By Hannah Rugema
Roughly three hundred Ugandan mercenaries said to have been risking their lives in Afghanistan with no help from home, are waiting to be repatriated to Uganda after testing positive for Covid-19.
According to the Stars and Stripes website some of the mercenaries, working as guards at a US base in Afghanistan, were at increased risk of contracting the virus which can lead to severe respiratory illness, clotting disorders and sometimes death. According to the report, the Ugandan guards are highly at risk because of their work, which includes interacting with and searching locals coming onto the base.
Concerned with the number of Ugandan mercenaries in the Middle East, one Ugandan veteran who served in Iraq as a mercenary told this website that the pandemic risks worsening the situation of mercenaries who usually return home with physical and psychological injuries. “It is the most dangerous place in the world to be during a pandemic,” he said.
Reports indicate that Uganda is one of the top armed mercenaries’ exporters, something has raised many question marks in the international community, analysts say.
Also, Uganda’s political and military elite have come under the international spotlight for their reported involvement in several mercenary activities across the Great Lakes, and the Horn of Africa regions. Kampala-based sources have for years said Ugandan mercenary forces have become more and more prominent in armed conflicts around the world and that “a big factor behind this is the widely reported corruption of high-ranking Ugandan officials.”
These are said to operate security export companies in the Ugandan capital.
An example of such a firm is Saracen Security which Gen. Salim Saleh, President Museveni’s younger brother is said to own.
These firms have been criticized in many UN reports, including a 2002 United Nations Security Council report among other things for training rebel paramilitary forces in the DRC.
Another report titled “Doing Business out of war says Ugandan army commanders have mobilized mercenaries “to exploit economic opportunities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”
“One can imagine a situation where Ugandan mercenary forces are moved around, to places like DRC, or Somalia with further risk of spreading Covid-19,” said a prominent Kampala critic that requested anonymity to talk freely.
Our source further added that even children are employed as mercenaries in conflicts in the region and abroad, something that, according to knowledgeable sources, “concerns the Ugandan security elite in no way at all.”
In recent years it has been reported that Ugandan children were forcibly recruited as mercenaries in conflict regions.