chapter  6
Military Corruption Since the 1990s
Pages 22

One of the most notorious areas of corruption everywhere is that concerned with the procurement of military equipment and defence supplies. In Uganda, military procurement has been a source of many corrupt practices. Since the late 1990s, when Uganda began acquiring more and larger military hardware, mainly through third parties, the buying of arms became seriously tainted with corruption. A number of major tenders were entered into for aircraft, guns, and tanks as well as items such as food rations and uniforms. These deals invariably involved bribes and kickbacks and also massive overpayments from which army officers, top government officials and middlemen profited. Senior military officers and their civilian business associates have also profited whenever military operations have had to be conducted to combat insurgencies threatening Uganda’s security. For instance, Ugandan soldiers were deployed in neighbouring DRC from August 1998 in order to clear the border areas of hostile rebel forces intent on destabilizing the country. But Ugandan military involvement in the Congo was extended well beyond the border security zone. By most accounts, the UPDF advanced into areas of eastern Congo to profit financially from the plunder of natural resources. Indeed, the Congo has proven to be a veritable treasure trove for a small number of high-ranking army officers who, together with their civilian business partners, have become rich from smuggling and resource plunder. In this chapter we document cases of corrupt military procurement as well as the illicit business activities of top military commanders engaged in military operations against rebels in neighbouring DRC. We also consider how military corruption, especially from the late 1990s, aroused the concern of parliament, the press and the political opponents of the government, as well as how this issue played in the dynamics of the 2001 presidential elections. We argue that the prevalence of military corruption has been the result of government and army leaders not being subject to public accountability. Moreover, international donors have hardly commented publicly on corrupt military procurement and been less than insistent on the need for transparency and accountability in military operations. We conclude that military corruption has been used to sustain the NRM regime in power. Corrupt military procurement and economic plunder have benefited key UPDF officers, as well as securing their loyalty to

the regime. And a portion of the sums derived from corrupt actions have been used to finance President Museveni’s and the NRM’s election campaigns. The above-mentioned topic was the basis of an article published in 2003 (Tangri and Mwenda 2003). We have adapted that article for this chapter. But the chapter also introduces two new topics, which we have incorporated for convenience into two separate appendices. In the first appendix, we examine the phenomenon of ‘ghost’ soldiers, the most serious case of military corruption in Uganda, and discuss its importance not only in rewarding officers and maintaining their personal loyalty but also in financing the political activities of the government. A second appendix outlines the cases of top UPDF figures that used their positions for personal gain as well as promoting the electoral fortunes of President Museveni in 2001, but whose loyalty to the president gradually became suspect, and who eventually were among the very few senior army officers to be charged for illegal and corrupt actions in the military. Corruption in the military as well as prosecution of army officers is best understood within a political context, which is shaped by the imperatives of presidential and regime survival.