WEST NILE. For over 15 years, the veterans in the West Nile region have been struggling to work on their files to access their retirement packages.

As a result, the veterans have continued to blame the government for failing to pay their retirement package.

But during a meeting with a section of the veterans from Moyo, Yumbe, Koboko, Obongi and Adjumani at Yumbe district headquarters on Tuesday, leaders pushed for the improvement of the welfare of the veterans in the region.

Mr Ashraf Ajobe, the acting Yumbe Resident District Commissioner (RDC) said since the retirement of the veterans, some of them have not even received a single cent.

He said they have been in close contact with the veterans on the issues of security, adding that they help a lot in giving information and advice where necessary.

"The veterans you see here have issues to do with payment. Some are getting theirs but others are not. If the veterans were officially retired, why can't the government give their retirement packages and put them on pension?” Ajobe asked.

"The veterans are living in a desperate situation depicting an image that they were not actually in service. We need to do something in order to see that their welfare is improved so that they don't look miserable," the RDC stressed.

He said the veterans have continued to open accounts using their little resources but the banks close such accounts due to non-remittance of the funds to their accounts thus causing a big burden on them.

The RDC urged the government to support the various veteran groups formed across the region with Agricultural inputs and implements since the major activity in West Nile is farming.

Mr Ashraf VMr Ashraf Ajobe the acting Yumbe district RDC speaking during the meeting.

Mr Robert Iga, the representative of the veterans from Moyo district said they have formed groups in the various districts but they don't have enough resources to run their activities in the various districts.

"Non-payment of our pensions and gratuity has resulted into absolute poverty among the veterans. This is evidenced by the malnourished look of the members in their respective homes," Iga said.

He stressed that it should be taken under consideration that not all the veterans are pensionable but there should be provision of other sustainable projects to generate income towards improvement of the livelihood within the veteran ranks and their various groups like Agriculture and SACCO.

Mr Christopher Kibazanga, the minister of state for defence and veteran affairs in charge of veteran (MoDVA/VA) said they are making steady progress in addressing the issues of the veterans.

He said West Nile region went through a lot of turmoil, political conflict for many years in the past but expressed happiness that West Nile Region has become a peaceful place where it hosts many refugees from other countries.

The minister said they want to rehabilitate, give psychosocial support, resettle and reintegrate the veterans back to their civilian life.

"I am happy that the veterans in West Nile are integrating peacefully well in the civilian life and this will help in securing Uganda. Our biggest challenge today is poverty and if you continue working like in the army, poverty is very easy to defeat," Kibazanga said.

He said poverty can be confronted without using guns and it is good that some of the veterans have land and they are looking for tractors, storage facilities and improved seeds but not guns which are the best way to go.

"We are moving well in addressing the issues of the veterans in the country. With the pressure from ministry of defence and veteran affairs and the President, the ministry of finance heard our cry and a good amount of money to the tune of Shs91billion was released to cater for the welfare of the veterans in the country," he said.

He, however, said they are having a challenge in West Nile Region with the veterans of the different fighting groups.

The minister said they are trying to get data of those who participated in Uganda National Rescue Front 1 from Uganda veteran’s assistance board which will be brought to the attention of the President.

He said the pension, gratuity and ex-gratia for the retired veterans delayed because the military veterans were put together with the civilians under the act, Uganda Veterans Assistance Board which caused a lot of confusion.

A veteranA veteran(L) makes submission during the meeting with the minister on Tuesday.

Details of files in West Nile

A total of 419 files worth Shs3.3billion have been cleared, 275 files worth Shs2.5billion are before the ministry of finance awaiting clearance, 189 files worth Shs2.7bn are ready for submission but 969 files worth Shs11.9bn are incomplete.

According to the minister, if all the files are rectified, it will come to1849 files in West Nile and the money will be Shs20.5billion which shall be injected into the accounts of the veterans in the West Nile region.