The UPDF is politically alert

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th October 2009 03:00 AM

IN the history of the human society, a state apparatus had to have an economically superior and armed force. At the same time a state apparatus had to have a ruling class.

By Kajabago ka-Rusoke

IN the history of the human society, a state apparatus had to have an economically superior and armed force. At the same time a state apparatus had to have a ruling class.

This ruling class used the state apparatus to reflect its social and economic purposes, to implement them and to suppress social and economic purposes of another opposite class under its control.

This happened in slave owning societies where society was divided between masters and slaves. The same happened in a capitalist society, where capitalists were above workers and in colonies where colonialists were above the colonised peoples.

Formerly, there was no specific country known as Uganda. Uganda came about as a result of socio-economic development in Britain which had reached capitalism.

The British capitalism had reached a higher socio-economic level known as imperialism and colonialism. The first type of army in Uganda as a political territory, was a collection of people who were not even Ugandans. They were Nubians from Sudan, brought together and used by the Imperial British East Africa Company, to serve its socio-economic aims as authorised by the British capitalist class over Uganda in 1890.

In 1894, the British government took over power from the Imperial British East Africa Company and established an army which came to be known as The Kings African Rifles. It was a colonial anti-people army. It continued this way up to 1962 when Uganda ceased to be a British colony and became a British dominion. The army was no longer under the command of a British colonial Governor, but an indigenous executive head of government.

Nevertheless, despite being under a national government it still remained aloof from the population. At the same time the post-colonial intelligentsia did not have any idea concerning the need for intellectually decolonising the inherited army.

Right from the start, recruitment in the army took place mainly in the north of the colony with a few individuals from the rest of that colony. This caused a feeling on the part of the population that it was not representative of a variety of tribes that made up Uganda.

Social positions and status are characterised by economic connotations. This also happened in the Uganda army in 1964 when the army mutinied against the state demanding better conditions of service to the extent of arresting the then chief of staff plus the minister of defence. The situation was cooled down through negotiations.

In 1966 there came up another crisis. This was because at the time of the conquest of nationalities that were amalgamated to constitute Uganda as a British colony, one of the nationalities called Bunyoro kingdom fought against Britain.
Britain defeated it and punished it by taking away four counties from it, giving them to Buganda, which had welcomed British rule.

Uganda, having become independent of British rule in 1962, returned the two counties, out of four, to Bunyoro through a referendum. At that time, the head of state in Uganda was a Muganda, at the same time a hereditary cultural leader of Buganda. The prime minister was the executive. In 1971 the army, led by Idi Amin, a Kakwa officer, ousted the President who was a Langi and took over power.

Soldiers from the West Nile province from where the coup leader was coming also began killing those from Lango and Acholi. The army was no longer national, but based on sectarianism, within its own ethnic group plus terrorising others who were ethnically distant.

The Uganda Patriotic Movement, with its military wing, however, was not characterised by this type of social behaviour as can be shown all along during the protracted war.
The patriotic movement abhorred and denounced monopolisation of the means of violence by a militarised minority irrespective of the ethnic composition.

By the declaring the people’s war the content was that the majority who were being military trodden upon by a minority should liberate themselves through democratising means of violence.

On January 26, 1986 the National Resistance Army captured Kampala, over running and overthrowing the military faction that had overthrown the leadership of the Uganda People’s Congress on July 25, 1985.

The quality of the National Resistance Army appears very different from the qualities of all the previous armies in the history of the country. Why? It is being led by a political organisation (the NRM) which demands that an army should be positively politically conscious.

This is a transformation but not a mere reform. It is not a mere change in quantity, but a change in quality — a revolution. The NRA is led and guided by a pro-people, anti-colonial and post colonial intelligentsia. The NRM/NRA intelligentsia is a special quality branch of the general post-colonial intelligentsia of the country. This is because it is positively academic.

It can, therefore, be differentiated from a blunt, greedy self-seeking branch of Uganda’s intelligentsia which occupied the civil service, the judiciary, the Police, prisons, councils and other branches in the economic base and superstructure.
The January 26, 1986 take-over could not illustrate any demarcation between the political wing and that of the military.

For the military, pro-people as it appeared could be seen and felt as the soul and spirit of the entire revolutionary.
It would be seen that the people, their party and, army, were determined to liberate Uganda in the name of humanity.

In the end the name of the army was changed from National Resistance Army to the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). This was to illustrate the extent and depth this very force is to the people of the country it defends in the name of the same people. This is why all military factions that have fought against the UPDF have failed to defeat it since 1986 to-date.


Concerning national elections for the legislature, the UPDF should remain a constituency so as to have representatives in Parliament. This will ensure the UPDF contributes towards the law on behalf of the ordinary people whom the UPDF defends.

There should be political education refresher courses in each battalion at least once a year. Every member of the rank and file should be humble, simple, modest frugal, honest and humane, but keeping in mind his or her military obligation and mission to annihilate the socially anti-people anomalous and incongruous elements both from within and from without.

The writer is a lecturer at the National Political Institute, Kyankwanzi

The UPDF is politically alert

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