By Milton Olupot
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has assured Ugandans that there will be no violence during the general elections which begin on February 18.
â€œI hear some characters talking about violence during elections. There will be no violence. Whoever attempts will do so at his or her own risk,â€ Museveni said at the Soroti Sports Ground yesterday.
Museveni was speaking at celebrations to mark 30 years since the UPDF was formed, called Tarehe Sita, (February 6), the day when the first bullet was shot. The day signifies the beginning of the rebellion that brought the NRM government into power in 1986.
Museveni said the army had managed to restore peace and security in the country and that capacity had been built to ensure that the country does not revert back to chaos that characterised the 1970s and early 1980s.
â€œThe peace now in the country is irreversible. We have been able to build a disciplined force that won the war largely by itself and has been able to keep peace and security since,â€ the President said.
During the celebrations, 621 people were recognised with medals.
The Kagera medal was awarded to 17 people, the Nalubaale award was given to 16 people, 37 people were awarded the Damu (Blood) medal, while 151 received the Luwero Triangle medal.
The colourful ceremony was attended by thousands of people including top army commanders from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Museveni said the UPDF had faced both internal and regional challenges, giving examples of conflicts the army has been able to overcome such as that in Rwanda, Congo, and Sudan, many of which he said, were supported by external elements,
â€œWe have been able to defeat all these, including Karimojong raiders who used to torment you. There is total peace in the country,â€ he told the cheering crowd.
The President said since there are no more guns in Karamoja, it is now possible to restock Teso and other regions which have suffered the raids, adding that there was need to start working with Kenya to solve the problem of the Pokot who still carry out raids along the Uganda â€“ Kenya border.
Museveni expressed sympathy to the people of Teso over the floods and severe drought that have ravaged the region several times.
He promised to introduce a system of water collection, including the water that flows down Mt. Elgon, for irrigation in Teso.
Museveni said the Government priority had been roads, education, health and reviving the economy. The President said the UPDF engineering brigade was due to embark on reconstructing the railway line from Tororo to Pakwach.
Museveni said with the prevailing peace, the Government was moving on to deal with indiscipline among the political class.
The defence state minister, Jeje Odongo, said the Government would continue steering the UPDF to fulfill its constitutional mandate and ideals that it set out to achieve.
The chief of defence forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, said pacifying the country was not a smooth ride.
â€œWe have defeated a number of backward forces. I would like to assure the nation that we are determined to consolidate our gains and ensure total peace in the country,â€ he said, adding that the army will respond if called upon by the Police in case of poll violence.