At least two soldiers of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces have been arrested following their indulgence in aggravated robbery in the districts of Jinja, Buwenge and Buikwe.
Ths UPDF Jinja spokesperson, Evelyn Mawanda confirmed the arrest of the duo but could not divulge further details. “We have arrested the two soldiers and currently they are under custody at Gaddafi barracks in Jinja. We are still investigating the matter,” she said.
Their arrest follows a barrage of complaints and protests from the locals in Buwenge who accused these soldiers of extortion and armed robbery. “They have been boarding taxis and stealing from unsuspecting passengers. They put everyone on gun point and threaten to shoot,” says Haruna Isabirye, a taxi conductor. “If you hesitate to surrender, they threaten to shoot at you,” he adds.
Although the two suspects are in custody at Gaddafi military barracks in Jinja, the UPDF has declined to issue out their names to the public. The conduct of these two unruly soldiers is a replica of the notorious ‘Panda Garri’ times which was popular in the reign of Obote and Idi Amin era. People who experienced these reigns of terror intimate that soldiers back then would extort from people in broad daylight. “There was this soldier who always came to collect money from Kikuubo traders. He would walk from shop to shop and traders would contribute,” Tamale Mirundi recounts. “Nobody would object to the actions of this soldier. He was an Idi Amin soldier,” he adds.
Analysts however attribute this conduct to the meagre salary which these UPDF soldiers earn and yet they have to fend for their families. A UPDF private earns UGX 200,000 and is accommodated in an ordinary camping tent. Such conditions are what compel these young men to resort to criminal activities as a means of survival.