FARUK KIRUNDA: UPDF will not allow neocolonialists in Uganda

Happy belated Tarehe Sita, all Ugandans! Yesterday, we commemorated Army Day which is a remembrance of the day in 1981 when the first shot was discharged at Kabamba, marking the start of the second and eternal liberation of Uganda. The objective was to be attained five years later, and the revolution remains alive and maturing at this juncture.

Much appreciation to the legendary fighters of the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by now President, H.E Gen (Rtd) Yoweri Kaguta Museveni,which later morphed into Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) under the 1995 Constitution. NRA, small but patriotic to the core, achieved a feat never before seen when it fought its way to power without an external base. Theirs was a purely home-grown struggle, but with a broad Pan-African character, which is why it couldn’t have been defeated, since the African spirit is undefeatable.

A lot has been said about the gallantry of the fighters but the new generations will, perhaps, never relive the events as they were. However, the take home is what emerged out of the efforts and sacrifices. The bushwar was the best training ground for building a truly national army that would put the people above all we can attest today. The original FRONASA seed powers the mind of today’s UPDF whose role it’s to carry forward the objectives for which many of our people fought and died.

It is, therefore, worth it that Tarehe Sita is celebrated and UPDF accorded the due credit in the country’s transformation story.

UPDF is a nonpartisan force, national in character, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive and subordinate to the civilian authority as established under the constitution. UPDF has succeeded because of its clear leadership, professionalism, self-sacrifice and adherence to the revolutionary principles which previous armies didn’t possess.

UPDF has consolidated peace in Uganda by defeating armed insurgencies across the country, making Uganda free of civil conflict for the first time in a very long time.

The UPDF reflects its Pan Africanist roots: born in exile in Tanzania; initially trained in Mozambique; then liberated Uganda alongside the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces (TPDF) by removing Idi Amin; after which it helped liberation movements in Sudan, Rwanda and DR Congo; trained the South African Umukhoto We Sizwe (armed wing of ANC), contributed to the stabilisation of Somalia, Central Africa Republic and South Sudan; and contributed to peace keeping operations in Liberia.

All these operations wouldn’t have succeeded without the cooperation and love of the people. The people cannot ally with a rogue band of soldiers engaged in banditry and without a clear mission plan. People all over Arica have shown their confidence in UPDF and its leadership which has changed Uganda’s story from a laughing stock country to a beacon of hope and pivot for the possible liberation and Integration of the whole of Africa.

UPDF has moved beyond being a fighting force to a productive army, through the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC). It produces ammunition, assembles and repairs tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and other guns and artillery and it produces spare parts for military equipment, which has greatly contributed to Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU) policy while reducing the cost of acquisition of necessary armaments. NEC also produces quality goods used in everyday life like household items and has an agricultural modernization component of providing high quality livestock breeds and relevant technologies to make agriculture profitable for the farmer.

UPDF is playing a central role in Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in a bid to improve agricultural production and productivity, and increase household incomes in order to liberate many Ugandans from poverty. Every district has OWC Coordinators who are officers of the army helping communities and cooperatives set up enterprises. From fighting fascism, to defeating a line of insurgencies and fending off terrorists and enemies of progress, to fighting the last enemy of the people-poverty-UPDF has made its mark on the Ugandan scene.

UPDF is involved in community activities through the provision of social services like education and health to wanainchi. This is especially so during Army Week when officers and men engage in cleaning public hospitals, collecting rubbish from slums, painting hospitals, offering free HIV testing and counseling services, attending to dental problems and so on.

The UPDF has guaranteed Uganda’s democracy and contributed to the political development of the country, by actively participating in Constitutional development and the legislative process over the years. We also boast of officers serving in other capacities on secondment from the forces. We have seen senior officers like the late Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Gen. Katumba Wamala and Gen. David Muhoozi serving in cabinet and doing wonders due to their discipline, clarity of purpose and loyalty. Others include Lt. Gen. Joseph Musanyufu (PS, Ministry of Internal Affairs), Maj. Gen. Kasula Kyomukama (PS MAAIF), Maj. Gen. Kasita Gowa (Director, Citizenship and Immigration Control), Brig. Gen. Johnson Namanya (Commissioner for Citizenship and Passport Control) and Brig. Gen. Henry Isoke (Head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit).

The presence of army officers in some of these sensitive dockets is a plus for Uganda as it takes a certain level of patriotism, integrity and dedication to safeguard the sovereignty of a progressive country. There was too much corruption and inefficiency in immigration until military officers came in and Ugandans are happy. The civilian population should take a leaf from the discipline, efficiency and incorruptible stance of the UPDF is we are to achieve faster transformation.

While we acknowledge that UPDF may not be all angelic, the process of transformation of the force is still ongoing and I predict that the national army will play a bigger role in national affairs as its cements the most ideal civil-military relations in the history of the motherland. With discipline, gallantry, continued professionalisation infused with patriotism and Pan-Africanism, the sky is the limit! With adoption of modern technologies and methods, our army will give a bloody nose to any group attempting to distabilise Uganda or to allow neocolonialists capture our country.

Congratulations UPDF on marking the 43rd Army day. Long live, Uganda! Long live H.E Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Head-Of-State and the Commander-In-Chief of UPDF and Chief Liberator of the people of Uganda!

The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary 

Contact: kirundaf2@gmail.com