Museveni meets army chiefs over alert order

President Museveni (C) met with the UPDF Service Chiefs at 401 Brigade Headquarters in Irenga, Ntungamo District on June 26. PHOTO/PPU

What you need to know:

  • Command centre. Since the Standby Class 1 order went out, all commanders have been directed to account for personnel in area of responsibility, including locations and their activity.
  • In an unrelated development, the UPDF yesterday received a fourth Mi-28 attack helicopter, and two more are expected to be delivered by the end of next month. 

President Museveni yesterday met the top military leadership in the south-western Ntungamo District, days after all UPDF soldiers were put on standby class 1, the highest level of military readiness.

“I met with the UPDF Service Chiefs at 401 Brigade Headquarters in Irenga, Ntungamo District,” the President tweeted at 8:56pm last evening.

He offered no details of their discussions, and it remained unclear why he announced that the meeting had taken place.

A 57-second video clip tweeted under the President’s name appeared to show him admiring undulating terrains of south-western Uganda and departing after speaking to a small crowd of residents.

Highly-placed security and intelligence sources, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Gen Museveni summoned the military honchos on Friday after disparate messages were transmitted to the rank-and-file in the week.

Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, the deputy chief of defence forces (D/CDF), without giving a reason, on Wednesday ordered the UPDF to ensure the highest level of preparedness.

He called the emergency notification “imara”, a Kiswahili word in the context variously interpreted to imply the rank-and-file of the military should keep solid, tough or resilient

Standby Class 1 is the highest level of alertness in the military and the order means there should be no troop or equipment movement, pending a final instruction.

Placing the military on Standby Class 1 is a rare occurrence, and for the UPDF, this is one is many years. For instance, the army is known not to have activated such high level of preparedness for emergency even when insecurity blamed on Karimojong cattle rustlers spiralled into neighbouring Teso, Sebei and Lango sub-regions, or when alleged ADF terrorists detonated bombs last year.
There is nothing to suggest a breakdown or disconnect in overall command and control of the UPDF. 

Sources said only a senior UPDF spymaster at the rank of major general flew to south-western Uganda for official duty at the weekend.

Since the Standby Class 1 order went out, all commanders have been directed to account for personnel in area of responsibility, including actual locations and what they are doing.

In some services, a roll call of troops is conducted twice a day, in the morning and evening.

The radio call message about the order did not specify why the emergency military mode was being activated, or how long it would last.

President Museveni chairs a meeting of the UPDF High Command and Army Council at State House Entebbe in 2019. PHOTO | FILE.

In comments on Thursday for our Friday lead, UPDF place on high alert, army Spokesman, Brig Felix Kulayigye, described the order as “… a normal military decision [depending on] whether something is upcoming or an undertaking is to be done.”

According to highly placed sources, Lt Gen Elwelu issued the instructions because the Chief of Defence of Forces (CDF), Gen Wilson Mbadi, was in Kenya where he had been for days, working with regional counterparts to thrash out details of the composition, command, resourcing and operation of the envisaged East African Community Force to pacify eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

However, shortly after the Standby Class 1 directive, the Commander of Land Forces (CLF) and First Son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, reportedly issued a radio message different from that of DCDF regarding troops under his command.

Details of the disparate messages to the same military reached President Museveni, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, after his triumphant entry into Kigali, the Rwandan capital, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) also attended by the British royalty.

It is understood that an investigation is underway into concerns that gave the  original basis for issuance of  the Standby Class 1 order.

Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that Gen Museveni, who referenced Lt Gen Elwelu’s order, subsequently issued his own radio call message in which he also summoned the CDF, his Deputy Elwelu, First Son and CLF Muhoozi, Service Chiefs and any commander deemed relevant to the intended discussion.

The trio was present in a photo accompanying the president’s post-meeting tweet which divulged no details.

Asked about the outcome last night, Brig Kulayigye referred this reporter to “the source that leaked to you information about the Standby [Class1 order”.

Another helicopter

In an unrelated development, the UPDF yesterday received a fourth Mi-28 attack helicopter, and two more are expected to be delivered by the end of next month. 

Uganda’s procurement of the highly optimised, Russian-made fifth generation helicopters, were confirmed when the helicopters could be spotted in a photograph officially shared by State House depicting President Museveni during a visit to thank the Air Force for degrading the capabilities of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the early days of Operation Shuja in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Besides excessive hellfire power, the helicopters, more advanced than Mi-24 and Mi-38 available in the region, offer air superiority due to their high manoeuvrability, survivability, weapons employment and ultra-modern equipment for detection and target destruction in all weather, both day and night.

It can fire bullets, bombs and missiles --- with precision of up to 8 kilometres --- on targets identified either using laser beams, infrared or thermos-imaging.

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