A senior Uganda People’s Defence Forces—UPDF officer has been implicated in the disappearance of 40 million shillings meant for salaries of the Arrow Boys militia.
Brigadier Joseph Arocha, the former North Eastern Army Reserve Force Commander, has been implicated in the case in which 14 other UPDF officers are accused of stealing the money, part of the 1.1billion shillings salary arrears for the Arrow Boys.
Brig Arocha and the other officers are facing prosecution before the 3rd Division Court Martial in Mbale. The money was sent by the Ministry of Defence as salary arrears in 2007.
The other suspects include among others Major Charles Kaahwa, Major Francis Musana and Major Godfrey Bizibu, who were commanding officers of the then Arrow Boys Battalions in Magoro, Ongongoja and Obalanga sub counties in Katakwi and Amuria districts respectively.
In his submission before the Court at the weekend, one of the main prosecution witnesses, Lt. Col. Benson Monday, the then Director Counter Intelligence at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence headquarters, said all the mess was master-minded by Brigadier Arocha.
He said Brig. Arocha was by then at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and commanding officer in charge of the Arrow Boys Battalion.
Lt Col Monday said investigations indicate that prior to the verification of the Arrow Boys by the payment team, Brig. Arocha had on separate occasions met and briefed these battalion commanders on how to defeat the team by filling the deserters’ gap. Brigadier Arocha reportedly termed move “Operation Kabakaba.” At that time, according to Monday, they had registered more than 350 deserters.
He said Brig. Arocha tasked each battalion commander to collect 5 million shillings from his unit and submit the money to him.
Lt Col Monday further explained that investigations found out that in the “Kabakaba” operation, they identified and briefed some civilians who were each given particulars, uniform and weapons for the militiamen who were not on the station and the deserters. The civilians were later paraded before the verification team for payment.
He said Brig. Arocha passed his selfish interest to his subordinate battalion commanders in form of orders that were implemented. As a result, Lt. Col Monday said an unspecified number of genuine Arrow Boys militiamen were substituted with civilian persons, missed verification and were not paid.
Lt. Col. Monday told court that the conduct of the then Brigade Commander and his battalion commanders attract charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, conduct prejudicial to good order among others.
In his recommendation Lt. Col. Monday observed that the matter is of great political interest to both the government and the opposition who would wish to exploit it to embarrass government. Accordingly, he prayed that the case should expeditiously be handled in a professional manner.
Col. John Tumwebaze, the chairman of the Court Martial adjourned the court for August 9th. The prosecution is being led by Lt. Andrew Lwaca while Captain Lucira Lubowa is the counsel for the suspects.
Apparently although he was implicated in the case, Brigadier Arocha is not among those being prosecuted before the court martial. When asked why, Lt. Jimmy Omara, the 3rd Division Army Spokesperson, declined to comment arguing that the matter is before the court and that his comment may be treated as a contempt of court.
Army Spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda could not be reached as his known mobile phone numbers were unavailable.
Arocha is among the 15 army officers who were promoted from the rank of Colonel to Brigadier in the latest promotion announced in May by President Yoweri Museveni.
Brig. Arocha, who also served as the Director of Operations other than war before he was promoted and transferred as a senior staff at the Chieftaincy of Training – COT based in Bombo, has not yet commented on the story. He is currently on a study trip in the United Kingdom.