At least seven UPDF soldiers were on Tuesday dismissed with disgrace from the armed forces by the third division court martial sitting at Bugema barracks in Mbale district.
The soldiers had gone missing from their deployment units between 2003 and 2009 after which they were declared deserters.
They are Privates Moses Satia, Ambrose Okullu, Habib Hassan and Simon Peter Okini. Others are Fred Achia, Fred Chemutai and Ziwa Andrew.
The seven pleaded guilty before the court martial chaired by Col. John Tumwebaze. The soldiers were sentenced to serve jail terms ranging from one to two years in Malukhu government prison-Mbale.
Under the UPDF Act 2005, any soldier who unofficially stays out of his unit for 21 days is declared as being away without official leave (AWOL). A soldier convicted for being AWOL is liable to serve a four year jail sentence and automatic dismissal from the armed forces. The act further stipulates that a soldier dismissed with disgrace is not entitled to any benefits for the time he spent in the active service.
Tumwebaze says the move is to deter other soldiers who may have planned to desert the armed forces.
Meanwhile, about 117 deserters arrested in the ongoing campaign by the UPDF in Eastern Uganda are due to appear in court on charges of desertion. The deserters are being detained in Moroto, Mbale and Soroti among other areas awaiting trial. The UPDF intends to arrest and prosecute an estimated 1000 soldiers across the country that have deserted the force and are suspected to be a threat to national security.
The move comes as the army prepares to handle retirement of some of its officers and men who applied to leave. Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesperson told the media on Tuesday that more than 2000 soldiers from the rank of Major and below have applied to retire.