Sunday June 15 2014

Use of military in civil sectors is not a strange phenomenon

By Obed K Katureebe

A lot of hullabaloo has so far been made after President Museveni said he will consider deploying some military officers in each district to oversee the implementation of the redesigned Naads programme.

The usual skeptics have been so quick to brand the whole proposal as the militarisation of the management of Uganda’s polity. They are also quick to recite the appointment of Gen Aronda Nyakairima and Gen Kale Kayihura to Ministry of internal Affairs and police, respectively, as other pointers to how the President is undermining civilian authority in preference of the military.

Of course, the conception of deploying military officers to oversea the new Naads programme did not come overnight. This must have come after a practical evaluation of what a few military officers under Gen Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a. Salim Saleh had done in the former Luweero Triangle and parts of eastern Uganda when they piloted a similar programme like Naads and so far the results are very impressive. What is so remarkable is that all these wonderful results have been achieved in a record two years.

To put the record straight, the President did not say he was going to make the military as the sole managers of the restructured Naads programme. He only hinted at having a military officer at every district to supplement the efforts of the rest of the team that will have been charged with the new programme. No civilian will lose his or her job just because one military officer is deployed at the district except, of course, those that the new arrangement will choose to drop. These could be the coordinators of the old Naads that have been a total disaster.

However, one might need to probe further why the President is insisting on having the military in the new team. The answer is simple. The military has in recent years exhibited high levels of discipline regarding to financial management and also are very meticulous in executing their duties.

Of course, it is the retired soldiers under Gen Salim Saleh that championed the successful pilot study that has so far impressed. It is no wonder, therefore, that a recent research finding by Research World International did find out that the UPDF is among the top most respected and trusted institutions in Uganda. One wonders, therefore, why people should make noise when the President chooses to entrust vital responsibilities with such an institution.

Even then, the Constitution of Uganda gives the armed forces mandate to perform such tasks. Article 7 of the Uganda People’s Act, 2005, section (d) says the UPDF can engage in productive activities for the development of Uganda. Therefore, the appointment of any UPDF officers in any civilian office to do productive work does not in any way contravene the laws of Uganda. Therefore, the militarisation tag of Uganda’s polity as some commentators are alleging is not correct and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Indeed, there are many other institutions that had gone to the dogs and have been revamped by competent civilian officers. For example, Kampala City Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, National Social Security Fund to mention but a few, are some of such organisations . This, therefore, means that the President is not undermining civilian institutions nor is he short of civilian cadres to take up such responsibilities. What he is doing is simply utilising any meaningful resource from any sector without suffering any inhibitions.

Military service within civil office is not a strange phenomenon across the world. Countries that have registered tremendous development have immensely utilised their military in all sectors of administration. Countries like Israel, China, Egypt, Singapore, Indonesia etc have had military officers championing strategic civil management roles in their respective countries.

Finally, what Ugandans cherish most at this point in time is service delivery. It has reached a point where we don’t care who delivers even if he or she is non-Ugandan. This feeling has been fuelled by the urgent thirst by Ugandans to transform themselves. Therefore, those chiding our men and women in uniform are making grave mistakes. For them, they are making a humble contribution like any other Ugandan.

Those who think that they should remain caged in the barracks and war zones are living in the past. We need to realise that these officers and men are not only trained to shot and kill. They have trained in several professional disciplines and government and indeed the president is right to tap on their skills.

Besides, let the soldiers put our bureaucratic civil servants into a competitive mood. There is no way they remain in their sleeping frame of mind when the soldiers are moving things. They will have no option but to up their game if they to remain in office.