Commentary

Nobody is militarising Ugandan civilians

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By Richard Todwong

Posted  Monday, August 25   2014 at  01:00
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I was recently invited to the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi to deliver a lecture to more than 300 Senior Six leavers who had been undergoing three-week cadreship training under the national patriotism programme.

I was amazed at these young people’s level of reasoning and engagement on matters of national interest and strategic leadership. The course deepened the students’ appreciation of Uganda’s history, the transformative ideology under the NRM government, and the kind of Uganda they would want to see as tomorrow’s leaders. They were able to appreciate the fact that government doesn’t owe them a living, but rather they have a patriotic duty to work towards the betterment of their country.

A lot of criticism has been (mis)directed against cadreship training with some people asserting that the programme forms an essential component of the NRM’s scheme of “militarising the civilian population”. Such people argue from the point of ignorance.

Cadreship development is a consistent approach in all spheres of life. Be it religion, cultural institutions, academic world or even in business. Even in marriage, one has to be psychologically prepared and ideologically ready. Hence the benefit for cadre training.

Political education of cadres and the general public has deep roots in the NRA/M revolutionary movement, dating back to the earliest days of its guerilla struggle. The NRM extended its political education courses to the general population as it gained control over Ugandan territory. Mobile schools of political education operated during the guerilla war, explaining the aims of the revolution, and were transformed in 1986 into a permanent institution, the National School of Political Education, which is now the National Leadership Institute. President Museveni is passionate about seeing this institute upgraded to a university given to refining leadership and ideology.

The politicisation of the NRA combatants led to the increased respect for the human rights of civilians in the areas that were under the domain of the NRA. For the first time in the history of Uganda, civilian populations in the liberated zones existed with the NRA guerillas; cases of indiscipline by the soldiers on civilians were adjudicated with severe penalties, including execution by open firing squad.

The political education programme has related itself to building a cadreship which is politically and ideologically equipped to defend as well as advance the best interests of the country and the people.

Taking the youth through cadreship is the only to transform their mindset and attitude to raise their level of participation or engagement in the affairs of their country as responsible and liberated citizens.

This country’s development is purely dependent on the youth who are the biggest percentage of the population. Most of the youth are idle and unemployed and this means they are vulnerable to negative elements. The youth need to be trained on the right ideological orientation so as to be inculcated with the right attitude, work ethics, values of honesty and integrity. Today, a graduate will leave the university and start thinking of how to accumulate wealth without even knowing the process of acquiring wealth and how long it would take to get the rewards of hard labour. We should embrace this cadreship training if we are to turn our youthful population into a demographic dividend.

Uganda isn’t an isolated case when it comes to cadreship training for youth. For Israel, it’s compulsory for every young person to undergo military training. In Tanzania, this has been the tradition right from the days of President Julius Nyerere.
Mr Todwong is Minister Without Portfolio in Charge of Political Mobilisation