A group of men claiming to be former members of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) which helped to overthrow the government of Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994 are demanding payment of their salaries and compensation. The former fighters want a total of seven billion shillings accumulated over the past 13 years.
On Monday 50 of the former RPF officers held a meeting at Kasana Football Ground in Masaka town to discus their demands. They said they were giving the Rwandan government two weeks to clear their arrears or they would seek legal redress.
Aquino Matega, a retired sergeant in the RPF who now serves as the representative of the claimants, says he is personally demanding for 12 million shillings. He claims that his leg was wounded by a landmine during the 1994 push to Kigali and he has never been compensated by the Rwandan government.
Matega says the petitions have not elicited any responses.
//Cue in: iFrom the month of September #i
Cue out: i# do some other things.i//
The claim for compensation is based on an agreement allegedly made with the Rwandan government and a group of 600 former officers in 1996. The soldiers were reportedly told to return to their countries of origin with the agreement that they would be paid for the efforts in the war.
The contract signed by Colonel Sam Kanyemera Kaka, the former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff and the non-Rwandan citizen fighters entitled them to a pay of between 300,000 shillings and 740,000 shillings depending on their rank. Payment was to be effected from September 1996.
In total 235 Ugandans who claim to have fought in the Rwandese Patriotic Front between 1990 and 1995 claim that they have never been paid.
Ibrahim Kaliisa, one of the former fighters, says he and his colleagues still have identity cards and documents recognizing them as Rwandan soldiers. He says he wants six million shillings in compensation because he played a central role in the Virunga Forest battle in 1993. He claims that he killed 20 government soldiers during that battle.
A Rwandan Embassy official who identified herself as Regina Chantal called the RPF claimants greedy and impatient. She said the issue is still pending a decision in Rwanda and the former fighter should wait for an official answer.
Major John Karangwa, an official from the Rwandan Ministry of Defense, in a phone interview from Kigali, said he is aware of the demands of the RPF claimants. He said he regrets the delays and confirms that his government is working closely with the Rwandan Embassy in Uganda to compensate the soldiers.
Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa, who has been a reference point for many of the fighters, said he is also aware of the demands. He urged the former fighters to remain calm.