Case File

Guns, Tanks & Jet Fighters – Ugandan Corruption in the 90s

Jack Cinamon
Published on
January 24, 2023
(updated February 6, 2023)
"Uganda, Mig-21bis, 9211, cn N75089211. Programmed to be a Mig-21-2000 now dies at Ben Gurion corrosion corner, former IAI factory." Credit: José Luis Celada Euba via flickr, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0







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 Details

Case details

Seller country
Seller company
Israel Aerospace Industries
Buyer country
North Korea, Belarus, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania
Goods category
Aircraft, Small Arms & Light Weapons, Tanks
Equipment sold

100mm anti-Aircraft guns

Sixty-two T-55 Tanks

Four MIG-21 jet fighters

Deal value
GUNS - Unknown; TANKS - $28 million; PLANES - $50 million
Sum involved in corruption
GUNS - Unknown; TANKS - At least $4 million in commissions; PLANES - $40 million in inflated prices
Start year
End year
Outcome status
No legal Investigations Begun



  • 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 Allegations


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.



  • 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.
  • DecFrom 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.
  • DecThe 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.
  • NovThe 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 Outcomes

  • 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.



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