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AU soldiers convicted for running fuel racket

The nine were found guilty by a Ugandan court martial sitting in Mogadishu, the first time such a case has been tried in Somalia

A man hawks water in jerry cans in Nairobi on August 31, 2015 

Nine Ugandan soldiers have been jailed for illegally selling fuel meant for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an army spokesman said Wednesday.

"The soldiers were part of a racket that was selling fuel to civilians in Somalia," said Henry Obbo, Uganda's deputy military spokesman.

He said the convicted men included two majors. "The sentences range from one year to three years," Obbo said, to be served in Kampala after which three of the soldiers will be "dismissed from the army with disgrace" while the others will be demoted.

The nine were found guilty by a Ugandan court martial sitting in Mogadishu, the first time such a case has been tried in Somalia since the AU mission deployed nine years ago.

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"The prosecution has proved all the accusations of pursuing personal interest and endangering operational efficiency beyond reasonable doubt," said General Dick Olum, chairman of the court martial, according to an AMISOM statement.

This is not the first time Ugandan soldiers in Somalia have been implicated in illegal activities. Human rights groups have alleged cases of sexual misconduct and civilian killings, but when investigations have been conducted by AMISOM, the soldiers are routinely exonerated.

In 2013 Uganda recalled 24 officers -- among them the contingent commander Brigadier Michael Ondoga -- for allegedly selling food rations meant for soldiers. After a lengthy trial Ondoga was exonerated by a military court in 2015. Kenyan officers have also been accused or profiting from the illegal trade in charcoal in southern Somalia.

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