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Uganda’s security budget points to longer stay in eastern Congo

Tuesday June 21 2022
Soldiers.

Ugandan soldiers in DR Congo fighting Allied Democratic Forces will stay on until rebel threat is contained. PHOTO | XINHUA

By NELSON NATURINDA

Kampala has tabled funding proposals for its war operations in the DR Congo, targeting to continue hunting for terrorists accused of leaving atrocities in their wake in Uganda.

In the Budget Speech read to Uganda’s parliament, seated at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds on June 14, Finance minister Matia Kasaija announced an allocation of Ush3.9 trillion ($1.02 billion) to security, saying boosting the defence budget would be the “bedrock of socio-economic transformation in the next financial year.”

“Peace, security and stability as well as rule of law must remain key government priorities,” Mr Kasaija said.

Although there has not been any serious war in the country, there have been pockets of insecurity caused by cattle rustlers in Karamoja region, and the government has been allocating a sizeable amount of money annually to defence.

This time, Mr Kasaija said the allocation was to strengthen operations in eastern DR Congo, although he did not specify how much.

“UPDF will also continue with the pacification of eastern DRC in line with agreements with the DR Congo government. Sustaining peace, security and stability as well as macro-economic stability are key foundations for economic recovery, growth and socio-economic transformation,” Mr Kasaija said.

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Neutralising militia threat

Ugandan military launched operations against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, blamed for terrorist activities in Uganda and mass murders in DR Congo for over two decades, in eastern DR Congo in November 2021.

In collaboration with the Congolese army, the UPDF has announced major successes in the war and has requested an expansion of the force for an operation in which the UPDF spokesperson says will last as long as the threat is still there.

The minister said the government intended to cushion vulnerable Ugandans against high commodity prices by supporting farmers to grow more fast-maturing food and oil seeds for domestic supply, non-interference in the market over prices, support alternative fuel supplies, especially on Lake Victoria to avoid disruptions in supply, as well as using fiscal policies to mitigate the impact of the rising commodity prices.

He announced construction of additional fuel storage infrastructure as well as speeding up the process of the oil production. Uganda has one fuel reservoir in Jinja, 80km east of Kampala city, with a capacity of 30 million litres against the national consumption of about six million litres daily.

“Government cannot influence price levels whose changes are driven by external shocks that are outside its control. We will, therefore, not be applying measures which can lead to long-term and painful distortions in the economy,” the minister said.

The economy is struggling with a public debt burden of over Ush73.5 trillion ($19 billion), inflation of more than six percent, increasing prices of fuel and essential commodities such as food, cooking oil, soap, sugar, bread and a projected revenue shortfall of Ush939 billion ($250 million) in the financial year ending June 30, although Mr Kasaija hopes to turn the economy around.

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