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How is the UPDF different from its predecessors?

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By Ambassador Henry Mayega

At the swearing in of Yoweri Museveni as President in 1986, he promised amongst others thus “…this is not a mere change of guards but a fundamental change…” Skeptics murmured and geared but Uganda’s best President since independence soldiered on with a clear agenda namely to change the trajectory of our country’s politics.

This President, a security dynamo, repudiated the ignominy of insecurity that had dogged us for far too long and plateaued; it had become a hot-button issue; the NRA, originally a rebel outfit which would later morph into the current professional UPDF helmed the stabilization of Uganda.

First, the UPDF under President Yoweri Museveni’s tutelage has been very instrumental in ensuring not only peace in Uganda but it has, as well, pragmatically been involved in peacekeeping and enforcement missions on the African continent. Some of the countries where this has occurred include Sierra Leon, Somalia, South Sudan and the DRC. In all those countries, the situation would have been much dire with far reaching consequences for the region; this President has been a strong believer in a real shift from the politics of symbolism on this issue to essentially align with the dictum of providing African solutions to African problems. Between 1971 – 1986, Ugandans saw four coups/takeovers; those had become uncontroversial anyway; in a sense they were a sine qua non and a metric of our country’s global image.

Secondly, the UPDF is absolutely different from its predecessors (that included amongst others the Kings African Rifles of the colonizers, Uganda Army and the UNLA); because whereas on the one hand the KAR was a machine built to support and anchor the colonizers’ subjugation of the gullible colonized, the UA and UNLA outfits were, on the other, caught flat-footed repressing Ugandans with reckless abandon through extrajudicial killings, pillaging as well as despoliation. The UPDF has an expertly dedicated department that manages the army-civilian relations, something unheard of as an integral part of past militaries.

Thirdly, whereas its predecessors were the source of insecurity to citizens, the UPDF has been the source of peace, stability and security in the country by insulating us from both external and internal threats; Uganda is sandwiched by a volatile region that is increasingly bothersome. The insecurities in the DRC, South Sudan, Burundi and from as far as Somalia have, for instance, poured into our borders huge numbers of refugees who found the doors flung open by the Yoweri Museveni administration. Uganda currently hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa (1.5 million). We have even accommodated Afghans after others caused insecurity in Afghanistan. Why? People run away from insecure environments to stable ones. That’s exactly what Uganda under this President offers hence validating his and the UPDF’s competence theses.

Fourth, despite Elias Lukwago and his ilk’s denials and quackery, of course out of ignorance, questioning UPDF’s involvement in civil affairs, examples from other countries meticulously confirm constructive engagement by the military in civil works. In the Philippines, after the earthquake in Tacloban in 2019, the military was very instrumental in the evacuation and resettlement of the displaced. Just recently, the US army constructed a pier to aid relief deliveries into beleaguered Gaza. So, there’s absolutely nothing wrong for the UPDF getting involved in civil matters. Typified by the SFC’s carrying out road works in Kampala, that confirms the splendid peace times in Uganda; during the insecurities that dogged Uganda between 1971-1986, our respective armies had no time and guts for civil works.

The UPDF engineering department’s civil works profile includes: repairing Namboole stadium, completion of Makerere University’s perimeter wall and expansion of Entebbe International Airport, construction of the Kololo Airstrip pavilion amongst others.

Lastly, something that has prominently differentiated the UPDF from its precursors is its readiness to always combat crime together with other security agencies, most especially the police. The UN recommends one police officer for every 450 citizens; Uganda’s total police force strength stands at 52,000 against the population of 47.25 million (2022) which translates into a police population ratio of 1:908; twice the standard set by the global club. Given our budgetary constraints, the UPDF, unlike its predecessors, will rightly continue to work with other agencies to secure us.

Ambassador Henry Mayega

Consul General

Uganda’s Consulate General

Dubai, UAE

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