At daybreak on Saturday (February 19), more than a dozen trucks carrying heavy military hardware entered Uganda from Tanzania through the Mutukula border crossing, causing anxiety at the busy border town.
Some took advantage of the cover of darkness to record video clips of the arrivals without being noticed by military police soldiers who were on deployment to receive the consignments.
Military police personnel started deploying at the border town on Thursday evening, raising fears among the traders who were waiting to clear their merchandise.
“We got scared seeing the heavy deployment of the military police. Some came on Thursday and more were driven in on Friday. They first reported at the CMI [Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence] post at Mutukula before taking over the side of the warehouses,” an eyewitness said on Sunday.
And once the reason for their deployment became clear on Saturday morning, more questions came up but without anyone offering answers.
Interviewed, army spokesperson, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso said she hadn’t heard about the shipment.
“Maybe we are equipping ourselves; I will need to ask,” she told The Witness.
Prodded further, Byekwaso said, “It is part of our weaponry system but also, it is possible that they are destined for South Sudan.”
According to a report published on November 19, 2020 by www.intelligencebriefs.com, Uganda ordered armored vehicles worth $110 million (Shs 407 billion) from Otokar, a Turkish land defense systems manufacturer, for its military forces.
Although the manufacturer’s website merely mentions “an African country,” www.intelligencebriefs.com confirmed from unnamed security sources that Uganda is the purchaser.
The contract was signed in October 2020.
Under the deal, Otokar will equip the Ugandan armed forces with 100 armored vehicles including Arma 8x8s and Cobra II 4×4 tactical wheeled armored vehicles, as well as spare parts and training services.
The manufacturer reported that delivery would start in 2021 and complete by the end of 2022.
According to the company statement, the contract with Uganda marks the first order for Arma vehicles from Africa. However, Otokar noted that it has previously sold a number of Cobra armored vehicles to a number of African countries highlighting that the orders for Cobra from Africa are steadily accumulating.
During the 40th Tarehe Sita celebrations at the army headquarters, Mbuya in Kampala, President Museveni declared that building the UPDF’s capacity “to be second to none in Africa” is among his top priorities for his 2021 – 2026 presidential term.
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