In Summary
  • The issue: Transformation
  • Our view: UPDF may be efficient in executing several tasks, but cannot troubleshoot all problems in Uganda.

Tarehe Sita or February 6 yesterday marked 37 years since the founding of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), the successor of the National Resistance Army (NRA). From an ill-equipped and ill-drilled force of former armed forces personnel, educated elite, and peasants at inception in 1981, today the UPDF boats of successful record of peacekeeping and enforcements in Liberia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Equatorial Guinea. To their credit, Somalia was able to hold elections in 2009 for the first time since 1992.

Above all, Uganda’s borders are secure from external aggression since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels were pushed to Central African Republic (CAR) in 2006. The army has also rolled back cattle rustling and attendant insecurity that plagued Karimoja, Teso, and northern Uganda, and had frustrated some infrastructure projects, including roads and electrification.

The UPDF has also developed versatile marine units to combat harvesting of young fish on our lakes, especially on Lake Victoria. Also, the army has initiated the University of Military Science and Technology, also known as Lugazi National Defence University, with graduates at the core of feeding the army’s fledgling construction and engineering units.

Not to mention the UPDF business arm – the National Enterprise Corporation that now churns out mineral water from its plant at Luweero. The UPDF has also embarked on Shs130b military referral hospital at the army headquarters at Mbuya in Kampala.

Notwithstanding all the above, and as we have argued before, the UPDF may be efficient in executing several tasks, but cannot troubleshoot all problems in Uganda. The ad hoc army units, including for marine units and poverty alleviation schemes cannot just out-compete the specialised ministries, departments and agencies of government.

For instance, while the Operation Wealth Creation programme has spread across the country to uplift household incomes, the retired army lieutenants and generals have been blamed for supplying poor, sometimes dead seeds and sick livestock.

This implies that there is no guarantee that the army always have a silver bullet in solving all problems, including in ensuring improved agricultural production, food security, and uplifting household incomes.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the UPDF will be in building a truly national and durable institution. During elections, some top brass of the military have been accused of partisan involvement.

This demands that the current and future crop of the UPDF should wean itself and outlive its founding generals, commanders, and survive a new commander in chief and seamlessly subsist and serve in another regime.

This will have truly transformed the national army that has always purged its command, rank and file through the 1971 coup d’état, 1979 Liberation War, 1985 putsch, and the 1986 takeover.