Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Uganda's Foreign Legions

Socialist Banner has previously drawn attention to the number of Ugandan's fighting for the interests of the capitalist class in Iraq to escape the effects of capitalism and our attention has once more been drawn to the issue by this article.

An estimated 15,000 Ugandans have been deployed to Iraq by private security and recruitment agencies. The Ugandans protect military bases, airports and oil drills there. Some call it lucrative work. Others call it slavery.

The driving force behind the massive recruitment of Ugandans is the creeping privatisation of war. A trend catalysed by the British-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The incessant search for affordable cleaners, mechanics and security guards has led the Americans to Africa, which has a surplus of labour and a weak job market. Widespread military experience makes Uganda all the more suitable as a recruitment area. Moreover, many inhabitants of the former British colony speak decent English and Uganda is a military ally of the US. Ugandans are scrambling to get jobs in Iraq, even though the salaries are constantly being reduced and the work environment is anything but pleasant.

“Ugandans are exploited in Iraq. This is modern day slavery,” said Gideon Tusigye deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 as an army physician.

Sam Lyomoki, a member of parliament who has long been a champion of employees’ rights, called for an inquiry into the maltreatment of Ugandans in Iraq said “They [the recruitment agencies] lie,” said Lyomoki. “These companies, which are often politically connected, are looking to turn a profit at the expense of Ugandans.”

Askar Security Services, which has deployed 5,000 soldiers, is run by the sister-in-law of general Salim Saleh, who is the brother and military advisor of the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. Mwesigwa Rukutana, who was minister of employment until last year, owned a company that recruited Ugandans for work in Iraq. Rukutana is now minister of higher education.

Recruitment agencies currently have their eye on Afghanistan, which they hope will provide them with new business once Americans withdraw from Iraq.

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