THEÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Uganda People's Defence Forces are coming into the spotlight yet again, with theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â impending failure of a broadcasting project that would have supported disarmament and restoration of peace and rule of law in Karamoja and neighbouring communities, such as the Turkana in Kenya and the Toposa in Sudan, writes Michale Wakabi in The East African.
Partially supported by a European Commission grant under the Africa Leadership Institute's Civil Military Co-operation Project (Cimic) in Karamoja, the project is fast unravelling after private sector partner Voice Media Group pulled out.
It cited "controversies that have arisen and [were] expressed in a meeting held in Mbale on September 2.
"Given our excellent track record in the FM radio industry, we do not want to entertain any attempt at muddling up ownership and management of our company and investments," Captain Mike Mukula, chairman of Voice Media, wrote in a September 4 letter to the executive director of the Africa Leadership Institute, David Pulkol.
According to information made available to The EastAfrican, at the heart of Voice Media's action is the recent insistence by the UPDF on a majority shareholding in the Voice of Karamoja, the subsidiary company set up to launch a broadcasting operation that would have covered the entire Karamoja region.
The falling out comes just weeks to the September 24 D-Day, when the station was to go on air.
Apparently, besides wanting majority control of the station, the UPDF, which insists the EC grant was meant to finance an army radio, now wants total control over programming.
It has even suggested that army graduates of mass communication act as presenters on the station.
Army spokesman Lt-Col Felix Kulayigye told The EastAfrican that since the idea behind the radio was to support disarmament and the UPDF was the primary actor in that regard, the EC thought the Voice of Karamoja would belong to the army when it made the grant.
It turns out, however, that while the EC grant of Euro 27,300 (about $37,540) translated into just about Ush77 million, the total investment in the project is closer to Ush500 million (about $250,000), making the army's claim to a majority share untenable.
In recent weeks, several meetings between the parties, one of them chaired by the Chief of Defence Forces, Lt- Gen Aronda Nyakairima, have taken place in Mbale and Kampala, with the saga taking a strange turn…
After sensing possible difficulties in taking over the station, the UPDF has turned to mobilising local leaders from the six districts that make up Karamoja to claim a stake.
There is growing suspicion that the real fight is over the hearts and minds of Karamoja ahead of the 2011 presidential elections, which promise to be hotly contested.
Click here to read the full story, posted on The East African's website,