A Ugandan appeals court has ordered President Yoweri Museveni?s government to pay four-point-five trillion shillings (about two billion US dollars) in reparations to army officials who served under former Presidents Idi Ami and Milton Obote. In its ruling, the court said the former troops are still part of the national army and are therefore entitled to the same treatment and benefits as current regular soldiers. But the army said it would appeal the ruling.
Lead attorney for the former soldiers, John Matovu, said promises that were made to them were not fulfilled.
?This case started about four years ago. But it was as the result of 45-thousand men who served in the time Idi Ami was deposed in 1979. After the change in government in 1979, they were arrested and after they were arrested? they were promised to be deployed. Subsequently, they were not deployed,? he said.
Matovu said the former soldiers made several fruitless efforts to have their case addressed, but the army did not want anything to do with them.
?After several years they approached the Ministry of Defense, either to be discharged or for payment to be made to them from the army, but were rejected? They came to us and asked us to recover their salaries and arrears of allowances and some benefits. But the judge dismissed their case in the High Court saying that the matter was time barred,? Matovu noted.
He said he is happy the court upheld their argument.
?We appealed to the Court of Appeals and we were lucky to be heard. Actually, setting aside the High Court?s decision, and saying that these people have to be paid,? Matovu pointed out.
He said the former soldiers are looking forward to be paid after their hopes were nearly dashed by the High Court?s ruling.
?It was sad first of all when the original judge at the High Court said the case was time barred. It was so disturbing, but for the purposes of you know you have won the case, although they believe justice was delayed for sometime, they are now very happy they have the decision,? he said.
Matovu said he would wait for a month to allow the government to obey the court?s order before taking the next action.
?In this particular case, the court made a general order. They said the ex-soldiers be paid immediately. But we think that after a period of about a month and nothing has been done, we are going to pursue execution proceedings,? he said.
Matovu said his clients want a commitment from the government to pay them.
?We think that the government can pay that money in installments. I think my clients don?t have a problem with that. What they want is a commitment from government to pay?so that they can take care of their problems they have been dealing with all this while,? he said.