The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has ordered shops, bars and other businesses out of all barracks in the country in a bid to curb growing incidents of shooting where many people have been killed by drunken soldiers.
The directive was issued by the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen Katumba Wamala, two weeks ago. Gen Katumba’s express order is already being implemented. It became effective last week.
Maj Tabaro Kiconco, the Airforce spokesperson, confirmed the orders to remove all bars and other commercial businesses from the barracks but said the move is intended to “avoid items inside military installations that are not supposed to be there.”
When asked about what these “prohibited” items are, Maj Kiconco was cagey. “Items that can influence soldiers to misbehave,” he said without elaborating.
Maj Tabaro described the CDF directive as “a genuine guideline by the army leadership”.
Army and Defence spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, could not be reached for comment as he was reportedly out of the country in Mogadishu, Somalia.
“It’s not related to the shootings. We are just streamlining how businesses are done inside the barracks based on our standard operating procedures that govern activities in the military barracks,” he said.
Military sources said the Airforce was the first army unit to implement Gen Katumba’s directive last week.
Some of the affected people in the Airforce who talked to Saturday Monitor on condition of anonymity, said the directive will make many soldiers’ families inside the barracks lose their small businesses because it will be hard to continue operating outside the barracks.
The banned businesses inside the army barracks have been run mostly by soldiers’ families to earn additional income to supplement their husbands’ salaries.
However, the deputy army spokesperson, Maj Henry Obbo said the ban will not affect the welfare of the soldiers’ families because they have alternative sources of income such as tailoring and mushroom growing inside the barracks.
The UPDF does not have army shops inside the barracks, which would provide such goods and services to soldiers. The private businesses by soldiers or their families have been serving as substitutes or quasi-army shops.
There had been arrangements to revamp the entertainment places sucha as “Officers Mess” where soldiers would get drinks and food at subsidised prices to avoid sale of alcohol inside the barracks but the plans have never been implemented.
Although Maj Kiconco was not specific on the actual cause that triggered the ban of shops and bars in military bases, there have been several incidents where drunken soldiers have shot people dead inside barracks.
However, Maj Obbo denied the ban was related to the incidents of shootings in the barracks due to influence of alcohol.
Last month, a suspected drunken soldier shot and killed seven people inside Makindye Military Police Barracks in Kampala. On March 9, 2013, a soldier, Pte Patrick Okot Odoch, shot dead 10 people, including five soldiers and injured two others outside Bombo barracks in Luweero District.
- September 28, 2006. Pte Andrew Wanyama, attached to the UPDF 409 Brigade in Arua, shoots at a crowd in Paradise Night Club, killing at least three people and injuring four others.
- May 1, 2009. Pte Nicholas Mucunguzi, attached to Special Forces Command, opens fire on revellers at Top Pub in Kampala, killing eight people after a prostitute reportedly fleeced him of his mobile phone and money. He later shot himself dead.
- October 7, 2013. Eight people are shot dead at Top Pub, a bar in Kampala following a scuffle between two men over a commercial sex worker. Deogratias Ilukori, a security guard, is arrested later after he reported to police that his pistol was missing.
- December, 2013. UPDF soldier Patrick Odong opens fire at revellers in a pub in Kiwanawataka, Kampala, killing three people.