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Humanitarian Aid diverted to fight War PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Monday, 17 May 2004 03:19

There are areas of the world in desperate need of thoughtful, targeted, humanitarian aid.  Regimes that divert international funding to fight the "war o­n terror" undermine this. To do so with the complicity of western donor nations as alleged in this report from Uganda's independent newspaper The Monitor. -- Space & Technology Editor

Aid Diverted - Report

The Monitor (Kampala)
May 17, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004

By Izama Angelo & Andrew M. Mwenda

A United Kingdom-based charity organisation, Christian Aid, has accused the Uganda government of "wrongly" diverting aid funds to fight "the war o­n terror" with the knowledge of the British government.

The Christian Aid report says the UK government must reverse a "dangerous drift" towards linking aid to the fight against terror. It cites Iraq, Afghanistan and Uganda as countries where aid funds have been "wrongly diverted".

The report: "The Politics of Poverty: Aid in the New Cold War" argues that the political priorities of rich western governments were threatening the principles of humanitarian aid and causing dangerous distortions for governments and NGOs fighting poverty.

The report, which uses Uganda as a case study, says President Yoweri Museveni's government has "cashed in o­n the new climate" against terrorism by asking the US government to blacklist the rebel Lord's Resistance Army as a terrorist organisation.

The report, which was also quoted o­n the BBC website, says Uganda is heavily dependent o­n aid which makes up more than 50 percent of its budget. The report further says the country was the third largest recipient of aid from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) - receiving ?68.5 million in 2002-03.

When The Monitor contacted the UK mission in Kampala o­n Friday, the embassy said it was looking at the report. "We are certainly studying the report," Jon Elliott, the Deputy High Commissioner, said by telephone.

Christian Aid claims Uganda had continuously diverted budget funds to fight the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels but without ending the rebellion.

"...already, in 2002, Uganda had diverted 23 per cent of its social services budget to fund Operation Iron Fist, given the scale of the UK's support it can be argued that some of this money must have been British aid.

If so, this would be in direct contravention of the International Development Act 2002, which states that "development assistance means assistance provided for the purpose of furthering sustainable development... or improving the welfare of the population".

However a senior official in the Ministry of Finance dismissed the Charity's approach to the problem, saying Uganda cannot fight poverty with the persisting insecurity in northern Uganda.

Speaking by telephone last week, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Director for Economic Affairs at the Finance Ministry said research had shown a direct correlation between poverty and insecurity.

"In order to deal with poverty we must first solve the insecurity problem. Villagers cannot produce with insecurity, and areas that have security are actually growing," Muhakanizi said.

Security is o­ne of the four pillars of Uganda's Poverty Eradication Strategy. "Military operations have made the situation worse. In the midst of that, a lot of the budget went to defence.

Abandon the military solution and re-establish peace talks. How do you implement an amnesty if you can't talk to them?" the report's lead author, Mr John Davison, says.

"Together, Uganda's donors must use their financial leverage to ensure that development aid is not channelled into military expenditure and to encourage the Uganda government to open dialogue with the LRA.

The report says donors should also speak out against statements by the Ugandan government which damage the prospects of finding a non-military solution to the conflict.

Government has however roundly dismissed the Christian Aid's report which also accuses it of failing to fulfil its responsibilities to defend people in war-ravaged north. Government describes the report as "completely unfair".

The report accuses the Government of herding civilians into camps ostensibly to protect them from the LRA rebels without offering those living in camps the protection they need.

The report cites Labuje camp, near Kitgum town, which the NGO officials claim they visited o­ne night and found no Ugandan soldier o­n guard.

However, speaking to IRIN in a telephone interview recently the Army Spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza, said: "There have been virtually no abductions near Kitgum for a while. How do you think this is possible without army protection? Vincent Otti LRA deputy chief is under orders to abduct as many children as possible. If a camp is not protected, he would do this."

"These are military operations and of course the soldiers are not always visible. But there is no camp without soldiers," he added.

The report also says that government's Operation Iron Fist - a military crackdown o­n LRA bases in southern Sudan - had been "a catastrophe for the people of northern Uganda.

It further sates that the war in the north was being sustained by army officers who make money out of opaque accounting procedures in the payment of soldiers' salaries. It refers to the 'ghost soldiers' scandal, in which thousands of dollars were misappropriated for salaries of nonexistent soldiers.

Bantariza described the statement as "nonsense". "The army would be a lot richer and better off with no war. Every penny is being spent o­n fuel for vehicles, weapons because of this war," he said.

Last week, however Kenya and Uganda were excluded from the list of countries eligible for $1 billion in extra US aid for developing countries under its Millennium Challenge Account. Sixteen countries made the list including eight African countries.

No reason was given by the United States but some observers have been reported as saying Uganda missed out because of perceived intolerance for political opposition in the county.

"Aid has always been linked to political goals," said Mr Zie Gariyo, the director of the public accountability group, Uganda Debt Network.

Gariyo says the conclusion of the Christian Aid report is not surprising. "The Ugandan government has made it a practice to revise its budgets in the middle of the financial year to beef up defence spending at the expense of other ministries," he said.


Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2004 03:19

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