Introductionscroll to contents
Due to continued Sudanese bombing in the northern territories of Uganda in the late-1990s, the Ugandan government decided to acquire jet fighters to carry out border patrols and to force down Sudanese bombers. They also bought anti-aircraft guns and a number of tanks. Politicians saw this continued instability as an opportunity for further military procurement, along with kickbacks and other forms of self-enrichment.
The Uganda Peoples' Defence Force (UPDF) had ceased to be a force for the protection of Uganda, but instead for the protection of a small elite. The National Resistance Movement (NRM) government and the UPDF have become a springboard for private profiteering.
Case detailsscroll to contents
100mm anti-Aircraft guns
Sixty-two T-55 Tanks
Four MIG-21 jet fighters
Dramatis Personaescroll to contents
Yoweri Museveni – President of Uganda, since 1986. Directed the MoD to seek the procurement of military equipment.
Major General Caleb Akwandenaho (aka Salim Saleh) – Half-brother of President Museveni, special adviser on military and political affairs.In charge of arms procurement for the UPDF.
Hezi Bezalel – Former Mossad officer turned arms dealer, based in Kampala. Had an agreement with Saleh to buy used military equipment to sell for profit to Uganda.
Zeev Chef – Israeli Businessman and Arms Dealer. Headed the consortium which included Bezalel and Saleh.
Amos Golan – Retired Israeli army colonel and former Mossad officer turned arms dealer. Involved in the maintenance of the already purchased and faulty planes.
Summary of Corruption Allegationsscroll to contents
Due to the absence of standard guidelines for defense procurement in the Ugandan Ministry of Defense (MoD), the acquisition of weaponry for the UPDF often results in the purchase of obsolete items.
GUNS - Uganda bought second-hand 100m anti-aircraft guns through a consortium who got them from North Korea. The government paid a highly overvalued price for the guns (amount unknown) and when they arrived they were completely obsolete.
TANKS - The sixty-two T.55 tanks were bought for $28 million ($450,000 each) and are said to have come from Bulgaria and Romania. The tanks were heavily overvalued. The Bulgarian Defence Ministry sells outdated T.55 tanks, produced in the early 1960s, at about $30,000. The price for one coming with spare parts is about $50,000. In early 1998, Israeli intermediaries and senior government officials reportedly received $4 million in commission payments to solidify the deal, although it is unclear who the recipients were.
PLANES - The four MIG-21 Jet-fighters from Belarus cost a total of $50 million. The planes were said to be grossly overvalued; a more reasonable price was estimated to be $10 million - so $40 million was wasted in inflated prices. No tendering or bidding process took place for the planes. Top leaders were using their virtually unfettered discretionary authority to manipulate tenders for private gains.
Timelinescroll to contents
President Museveni had directed the MoD to buy anti-aircraft guns for the purpose of shooting down Sudanese planes. This consortium was headed by Chef, working for Bezalel and Saleh. Bezalel had solidified business ties with Saleh, who together were buying used Israeli military equipment to sell for great profits to Uganda. The consortium bought these guns from North Korea. They were bought without refurbishments and with multiple mechanical defects.
- Dec 1997
From December 1997 to January 1998 these guns were taken to the northern territories of Uganda to be used against the Sudanese Antonov bombers. They failed in this mission, proving to be junk.
- Dec 1998
The UPDF then took delivery of a consignment of sixty-two Russian-made T-55 tanks from Bulgaria and Romania which were to be used to intervene against Sudan.
During an inspection of the tanks in eastern Europe, a mechanical engineer sent by the MoD reportedly refused to issue a certificate of worthiness. Upon arrival in Uganda, the tanks turned out to be obsolete, all but eight of which were unfit for operation. In order to make the tanks serviceable, they had to be reconditioned at great expense by four Israeli mechanics.
The Ugandan MoD contacted intermediary Bezalel, who was working closely with Saleh to purchase four MIG-21 fighter jets for the UPDF. The fighter jets that were eventually supplied were outdated Soviet-made planes with limited bomb carriage capacity and malfunctional radar guidance systems. Their fuel tanks were also too small for purposes of flying from Gulu airbase to as far as Juba in Southern Sudan and returning to base without refueling. Moreover, two of the jets delivered to Entebbe military base had only one wing.
- Nov 1999
The Government contracted Golan, another Israeli businessman, to take the warplanes to Israel's state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI Enterprises) for upgrading and remodeling. The jet fighters that the Ugandan government eventually acquired were therefore considerably more expensive than if they had purchased new directly from the manufacturers.
Investigation Outcomesscroll to contents
GUNS - In early 1998, the government intended to sue the consortium led by Israeli intermediary Chef for supplying faulty anti-aircraft guns. The agreement was held to be an informal understanding between the two parties therefore not actionable in court.
TANKS – No legal proceedings were brought forward for the tanks either as they were somewhat serviceable after renovation.
PLANES – As for the supply of inappropriate planes, a deal led by Israeli intermediary Bezalel, the agreement that was signed was deemed too vague and informal to be actionable in court.
Saleh was implicated in a number of political financing scandals before stepping down from his post as Senior Advisor to the President on Defence and Security. He was forgiven by his brother President Museveni and was publicly exonerated for his crimes. The President implied that because Saleh was an experienced cadre whose services were still required, his brother’s conflict of interest was to be overlooked.
Referencesscroll to contents
Amundsen, I. (2006, January). “CMI Commissioned Report: Political Corruption and the Role of Donors (in Uganda)”. Chr. Michelsen Institute. https://www.cmi.no/publications/file/2687-political-corruption-and-the-role-of-donors-in.pdf
Frederick, L. (2021, November). “Rethinking Internal Displacement: Geo-political Games, Fragile States and the Relief Industry”. United States: Berghahn Books.
Komakech, R.A. (2020, June). “Corruption in Public Procurement in Uganda: What to Do?.” Conference: 2nd International Conferences on Governance and Service Delivery in Developing Economies At: Uganda Management Institute (UMI). Retrieved May 9, 2022, from, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342551254_Corruption_in_Public_Procurement_in_Uganda_What_to_Do
Meldrum, A. (1998, December 23). ‘Corruption Haunts Economic Success. The Guardian. Retrieved June 01, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/business/1998/dec/23/1
Mukasa, R., & Ochieng, H. (1999, July 8). 'Defence bought Shs 50bn junk fighter jets', The Monitor, 8 July. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://allafrica.com/stories/199907080068.html
Ouédraogo, E. (2014, July). “Advancing Military Professionalism in Africa”. The Africa Centre foir Strategic Studies. Washington D.C. Research Paper No. 6. Retrieved 03 May, 2022, from https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/182084/ARP-6-EN.pdf
“RIN Update No. 570 for Central and Eastern Africa”. (1998, 18 December). Relief Web. United Nations: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa. Retrieved 28 April, 2022 fromhttps://reliefweb.int/report/congo/irin-update-no-570-central-and-eastern-africa
Tangri, R, & Mwenda, A.M. (2003). “Military Corruption & Ugandan Politics since the Late 1990s.” Review of African Political Economy 30, no. 98 (2003): 539–52. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4007005.
Tangri, R, & Mwenda, A.M. (2013, August 21). “The Politics of Elite Corruption in Africa: Uganda in Comparative African Perspective”. Taylor & Francis.
“Tank Purchase Questioned”. (1998, December 18). The New Humanitarian. Retrieved May 03, from, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/report/4181/uganda-tank-purchase-questioned
“Uganda: Hah! Would Museveni forgive Jeje Odongo?” (1998, 29 October). All Africa. Retrieved September, 12, 2022, from https://allafrica.com/stories/199810290103.html
“Uganda: T55 Tanks Cost Only $ 30,000” (1998, December 20). All Africa. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from, https://allafrica.com/stories/199812200018.html