What you need to know:
- Big gunners. The plan, which will see a four-star general earn Shs15m up from Shs1.6m, will only benefit officers from the rank of Major and above, leaving the bulk of the file with meagre pay.
The monthly salary and retirement benefits of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) top brass is to be doubled effective this financial year, which started on July 1, while pay for some of the senior officers will increase by half, according to multiple sources.
Highly-placed sources said the decisions capped last week’s High Command and Army Council sittings at State House, Entebbe.
Decorated members of these upper echelons of Uganda’s military, which constitute the highest decision-making organs, sat on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
The UPDF Spokesman, Brig Felix Kulayigye, declined to be drawn to discuss the matter.
“Where did you get the information from,” he said, adding, “Your sources should give you a comment.”
Section 15 of the UPDF Act establishes the High Command which consists of the President who is the chairperson, the Defenceminister, members of the Historical NRA High Command by 1986 and the Chief of Defence Forces.
The other members of the High command are the deputy Chief of Defence Forces, all service commanders, the chief of staff, all service chiefs of staff, all chiefs of the services of the Defence forces, and division commanders, amongst others.
The members of the historical High Command are President Yoweri Museveni, Gen Salim Saleh, Gen Elly Tumwine, Gen David Sejusa, Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, the late Fred Rwigyema, the late Tadeo Kanyankore and the late Eriya Kategeya.
Amongst the roles of the High Command is to advise the president in emergency situations on matters relating to national security or deployment of the Defence forces and to advise the president when Uganda is at war.
Section 14 of the UPDF Act establishes the Defence Forces Council. It includes Members of the High Command, Persons who were senior Army Officers on January 26, 1986, when the National Resistance Army(NRA) announced it capture of state power after a five-year guerilla war, all Directors of services, commanding officers of Brigades and Battalions and officers commanding equivalent units of the Defence forces.
According to highly-placed sources interviewed about last week’s back-to-back meetings chaired by Gen Yoweri Museveni in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the UPDF, it was agreed that the first beneficiaries of the pay rise and retirement benefits will generally be high-ranking officers from Major, the starting senior rank in Uganda’s military, to a General, the highest .
The planned pay rise is catered for in the Defence ministry’s vote for this financial year.
In the first batch to be paid the enhanced salary are senior army officers from the rank of Brigadier (one-star general) to full (four-star) general that are set to retire from the army on July 31, 2022.
There have been suggestion, subject to final decision, to vary the number of the retirees.
They will receive an increment of 100 percent for their retirement benefits while Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and Majors will receive a 50 percent increment upon retirement on July 31st 2022.
The retirement of officers from the rank of Captain and below, who comprise the junior ranks, has been placed on halt to ensure that their enhancements are catered for in the next financial year.
The new salary structure places the salary of a General at Shs15m, Lt Gen at Shs13m, Maj Gen at Shs12m, Brig at Shs10m, Col at Shs8m, Lt Col at Shs5m and Major at Shs2.5m.
Previously, a private earned Shs310,000, Lance Corporal Shs311,000, Corporal Shs314,000, Sgt 321,000, Staff Sgt Shs341,000, Warrant Officer (WO) I, Shs400,000, Warrant Officer (WO) II, Shs450,000. In the current structure, Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) earns a monthly salary of Shs520,000, Lieutenant (Lt), Shs600,000, Captain, Shs 670,000, Major, Shs750,000 and Lt Col, Shs950,000.
It is unclear by how much the salaries of the lower rank officers will be increased next year.
A colonel’s salary was previously at Shs1.1m a Brigadier Shs1.3m, a Major General, Shs1.4m, a Lieutenant General, Shs1.5m and a General Shs1.6m.
However, there is a concern that the selective salary increments could set off industrial strikes as Arts teachers recently laid down their tools after demanding a pay rise after the salary of their Sciences counterparts was increased.
Sources attributed the pay rise in part to passionate pleas by the Commander of Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who has pitched to depth in demand for improved welfare of soldiers.
“I will not command poor soldiers,” a source quoted his as saying, which would be a repeat of his similar tweet.
This big-tent policy may be an attempt to assuage retiring army officers especially those who have spent years without deployment and to deal with emerging cleavages within the army.
Mr Timothy Kalyegira, a researcher and journalist, opines that the “announcement to the significant salary increments is a culmination of the growing tension and sense of disquiet in the army”.
A fortnight ago, the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces (D/CDF), Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, without giving the reason, placed the UPDF on stand by Class One, the highest level of combat preparedness.
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The nature and source of the threat necessitating the action was undisclosed. Shortly afterwards, President Museveni who, upon return from attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Rwanda unusually camped in the south-western Ntungamo district, summoned a meeting of military chiefs.
Following a day of deliberation, he issued a radio message to all military units in which he cautioned against “anarchical” communication within the army, raised some internal administrative issues and stopped his son, Lt Gen Muhoozi, from commenting on politics, security and foreign affairs on social media.
In follow up radio message to all military units, Lt Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso, the president’s advisor on military matters, implored the army to celebrate Gen Museveni as Uganda’s last remaining matchbox stick and seek to resolve differences through dialogue, not other means, to honour the memory of fighters of National Resistance Army (NRA), the guerilla outfit and precursor to UPDF.
In the wake of those developments, it emerged that the UPDF High Command and Army Council, sitting respectively on consecutive days at State House Entebbe last week, endorsed higher pay for the rank-and-file, starting with senior officers.
At present, some 34 generals are expected to retire at the earliest at the end of this month, subject to final approvals.
The list includes two officers at the rank of General, three at the rank of lieutenant generals, 10 are at the rank of Major General and 19 brigadiers.
Two members of the Historical NRA High Command including Gen Elly Tumwine who was the NRA’s first army commander and the former spymaster and maverick Gen David Sejusa, previously David Tinyefuza, are amongst those seeking retirement.
Sejusa first attempted to leave the army in 1996 barely after testifying before the Defence and Internal Affairs House Committee where he accused the army leadership of being weak and corrupt, which had prolonged the Joseph Kony-led LRA insurgency in northern Uganda.
This set off a protracted legal contest where the Supreme Court delivered a judgement earlier in 2002rejecting his retirement from the army.
In February 2022, Sejusa’s second attempt to leave the army was once again rejected when the Court of Appeal overturned a decision of the High Court, which had proffered that Sejusa had constructively been retired.
His love-hate relationship with the UPDF where he served multiple command positions, has morphed and endured. For instance, earlier on in 2013 while serving as the intelligence trouble-shooter, Sejusa authored a dossier in which he asked then domestic spymaster Brig Ronnie Balya to inquire into allegations that he, alongside other top government officials perceived to be against the ‘Muhoozi Project’, which is a euphemism for an alleged plan to propel the president’s son to the presidency, had been marked for elimination.
The letter rankled the establishment, which led to the closure of the Daily Monitor publications in 2013. Sejusa later fled to exile in the United Kingdom and he returned in December 2014 following a negotiated deal with President Museveni whom he also met shortly upon arrival.
To earn his freedom, it was reported that there was an unwritten rule that Sejusa was meant to desist from making controversial statements and keep away from the political pulpit.
During last week’s meeting, highly placed sourcesrevealed that this was a watershed moment for the largest batch of high-ranking officers who are seeking to retire as the army moves from the hands of the old guard, who fought an asymmetrical war of attrition in the trenches of Luweero during the 1981-1986 bush war, to the post-guerilla ideological generation of young Turks.
With the bush-war liberation story difficult to curate to the young urban unemployed youths born after the Luweero war, the theatre has shifted as the army attempts to recalibrate its image as a stabilising force within the volatile geo-political arc of the Great Lakes.
The UPDF today is also facing a changing security landscape and new adversaries—terrorism and the spectre of insurrectionist movements driven by disillusioned urban youths.
“What this transition might do is to take us from the old Fronasa-NRA historical phase to the first part of the army, which is almost fully post-1986. The majority of the new recruits are fully UPDF, the disadvantage is that they are a people of a new professional era,” argued Mr Kalyegira, suggesting the old guard felt entitled and superintended impunity.
“It was the same with UNLA, when you try to punish [army commanders] Baziilo [Okello] and Oyite Ojok, they ask where were you when we were fighting?”
Mr Kalyegira says that the current crop of junior officers as well as the young population don’t have the recollection of the Luwero bush-war, marketed by the country’s older leaders as their mark of honour and sacrifice.
“Most of Uganda’s population doesn’t remember the things in the 1990s like the Constituent Assembly (CA) election, and Museveni’s first election in 1996. In a certain sense, this isolates people like [President] Museveni. The historicals and untouchables are leaving and now merit has taken root,” he said.
The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen Wilson Mbadi, a graduate of the elite military academy at Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, sits at the apex of the army leadership and serves as the fulcrum between the Old Guard and young Turks after he joined the guerilla army in 1985 barely a few months before NRA bands captured power.
During the meetings, Gen Mbadi, a former aide-de-camp to President Museveni, gave an update on the recent recruitment exercise meant to swell the numbers of the army to deal with internal security challenges,including rustling in Karamoja.
He also spoke about the successes and challenges of Operation Shujja, launched at the end of last December, jointly with the Congolese military, to flush out Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels and other subversive elements in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is commanded by Maj Gen Muhanga Kayanja, who reportedly did not attend last week’s meeting.
With a growing tide of flak from Kinshasa, Lt Gen Muhoozi tweeted that the counter-offensive was to last six month, suggesting it would end by May 31, although other sources familiar with the operations said no specific exit deadline was ever agreed and the progress is been assessed every two months.
But critics proffer that Operation Shujaa’s trajectory has whipsawed from expectations of a quick victory to an intractable battle inside the unforgiving terrain and forested depths of the DRC that serve as sanctuaries for a plethora of armed groups.
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This is captured in a report co-authored by two Congolese research institutes. The report titled, Uganda’s Operation Shujaa in the DRC: Fighting the ADF or Securing Economic Interests? is blunt in its expression of disapproval that the operation is the success that it has been made out to be.
“It is clear the military operations are not the success they are portrayed to be in the Ugandan press,” the report by the Congo Research Group (CRG) at New York University and Ebuteli, reads in part.
It reads: “While the operation did succeed in creating isolated pockets of security, it has not managed to structurally weaken the ADF.”
The report also reveals the complex interplay, fusing politics, violence, and the political economy as Uganda’s firm Dott Services was awarded a $335m (Shs1.2 trillion) to construct paved roads in eastern DRC.