About 45 deserters have been arrested in the areas of Teso, Mbale and Karamoja during the ongoing campaign in the last one month.
Early April, the Army leadership sent a radio message to all division headquarters to arrest forcefully over 700 deserters across the country.
A highly placed source tells Redpepper Online that about 400 soldiers mainly returnees from the African Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) top the list.
He explains that the soldiers returned from the war torn Somalia and were deployed in Karamoja in 2011 but all vanished with a few leaving their rifles behind. He adds that the move to arrest soldiers stems from the alleged Mbuya attack and robberies in Kampala where mostly AMISOM deserters are suspected to be involved.
A middle aged deserter formerly attached to 29th Battalion, now in detention at quarter guard in Moroto barracks tells the reporter that he did not intend to leave the force.
He explains that he earned a lot of money from AMISOM missions and wanted to do something else. He adds that he had not joined UPDF to die but get his expectations. He finally emphasized that wherever you go home is home adding that he would process an official exit from the forces.
Capt. Deo Akiiki, the 3rd Division UPDF spokesperson, when contacted he could neither deny nor confirm the developments. He says it’s true the army has arrested several deserters but yet to ascertain the numbers and their respective deployments. He explains that desertion is a crime in the forces that attracts a heavy penalty. He goes on to say the deserters had become an administrative burden to the army leadership.
So far several arrested deserters from Teso region and Karamoja have been transferred to Mbale. A few in Moroto will be transferred to Gulu soon to face the Unit Disciplinary Courts as the campaign to hunt deserters continues. Over 100 army deserters have already been detained. Many of them belonged to the UPDF 2nd division.