By Rene M Ndyomugyenyi
The declaration of the involvement of the military in civil projects has attracted criticism or should I say mixed reactions. However, I think the criticism is misplaced because of the following reasons;
Ugandans national security policy is in three fold;
a) Military security policy designed to neutralise external armed aggression.
b) Internal security policy designed to neutralise internal (territorial and institutional) armed aggression.
c) Situational security policy which is concerned with threats resulting from long-term changes in social, economic, demographic and political conditions tending to reduce the relative power of the state and to jeopardise the peace and joy of Ugandans.
Each of the above three policies has an operating level and an institutional level. The operating policy consists of the immediate means taken to meet the security threat on the other hand the institutional policy deals with the manner which operational policy is formulated and executed.
Therefore, Ugandans should stop looking at the army as objects that belong to the barracks, or as tools to be used in policy (a) and (b) but respect and appreciate them as legitimate stakeholders and authorities in point (c).
Using the military to steer development is not a new phenomenon in Africa and Ugandans must get used to it. Namibia used ex-combatants under the Namibian Development Brigade to steer development, Botswana did the same using the Botswana Youth Brigades.
The Namibian brigades were used to provide training for, among others, unskilled former combatants and civilian, in agricultural production and construction skills. In 1993, the Development Brigade was converted into a parastatal, the Development Brigade Corporation, which branched out into the realm of small business development. In October 1999, the Namibian government, in an effort to counter unemployment among the youth, launched the National Youth Service Scheme under the ministry of youth and sport. It consisted of a15-month training programme that would assist recruits to secure employment or setup their own businesses.
Post-independence Namibia represents an unequivocal case where a firm linkage between security and development exists.
This is evident in terms of the militarisation of development and nation-building projects, not only in the manner in which they have been conceived and designed, but also in the way in which they have been implemented.
It is this type of relationship that Ugandans should be looking for in the military and it is this through this developmental relationship that Museveni wishes to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness.
From the outset, there is solidarity between the army and civilians, there seems to be a concrete sense of trust that has been built over the years.
Much as developing this country is the responsibility of the Government, it also requires consent, will and support of the civilians, and it seems the civilians respond well to the army.
Army presence is a sign of seriousness and given the fact that we have a significant number of Ugandans who have been militarised either through mchka mchka or bush war veterans and formally retired personnel, this seriousness can be well respected.
What is crucial here is for Museveni to strike the complex of balancing power and attitudes among civilian and military groups.
I think Museveni's decision to use the army is symbolic of the amount of effort, sacrifice, and dedication which needs to be applied to the issue of development. My problem is corruption, however much the president wants to Uganda to develop, no matter what means he uses, lack of inherent counter-corruption measures means that achievements will be minimal.
These soldiers are not immunised against corruption.
There has been talk of 'lack of political will from the above' I think this should change to lack of 'political commitment' because there is a sharp contrast between the Presidents rhetoric against corruption and the seriousness of his people at the frontline.
There is a critical lack of counter-corruption action coming from Statehouse directly to the frontline, everything seems to be from Statehouse then channeled directly into the cumbersome bureaucratic processes. That is why people doubt the Presidents resolve to combat corruption at all levels and indeed in these development projects.
The writer is the executive director of Corruption and Risk Advisory Bureau.