In 1995, then Director of Artillery and Air Defense of the National Resistance Army (NRA),
Lt. Col. Steven Kashaka assured us (the World) that the Army had no shoot –to – kill policy.
The country then was engulfed in skirmishes with various rebel outfits in Northern Uganda, in Buseruka Hoima District and federo group headed by Maj. Itongwa based in Mpigi District.
In an interview then Lieutenant Colonel now a General in Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces was reacting to the public outpouring (complaints) that the NRA was engaging in extra – juridical killings (excessively harsh) in its conduct of the operation and taking only as few as possible Prisoners Of War (POWS).
Lt. Col. Kashaka who was himself commanding the Hoima operation said that the rebels had lost 110 (dead) out of 250 members in the previous ten days and the rest had fled either to Bungangaizi or the Democratic Republic of Congo then Known as Zaire.
Kashaka explained that the Hioma rebels had suffered such heavy casualties for a number of reasons. One that the rebels were concealed in a gorge which hid them well but became a death trap when they tried to escape. The Army could not take chances in its premier attack leading to heavy casualties on the rebels. Even during Hon. Kyagulanyi Sentamu (popularly known as Bobi Wine’s) campaigns in Luuka seems not to have elicited the responses that the world saw.
Using surveillance and intelligence, NRA had discovered the weaknesses in the new recruits and un armed insurgents and changed tactics and commanders were ordered to capture as many rebels as possible alive. Local people (population) were also advised not to kill fleeing rebels but to capture them.
The strategy worked so well since fatalities were tremendously minimized. This reminded me of a library reference story, I read on my visit to the National Defense College, Kabete – Kenya which goes as below.
There were training courses for everything in ancient Greece’s city of Athens. One of Socrates’ young friends sought to be trained to become one of the Athenian Army generals. Sometime later, when Socrates asked the young trainee about the progress of the course, the young friend of his told Socrates that at the Army Academy, he was only taught Logistics, man- management and marching. “Were you taught strategy” Socrates inquired to which the young officer replied “NO”
Socrates angrily told his friend “go back and train in strategy and planning or ask for your money refund. This is so because planning, strategy and tactics are the cornerstones at the center of the execution of a general’s work.
It was therefore, very necessary for the security forces assumed to have gone through Anti – riot officer training to capture the civilians alive and arraign them in courts of law including court martial if there was a component of terrorism as the commander – in – chief (President) said in his speech.
Nabendeh Wamoto SP ( 0776-658433)