Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has commissioned into flight the first ever overhauled and upgraded Russian type helicopter in sub Saharan Africa at the Pro Heli Plant International Services Limited at Nakasongola Air base.
The overhauled and upgraded chopper is the MI 24 which is gunship, attack helicopter and low-capacity troop transport.
“In 1986 I sent the late Kategaya to buy MI 17 from the Soviet Union, but soon after the Soviet Union collapsed during the time of Gorbachev and Yeltsin there was chaos. When Putin took over, he stabilized the country. I want to congratulate President Putin for stabilizing Russia and strengthening it again,” Museveni said,
He noted that there was no contact with the Russian partners then and so he offered himself to travel to Russia as a tourist to revive the relationship with the Russians.
“You couldn’t get anything from Russia, there was no contact. I worked with the UN office on a private visit. I said I want to revive this relationship. I went as a tourist and met the current Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the former Prime Minister. That is when I bought the Sukoi,” he disclosed.
Museveni said there was no problem between Russia and Uganda as well as the African continent.
He commended the Managing Director of NEC, Lt Gen Mugira for the initiative to follow up the project noting that many ideas are always conceived but end up getting aborted because they are not supported.
“Normally these ideas come but they are not grown by those who are concerned, they die,” he noted.
Museven said the relationship between Africa and Russia in terms of support in the field of military hardware dates back to the times of President Abdel Nasser who in 1955 first bought equipment from the Soviet Union as there was no independent African country except for Ethiopia, Egypt and Liberia.
He noted that Russia therefore has been Africa’s partner for the last 100 years and had been supporting anti colonial movements.
Museveni stressed that the partnership with PRO Heli facility in Nakasongola is a healthy one and describing it as that of common sense.
He said there is a big demand in Uganda that has helicopters which need maintenance, overhaul and upgrading.
“Which is better? To do it there or here in Uganda? Of course, what is common sense is not always common,” he said.
The excited Museveni also welcomed the idea fronted by the PRO Heli International Services Ltd CEO Valari Copcin to have the Sukois also overhauled and upgraded at the facility, to work with other countries in Africa and Latin America as well as Brazil adding that it is convenient for everybody in terms of proximity.
He said these countries can also benefit from the services of the facility.
He however noted that the facility serves for better economics as it employs highly trained Ugandan engineers whose remuneration is lower than their counterparts in Europe.
“Both strategically and economically it is very correct to cooperate here,”
He also welcomed the idea of the general electronic counter measures for self-protection when in the air as well as plans to have other commercial aircrafts serviced and maintained at the facility.
President Museveni however urged Pro Heli to get other investors in other areas that are non-military like was done with the Chinese investors.
“So, there is no limit to our cooperation,” he said, applauding the Russian government for not objecting to Uganda’s cooperation but rather supporting it.
The Minister of Defense Vincent Ssempijja said the facility will save the country huge sums of money that were going into works on helicopters.