Prospecting recruits who want to join the army, the Uganda People's Defence Forces are reportedly making attempts to bribe their way so as to beat and compromise the recruitment exercise.
Col. James Nambale, the in-charge of the recruitment exercise which started at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala yesterday, said that they have intercepted a number of people who were offering bribes to officers so that they can be let into the army without facing the regular recruitment process.
He said that he personally resisted bribes ranging between Shs 100,000 to Shs 500,000 offered openly by several potential recruits. Others, according to Nambale, were offering bribes in form of airtime and transport, expecting favouritism in return during the recruitment.
"There are those who even have corrupted their ways to come here. I have been called by 26 people. There are those who have [offered] me airtime, there are those who have asked me to get something 'small' for transport. I’ve been well facilitated with my team here.
I ate well and slept in Sheraton [hotel] last night. Please, you're desperate for a job and you want to give Col Nambale Shs 500, 000, Shs 200,000, Shs 100,000. You’re killing the army, you’re killing the country, you’re not coming to do anything. I can’t take that money. If you can give me Shs 100,000, Shs 500,000 to recruit you because possibly you’re my brother, one will give me Shs 1 billion and I kill my president. So here it is about commitment to your country, it is about guarding others while they sleep", said Col Nambale.
Col Nambale advised the prospective recruits to identify army officers they have given bribes to help them go through the recruitment process saying that these will not have much to do for them.
"If you gave anybody money please raise your hand now and we get your money from them. We’ve always had incidents where people say they took our money. You may be my brother, you may be my son, you may be my relative.
We may have gone to school together with you but when you come here and I favour you because of that [yet] you can’t meet the criteria, am telling you; you will not be near me when you’re facing ‘music’ on the front line….Even if you’re my brother, please come here and meet the criteria of joining the Uganda People’s Defence Forces", Nambale added.
Nambale further cautioned the prospective recruits against looking at joining the army as a means of getting employment saying that the army is about commitment to the good of the country.
"There are problems when you people join the army because you’re desperate for a jobs. Some of you are looking at becoming officers like I. I have soldiered on for more than have of my life to reach where I am….There are those of who are you joining just to look for jobs. Am telling you, the money you’re looking for is not in the army, you can go to parliament, you will get the money but inhere it is about working, it’s about commitment to your country..."
As the screening of the recruits went on, URN observed a number of parents and guardians both ordinary people and army officers following up on their children at the different stages of screening in a bid to beat the process.
At some point, the recruitment officers were seen struggling to push aside these parents in vain. Maj. Edward Birungi, the spokesperson of UPDF Lands Forces confirmed this difficulty.
"Parents who are here are also really interested in their children joining the army. They are close to them and are making it very difficult, we say give us space but they really don’t want to give us space. So they are making the exercise really difficult. However in liaison with the military police which is on the ground, we’re on the ground. We expect the exercise to get on well", Birungi said.
URN also observed a UPDF officer who was not part of the official recruitment team helping some of the parents and some army officers sneak people who were disqualified at the physical checkup stage into the qualified team.
Both teams were seated close to each other. This UPDF officer was later seen congratulating parents, possibly for a mission accomplished.
However, UPDF spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire noted that there are safeguards against infiltration and that persons who cheated at the entry point would still be eliminated. He said that they do not expect any traits of corruption in the process.
"We’ve embedded in the teams other officers from other arms that support the process. We have our guys from the intelligence office, we’ve political commissars, so it is really an all round team which is doing a good job so far. We don’t expect any traits of corruption, for us in UPDF we exercise zero tolerance to corruption", Karemire said.
Asked whether they have an auditing system to look at the work done by the recruitment officers, Karemire said that they have an inbuilt mechanism to access whatever goes on everyday.
The nationwide recruitment exercise looks at recruiting 4,000 soldiers of whom 3,000 will be regular and 1,000 will be professional to serve the different professional arms in the army. The exercise will end on October 29, in 116 districts of Uganda.
Kampala district was given only 600 slots in the recruitment exercise. However, Deborah Mbabazi the Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) says that less than 100 regular prospective recruits out of thousands that converged at Kololo were from the five divisions of Kampala.
The regular prospective recruits are required to have a minimum qualification of the O'level (UCE) while the prospective professional recruits are required to have a minimum qualification of the A'level (UACE) obtained in the last three years. These should also have a bias in science subjects.
The recruits are further required to be citizens, present a medical examination report, national identity cards, local council recommendation letter, and original copies of their academic papers, three passport size photos among others before being taken through the other physical and medical tests by the recruitment team. They are also supposed to be single with no children.
The UPDF recruitment exercise seeks to address the human resource deficit arising out of the retirement of a similar number of personnel who will be leaving the forces over the next two years. Up to 1700 of these will be retiring in November this year.
Credit: The Observer Uganda