 31st of December 2020. West Nile will take about shs21billion of the total budget,” Mabonga stated.

He said the shs91billion is meant for 25, 000 veterans who have been clearly verified for the payment.

Mabonga added that veterans who suffered injuries leading to disability will be traced so that they are rehabilitated through provision of wheelchairs so as to make them feel part of the community.

He disclosed that pension and gratuity for the war veterans has dragged this far because the attendant budget was not available as files and records of the ex-combatants were not complete, a matter which has now been solved through verification processes.

Mabonga revealed that it was after President Museveni’s decision that many veterans were granted ex-gratia from West Nile and other parts of the country because courts of law did not support payment of veterans who left the army without proper discharge.

“As we all know right from independence, we had several coups and many of these military personnel went without proper discharge. The issue went to court and court decided that those who went without proper retirement did not qualify for terminal benefits. Until the Fountain of Honour decided that these are country men who served their country and so be recognized for the benefits as well,” Mr Mabonga explained.

The war veterans in the West Nile region however expressed dissatisfaction to the ministry of defense upon their long-awaited money, saying they have been channeling their issues to the higher authorities with no response.

“These people are very loyal because their armies have got discipline. If the discipline was not there, things should have been worse now. When you leaders go back to Kampala, you don’t return to us and when you are visiting us on ground, you keep promising us and the tomorrow you talk of has become too much,” Mr Buga Matata, one of the veterans in Arua city said.

Veterans MVeterans from districts of Arua, Maracha, Terego, Madi-Okollo and Arua city pose for a group photo with the minister and other officials from ministry of defense and veteran affairs. PHOTO BY JOSEPH ODAMA

“So many of us have continued to die without receiving their payments. Many of us are vulnerable to disease like HIV which has been worsened by this Covid-19. There are many veterans living with HIV AIDS in the communities and there is need to bring them together through projects as a move for psycho-social support,” Mr Jack Kokole added.

Ms Jane Aliru, a widow to a deceased veteran said most of the widows of fallen veterans are not considered in the process of the payment and yet these people left behind children who have to be paid in school. She called upon the ministry of defense and veteran affairs to consider the fate of widows in the process of paying the veterans so that their children are helped.

The veterans said many of their colleagues died hopelessly just because of poverty and urged the government to fulfill what has been declared to them so that their relatives participate in economic activities.

State minister for Defense and veteran affairs, Mr Christopher Kibazanga said it is worth appreciating the war veterans because they are the people who joined hands in bringing peace to Uganda.

Kibazanga noted that the sacrifices made by war veterans are also being manifested in Uganda by the number of refugees the country hosts in the West Nile region and other parts of the country.

He called upon the veterans not to be disappointed because of how long their payment has dragged, but rather focus on how peaceful Uganda will continue to remain.