The Ugandan governments says it is still waiting for the United Nations (UN) to compensate the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) for the loss of three Mi-24 attack helicopters which crashed on the slopes of Mount Kenya en-route to deployment as part of the UN-sponsored African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on August 12, 2012.
The choppers, the pride of Uganda’s fledging air force, crashed in Kenyan airspace as they headed to beef up African Union (AU) soldiers for an attack on Al-Shabaab in the Somali port city of Kismayu.
Mount Kenya is a 17,000-foot towering mass in central Kenya, and the path to the peak is dominated by swamps, vertical bogs and nearly impenetrable jungle. The mountain creates its own unpredictable weather system, and sometimes there are even blizzards along its slopes.
Most analysts believe that the three helicopters crashed after they tried to fly through rough weather; the fourth, a bigger Mi-17, made it safely to a base in northern Kenya.
Seven soldiers survived the crash.
Ugandan Minister of State for International Affairs Okello Oryem told Sudanese media that following the crashes last year, his country made a formal request to the United Nations seeking compensation for the loss of the aircraft because the accidents happened while they were on the UN-sponsored AMISOM mission.
“‘The matter is still being considered by the UN. We are waiting for conclusions from them. The UN has no way out but to compensate us because what Uganda is doing is on behalf of the international community,’’ Oryem said.
Early last year, the U.N. Security Council approved funds for nine transport helicopters and three attack helicopters to be used by African Union forces in Somalia.
President Yoweri Museveni mid this year asked the United Nations to replace Uganda’s helicopters that crashed in Kenya.
Speaking at an international conference for Somalia in London last year, President Yoweri Museveni said the UN has a duty to compensate the UPDF for the loss of the choppers so that it can continue providing the air power needed to contain al Shabaab rebels in Somalia.
“In this connection, the UN should replace our gunships that perished in an accident in Kenya on their way to Somalia ─ so that we use them as force multipliers (in Somalia),” Museveni said. The cause of the accidents remains unknown although experts have pointed out that pilot error and mechanical faults could be among the causes.
They also warn that because of advanced age, the gunships could have succumbed to aero-dynamic stress which affects the structural integrity of the aircraft. All the aircraft which crashed were acquired by the UPDF from Russia in 2003.
Uganda is among African countries that have contributed troops to Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).