YUMBE. The government of Uganda through the ministry of defence and veterans affairs has agreed to pay the members of West Nile Bank Front in the region.
This was revealed by Mr Mike Mabonga Wambi, the commissioner in the ministry of defence and veteran affairs during the verification exercise of the members of the West Nile Bank Front at Yumbe district headquarters on Thursday.
Mabonga said, the payment of the members of the West Nile Bank Front delayed due to the breakdown in communication but since the communication gap has been closed, the ministry is working closely with the leaders West Nile Bank Front to effect the payment.
"We want to carry out this verification exercise in the region to confirm and ensure that everybody who fought during the struggle under West Nile Bank Front is on the list, We want you people to be patient and wait for that time and ensure that the right people benefit from this opportunity," he said.
He also assured the veterans that the minister of defense will be back here to update them on those who have not yet received their ex-gratia, pension and gratuity because plans are under way to pay them.
Mr Noah Acikule, the former political commissioner of the then UNRF II said the former fighters and remained calm and optimistic that government would address their concerns and demands.
He said during the peace agreement, president Museveni pledged to develop Yumbe as an example after signing the 2002 peace agreement but the former fighters shall continue to ask the president for his promise.
"What is going to be done after the verification should be integrated. When the fighters were in the bush, their faces were all shining but you can't get complaints from them regarding their current status. We negotiated that peace dividend be there, so i am happy that the process has started with the verification exercise," he said.
He said the veterans suffered in paying the school fees of their children to attain higher level of education and requested government to provide package for sending the children of the former fighters to school.
Mr Frank Cajetan West Nile Bank Front unit committee in Nebbi said the members of West Nile Bank Front were already united but they were waiting for the government to unite them.
He said the coming of the commissioner has already built confidence in the members and it will make them experience a different climate as of the old because there is hope that their affairs will soon be handled.
"I want to assure my members that, we never signed any agreement with the government regarding our issues but we should humble ourselves and be peaceful instead of putting the government under pressure. I also appeal to the government to be grateful to us because we were locked in arms, we took decisions by ourselves to come home after the elders persuaded us. In all these years, nothing wrong happened on our part," he said.
He added that some group of fighters gave conditions to ground arms but members of West Nile Bank Front took decision on their own so it was not good to ignore them in the struggle they made.
Col Abdalatifu Tiyua(Rtd), the chief administrator of West Nile Bank Front applauded amnesty commission for their guidance and support and the president for valuing them.
Abdalatifu was not clear on the number of the beneficiaries and also the amount of money the government is going to pay.
"We have not yet established the actual number of beneficiaries but it will depend on who remained at home because some of the fighters joined UPDF, but originally the number of West Nile Bank Front members was 6083”
He continued “we are also yet to know how much the government will pay because in 2011, different fighting groups gave memorandum of understandings (MoU) to the government but for West Nile Bank Front, we indicated Shs 13bn but in the feedback, the government pledged to give Shs 5.1bn," he explained.
He appealed to the members to accept what the government will give to them and be patient as more projects would follow
"We are tired of fighting and we don't have an intention to go back to the bush to form new rebel groups. This is the time to integrate ourselves in the society and told the people not to be worried of them but we should stay as one people," he said.
Ms Maimuna Juma Yusuf the unit committee for West Nile disadvantaged women and orphan association (WEDWOA) told the women to be calm and said non members should not involve themselves in the exercise.
"If you were not a former fighter and you are now a political leader, don't risk involving yourself, but allowing the former fighters to get their dividends," she warned.
Mr Hakim Viga, the district internal security officer for Yumbe said government has treated West Nile Bank Front as a special interest group and urged them to stay organized as government looks for groups for easy investment.
West Nile Bank Front started in 1975 but the real fighting started in 1986 under the leadership of Juma Orisi deputised by Col Abdalatifu Tiyua.
In 1997, Col Abdalatifu Tiyua(Rtd) surrendered in Yeyi in South Sudan and was received by high ranking UPDF officers in Koboko and there after he was arrested and imprisoned to Luzira prison for 3years.
In 2000, Col Tiyua was discharged from prison under amnesty Act but he continued with demands to the government arguing that his group was never catered for despite renouncing rebellion.