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Iraq guards: The price of Hopelessness

By Patrick Kagenda

On November 3, 2008, Arthur Asiimwe Kirimani 25 was on his way to Baghdad Airport to board a plane that would return him to Uganda after a 10-month service with a private American security firm  EODT. The firm that is stationed at Forward Operating Base in northern Iraq near Tikrit provides munitions response, security services and critical mission support. It had sub-contracted Asiimwe from Askar Security Services of Uganda which had recruited him on February 25, 2008.

He never made it home. The vehicle he and the other guards were travelling in was hit by a roadside object though EODT says it overturned after a tyre bust.

Of the six people who were in the ill-fated vehicle, three died on the spot and the rest survived with wounds, some serious. The dead were Asiimwe, an Iraqi driver of the vehicle and a Romanian guard. The wounded were Isaac Kaiha, a Ugandan whose services had been terminated, the  co-driver (an Iraqi) and another Ugandan, Mendrek Mukiza.

For Asiimwe’s mother, Ms Night Proscovia Kobusingye Kirimani, it was the worst she had feared; she is yet to overcome her sorrows.

On December 19, 2008, Asiimwe’s family filled a beneficiary form and is waiting to be called to collect Shs500 million ($258,392) as compensation for their fallen son. Asiimwe had gone to Iraq to raise money for his university tuition. Being the fourth born in the family and our father having died in 1994, Asiimwe had to find his way to university. After failing to get vocational employment after his S.6 exams, he opted to go to Iraq to make money.  He was courageous and thats why he went for the job that was as risky as a guard in Iraq, Asiimwe’s brother told The Independent.

However for Kaiha, one of the wounded who survived with spinal and rib injuries, the nightmare has just begun. Askar Security Services that took him to Iraq has refused to treat him because his services had been terminated before the attack/accident in Iraq.

These people took me and I got injured while still in Iraq. They are always chasing me away whenever I go to their office, Kaiha said, adding: These people at Askar are cheats; they used me to pick Arthurs body from the airport when I was still very ill and took me up to Kiruhura where we buried him, while promising to help me. But now they have dumped me.

He said that while in Iraq after the accident, their site security manager, one Mark R. Black, had assured him of compensation. Kaiha said an insurance agent, one Sam Jim from AIG Kenya, came to Uganda and talked to him and the other survivor Mendrek Mukiza. He said Black settled Mukiza’s medical bills, leaving Kaiha to take care of himself. Kaiha said he is entitled to $30,000 compensation about (Shs57,900,000).

When The Independent spoke to Askar Security Services in Kampala about Kaiha’s case, Ms Kellen Kayonga, the company secretary, confirmed the attack on the victims. But she said the company has no obligation over Kaiha since his services in Iraq had been terminated.

Be that as it may, Kaiha further complained that his one-and-a half month salary was withheld as transport back to Uganda. Initially the guards were being paid $1,000 (Shs1,930,000), but that has since been reduced to $600 (Shs1,158,000).

State Minister for Labour, Mwesigwa Rukutana, told The Independent: The money is not a problem because the Ministry of Labour approved it as a result of the forces of demand and supply. If we had refused that money, the contract would have gone to another country.

Rukutana however said he was not aware of Kaiha’s case but promised to investigate the matter.

It was never reported to us, he said.

Although Rukutana said he was not acquainted with the developments in regard to Kaiha’s medical bills and compensation claims, he told The Independent that the contracts for guard services in Baghdad provide for insurance and transport to and from Iraq.

As far as I am concerned all companies have been complying with the contracts but I dont know why this is coming up, Rukutana said.

It will possibly be months, if not years, before Kaiha’s case is settled. But it is the price of hopelessness many Ugandans who took up guard duties in Iraq will have to contend with!

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