IRAQ: Ugandan Guards in Iraq Face Abuse

Sources said two Ugandans slipped into a coma due to brutal assaults at the hands of foreign officers at Alasad Airbase after they queried terms of the contract.
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Amid allegations that Ugandans working with the United States forces in Iraq are sexually abused and their contracts changed arbitrarily by the recruiting agencies, a compassionate senior US officer has been working hard to restore the morale of 600 or so guards, most of them serving abroad for the first time.

Some of the Ugandan recruits at Alasad Airbase, North West of Iraq, one of the biggest US fortresses, were allegedly sodomised by foreign soldiers and admitted at the Gettysburg health facility inside the fortress, sources in Iraq and Uganda told Daily Monitor this week. It is said that some Ugandan women employed there were used as sex objects by members of one of the foreign armies in Iraq.

Sources said two Ugandans, Mr Enock Bashaija and Mr Geoffrey Kawuka slipped into a coma due to brutal assaults at the hands of foreign officers at Alasad Airbase after they queried terms of the contract.

Had it not been the intervention of Lt. Col (rtd), Fred Lynch, the Commanding Officer of the US army at the airbase and Mr. Paul Hegue, the executive officer of SOC-SMG, a private security management firm that manages the airbase, Ugandans would have gone on strike to protest the beatings of Bashaija and Kawuka, sources said.

But the Kampala embassy of the United States, the lead country of the foreign military intervention in Iraq, could not confirm or deny the allegations emerging out of Iraq involving Ugandans.

"We cannot comment; only the Defence Department (in Washington) can answer those questions," Ms Alyson Grunder, the US embassy spokesperson said on Tuesday.

But documents obtained from sources in Iraq and Kampala said all is not rosy between Ugandans and the private firms contracted by the US government to recruit them. Ugandans are unhappy that after leaving Uganda they are forced to change from one contractor to another, some reported to be middlemen.

Ugandans guard US military bases, oil fields, airports, highways, towns, water and electricity installations among others under multinational forces to pacify the volatile Iraq. For this work, they earn US$1000 (about shs1.8m) with US$100 deducted at source as out of pocket allowance, leaving US$900 (about shs 1.6m) which is wired to their accounts back home. On the other side, the other nationals doing similar work get US$4000 (about shs7.2m) with allowances.

Col. Lynch after getting reports of sodomy at Alasad, directed one of the US forces medical doctor identified by sources as Dr. Eddie Claig to investigate the matter. But before he could eradicate the abuses, the sympathetic Col. Lynch was removed and posted to Faruja Airbase. Col. Paul Eggie, according to a source, replaced Lynch and is the new commanding officer at the Alasad Base.

As a result of grumbling and unrest in camp, authorities have so far deported 15 Ugandans from Camp Victory and Camp Gettysburg, all in Alasad Airbase, accusing them of being the ringleaders of the uneasiness at the base. The list of deportees include Grace Bukenya, Eddie Kapere, John Bosco Byamugsiha, Paul Mugisha Agaba, Derrick Muwonge, Alice Mugabekazi, Bashaija and Kawuka.

American guards have in the past engaged in sadistic abuses against Iraqi detainees but these only came to light after their upright compatriots exposed them. Iraqi detainees, coming from traditions of male dominance, would not admit or complain publicly that they were being subjected to massive physical and sexual abuses that sometimes ended in death.

But the discontent among Ugandans in Iraq is not only the alleged physical mistreatment but the employment contracts. Whereas in some of the contracts they signed with Dreshak International L. L. C, a United Arab Emirates based company as "Foreign Security Specialists" in subsequent contracts, they were addressed as "Third Country Nationals".

Dreshak recruited the Ugandans from Uganda.

Mr Mumtaz Muslim, Dreshak International Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in undated letter addressed to Ugandans in Iraq directed them to hand over copies of the earlier contacts they signed with him to SOC-SMG for "destruction".

"In order to be in compliance with the contract between the US Marine Corps and SOC-SMG, we hereby release you from the contract signed between you and Dreshak international" Mr Mumtaz wrote in the letter seen by Daily Monitor.

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