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Engola to MPs: I am Unable to Withdraw UPDF from Lakes

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The Committee Chair, Clement Obote Ongalo asked the Minister to explain why he didn’t provide a written statement as required by the rules of procedure and why he couldn't present government’s statement on the withdrawal of UPDF from Lakes.
Okello.P Charles

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The Defense State Minister, Col. Charles Okello Engola has defended his failure to present a written statement to parliament on why Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF ignored a directive by the house to stop operations by the Fisheries Protection Unit on Ugandan waters.    

The minister told the Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee of parliament on Thursday afternoon that his failure to present a formal statement was an over sight on his part and not in any way meant to undermine the house. 

In January 2020, the Speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga referred Engola to the rules committee for failure to follow the rules of procedure in regards to tabling a written statement before the house.   

This afternoon, the Committee Chair, Clement Obote Ongalo asked the Minister to explain why he didn’t provide a written statement as required by the rules of procedure and why he couldn't present government’s statement on the withdrawal of UPDF from Lakes.

 

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Engola said he takes Parliament seriously, saying he simply requested for more time to get a proper statement to facilitate the house, a request that was denied. 

He told MPs that he is “just a Minister of State for Defense and the order of deploying troops comes from the Commander in Chief”, implying that he wasn’t able to cause withdrawal of UPDF from the lakes even when Parliament has resolved so. 

 

Engola said he did his part by extracting the resolution of Parliament and presented it to the main Minister who briefed cabinet and the President. 

He says that as a result, a committee was set up to investigate all allegations against UPDF soldiers involved in fisheries operations.  

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However, the Committee members disagreed with Engola, saying it is not the first time such a matter was coming up from Ministers on contempt of Parliament.     

The Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa said although the President is the Commander in Chief of all armed forces, he isn’t a Member of Parliament, saying it was the duty of the Defense Ministers to extract the debate in Parliament and brief the President. 

He said that there has been reluctance on the part of the Minister to resolve issues surrounding the operations of the UPDF Fisheries Protection Unit.

 

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The Committee also tasked Engola to explain remarks attributed to senior UPDF officers in the media, saying Parliament doesn’t command the army and operations on lakes will not stop. 

Captain Nathan Abaho, the Commandant of the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) in Kalangala District told reporters that only the head of state will decide if the UPDF is to leave the waters.

 

In his response, Engola said UPDF hasn’t issued or released a statement, adding that Government’s position on that issue was still a matter for cabinet to resolve.       

He said UPDF would find out under, what circumstances Abaho made the statement and discipline him.  Obote also asked the Minister if he was now ready to table his statement.

The Minister was noncommittal, saying the subcommittee set up by Cabinet to investigate torture claims against the Army hasn’t completed its report.

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