Tempers flared this morning in the Defense Committee when General Jeje Odong, the state minister of Defense appeared to explain the deployment of UPDF in South Sudan.
Shortly after his arrival, Bugembe Namugwanya, the chairperson of the Defense Committee tasked Odong to explain the situation in South Sudan, Uganda’s security and the level of preparedness in forestalling the possible threats to Uganda’s security.
The committee also tasked the minister to explain UPDF’s level of involvement in the South Sudan conflict. In his response Odong said he received the invitation letter to appear before the committee late evening and was unable to prepare himself to brief the committee given the nature of the issue at hand.
He said considering the fluid situation in South Sudan the Chief of Defense Forces General Katumba Wamala is at the border in West Nile, while other Army officers who would be with him are still out of the country.
He requested for time to return to the committee on Friday to explain at length the situation since he has summoned all the officers to return. Ibrahim Nganda Ssemuju, the Kyadondo East MP wouldn’t have any of this. He claimed that his sources in the defense ministry show that the minister’s explanation was doctored. According to Ssemuju, officials in the Defense Ministry held a meeting in which, they plotted to come and lie to the committee.
He claimed that by Wednesday evening Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the Defence Minister was supposed to be in South Sudan and Gen Katumba Wamala was on his way to the Upper Nile state to plan on how to deploy Ugandan soldiers to guard oil wells.
However, Simon Mulongo, Bubulo East MP said the decision to deploy is the work of the Executive. And if they think in their wisdom Uganda’s national interests are at stake because of the unfolding events in South Sudan, it’s them to make the decision.
Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP said he was shocked that the meeting even sat, since the Defense State Minister had shown him a letter that indicated the committee’s meeting was set for Friday. He warned against the defense committee being used as a public relations forum for government.
Namugwanya, the committee chairperson explained that on Wednesday she called Minister Kiyonga in the afternoon but she could not get him and his Personal assistant explained that he was in a meeting upcountry. She reportedly called Gen. Odong who also denied receiving a copy of the invitation after she failed to get hold of Kiyonga.