The Ugandan parliament has turned down a request from the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) to borrow $170 million for the acquisition of new military equipment, saying the military needs to account for previous emergency defence budgets.
The UPDF request came as a high level Ugandan government delegation led by Foreign Affairs and Regional Co-operation minister Asuman Kiyingi visited Pakistan and toured the Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF), whose products include assault rifles, machineguns, mortars, artillery pieces and ammunition. The POF also produces tanks and anti-tank ammunition, bombs and grenades and has exported its products to more than 40 countries around the world.
According to Ugandan media reports, the UPDF’s request for emergency funding was presented by its commander General Katumba Wamala and defence minister General Jeje Ondongo. The two generals told parliament that the army needs new equipment to deal with a ‘volatile’ national security situation and regional instability caused by militia activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Al Shabaab militants.
The defence officials also cited the recent discovery of oil in the country saying this was also likely to attract new national security threats. A member of parliament who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity said the request was turned down because the defence officials refused to provide details of the equipment requirements.
“They told us that they must secure the country and the equipment they have does not match modern technology. They are asking for $170 million to acquire modern equipment because of the volatile situation within the country and the region, especially in Congo and Somalia.
“They refused to disclose the type of equipment they want to purchase under the guise of classified expenditure, but some of us said no to this classified expenditure because under the current fiscal year, we passed a lot of classified expenditure but they have not given us the status report on how they used it,” the MP said.
Gen Wamala reportedly told parliament that the army could not disclose the types and quantities weapons sought because doing so could compromise national security. However, Pakistani media reports said the Ugandan delegation which visited the POF demonstration lounges and armaments factory units showed ‘keen interest’ in acquiring several weapons for the UPDF.
The delegation was taken around the POF complex by chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Ahsan Mahmood, who is also the company director of exports. “I was very much impressed by the capacity and capabilities developed by the government of Pakistan in the armament industry. Uganda should collaborate and cooperate more with Pakistan so that we can tap into each others potentialities,” Kiyingi said.
In a statement released after the Ugandan tour, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two countries agreed to further strengthen co-operation with Uganda in fields of defence and security among others.
“During the official talks both sides emphasized the need for high-level political contacts and enhancing cooperation in the fields of agriculture, industry, defence and security. It was agreed to conclude, at an early date, a new MoU on bilateral political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Pakistan and Uganda,” the statement said.
The Ugandan delegation’s tour will be reciprocated with a visit to Pakistan by President Yoweri Museveni in the second half of this year. Both countries will be seeking to expand relations based on the existing bi-lateral Technical Assistance Programme, through which 21 Ugandan diplomats have been trained at the Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan.
Early this year, the United Nations Security Council’s Panel of Experts (PoE) monitoring the implementation of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said there are indications the Uganda wants to acquire ‘non-lethal’ military equipment from the reclusive communist state following the visit of a high-level military delegation to Kampala in October last year.
North Korean instructors have over the past few years trained the Ugandan Police Special Force, Police Construction Unit, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Unit in specialised martial arts, marine policing and sharp shooting.
Ongoing programmes include the training of a special paramilitary police unit known as the Field Force Unit on the use of AK-47s and pistols. It also remains unclear if the UPDF’s equipment needs include provision for regional ally South Sudan.
In October last year, the two countries signed a military procurement agreement in terms of which Uganda will buy weapons on behalf of its neighbour which has come under a UN arms embargo following the outbreak of the ongoing civil war in December 2013.