Yesterday, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces celebrated 33 years since it was founded. The firing of that first shot during the attack on Kabamba in 1981, which also officially marked the launch of the five-year Bush War that culminated in Mr Museveni’s ascension to power, is what gave birth to the National Resistance Army. It later mutated to the UPDF after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution.
Thirty-three years can be a long time. For some people or institutions, they could have risen, prospered and even collapsed in that time. The NRA and its successor, the UPDF, however, still remain a force to reckon with. They have greatly stabilised most of the country in the 28 years that President Museveni has been in power.
A lot of this character boils down to discipline. It is no secret that before the NRA captured power, the previous armies, especially the Idi Amin army, had drawn a sharp wedge between the military and the civilian public. Incidents of men in green acting like they were above the law were not uncommon. Thousands of Ugandans have recounted horrific experiences meted to them by soldiers of past.
That the NRA and later UPDF managed to instill discipline and largely dissuade its men and officers from using the gun as a symbol of fear, torture and subjugation must be commended. There might still be cases of soldiers abusing their positions but at least one would not say it’s the norm rather than exception. In several engagements with the public, the army has come out as one of the most trusted agencies compared to say the police.
That said, however, the army can still reflect on some of the issues that continue to trouble it. Did the army have a hand in atrocities early in the NRM regime? A probe to resolve this matter is critical. Then there are other sticking issues like unclear promotions criteria, favouritism and like it has happened in Somalia mission—theft and corruption. The army must fix these and all others lest it catches the bug that has seen many other state institutions crumble. Happy Tarehe Sita.