The most tantalizing and rhetorical question is “has Uganda ever retired such a huge number of generals let alone only a singular one?” The answer is in the negative namely, never before the Yoweri Museveni era! What looked like an incomprehensible act in the yonder past from 1962 – 1986 has spectacularly been done by Uganda’s best president ever, Yoweri Museveni. There is a real paradigm shift in the centre of gravity on issues security in this country. To the degree that “peace, security and stability” meant not what they said, majority sound-minded Ugandans have every reason to, in a sigh of relief, reckon that, yes, this administration has pulled the country out of the doldrums where it had sunk during the period from 1966 – 1986 when generals, who nobody dared retire or didn’t do so out of their own volition, coughed and the country caught a cold.
Those dreaded generals, in state sponsored pogroms, would obliterate both civilian and military opponents in order to retain power; that in a sense confirms the confidence majority Ugandans have in the UPDF – the first ever truly national and professional army that does not, unlike its predecessors, pillage, rape or kill at will; its predecessors, with reckless abandon, would gleefully do all those unbridled.
By the time Museveni and his compatriots took power in 1986, Uganda had seen a triple of repressive armies namely the King’s African Rifles, Uganda Army and the Uganda National Liberation Army; those outfits had all the hallmarks of the British colonial masters’ oppressive regime purposed to propagate their self-aggrandizement and gluttonous agenda through economic exploitation. Even when Idi Amin’s gross notoriety and brutality was detected while he served in Karamoja as middle level army officer, the wonderful colonialists never retired him in public interest; he was instead promoted and redeployed.
On Tuesday, August 31, 2022, the CIC presided over the colourful ceremony at which over 40 generals were retired. A couple of days earlier, hundreds of other officers ranging from majors to colonels had been retired.
In these epochal and definitely splendid times, the CIC has turned the page for the better; the huge numbers of generals who have retired from the UPDF spectacularly speak volumes about two things: one, that the peace, stability, security as well as the rule of law have been thoroughly entrenched since 1986 to the extent that it is now possible for those seniors to do other things after leaving that now revered vocation. Relatedly, the UPDF, on top of securing the country, unlike others before it, is constructively augmenting national development; they for instance have an engineering unit that amongst others built the pavilion at Kololo ceremonial grounds. They have been deeply involved in Pan-African peace keeping and enforcement missions beyond our borders like in the CAR, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the DRC and the world’s newest state – South Sudan just to mention but a few. Many of those retired gallant sons of Uganda are the reason why, in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, several countries have been largely pacified.
The earlier armies were never harbingers of peace but rather disrupters of it; we are talking about a totally different animal; a defence force that has afforded Ugandans to wear smiles for now almost forty years uninterrupted. Uganda had become a hot-bath country for conflict until Yoweri Museveni restored us into the international files of honour.
Before 1986, no one would dare retire or question generals, not even peripherally or tangentially; they were untouchables with limitless power to do as they wished; in fact, attempting to retire one seemed labour-intensive and intellectual resources extensive and could easily result into a coup detat.
Our recessing opposition in their politics of symbolism and bravado antics won’t agree with this qualitative improvement in the conduct of public affairs by the Museveni administration – but they will grudgingly, as they seek for favourable political wings and good sound bites, acquiescence to the fact it is this very polity that has catapulted them into those very positions of responsibility they occupy – we hear of leaders of opposition and shadow ministers!
The post-independence Uganda armies squandered the opportunity of creating order as well as ensuring tranquillity in the country; they were, instead, caught flat-footed in the mire of not one but several failings. This president took over a country riven by pre-existing divisions, a population weary of the incessant insecurities, pillaging, despoliations, extra-judicial killings as well as economic stagnation. The war-time guns went silent eventually earning him accolades amongst voters in the country and beyond. By the UPDF proving to be the most disciplined army ever in post-independence Uganda, the CIC and the army have obliterated the incompetence thesis that dogged its predecessors.
Amb. Henry Mayega