Museveni RO 001 is no longer a member of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces. He has been a soldier for the last 35 years, though serving in different armies, like FRONASA, the National Resistance Army and the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces (UPDF). But now, he is dropping the army uniform and tur
Museveni RO 001 is no longer a member of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces. He has been a soldier for the last 35 years, though serving in different armies, like FRONASA, the National Resistance Army and the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces (UPDF). But now, he is dropping the army uniform and turning into a fully-fledged civilian.
Museveni handed in his application in November this year to the commissions and promotions board of the UPDF and it was approved.
He says he is quitting the army to help in developing the leadership of the newly registered NRM-O. The regulations of the Political Parties and Organisations Act bar serving army officers from taking up political leadership positions in political parties and organisations.
Information from the army indicates that Museveni has been contemplating leaving the army since 1995. During the 1996 presidential elections, he was quoted as saying he was going to drop the army uniform and put on a kanzu. It has taken him more than seven years to achieve this.
â€œThe President has worked a lot for this army and this country. He is sure that even if he goes now, things are okay,â€ says Col. Kasirye Gwanga, one of the Movement mobilisers, He said actually all soldiers are supposed to retire at 55 years, which is why people should not continue forcing the president to remain as an active soldier.
By accepting to take up a bigger political role rather than remain a soldier, perhaps is an indicator that the president is confident of the leadership of the army presently. All these years, the president has considered the army as his key sector. During the 2001 presidential elections, proffesionalisation of the army was one of the major issues in his manifesto.
â€œHe is now more confident that the army will survive without him. He has been working tediously for so many years to streamline the running of the institution and now he thinks he has reached somewhere,â€ a high ranking soldier says.
Through the past two years, Museveni as commander in chief and chairman of the high command has brought several professionals to the fore front of the running of the army. These include the likes of Maj. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Brig. Joshua Masaba, Brig. Ivan Koreta and Col. Benon Biraro. Many of those who were dropped like Maj. Gen. James Kazini and Brig. Nakibus Lakara are to go for further studies to improve their professionalism.
â€œMost of the units in the country are commanded by professional soldiers,â€ says a high ranking army officer. He adds that with the defence Bill ready for presentation in parliament, the route to a professional institution is clear. However, there are doubts if the President is going to move both his feet out of the army. The President will retain his rank of Lt. Gen. but with an addition of (rtd) and his constitutional title of Commander in Chief of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Defence Forces.
Kasirye Gwanga explains that even when he is not actively involved in the command of the army, the president can still play a big role. â€œIs US Secretary of State General Collin Powell and President George Bush in Iraq all the time? Is the US army not fighting? The Colonel asked, adding, â€œThe President can guide the army through technology.â€
Aggrey Awori, an MP and member of the Defence Committee in Parliament, says the Presidentâ€™s retirement from the army does not mean that he is vacating its control. â€œHe cannot hoodwink us that he is vacating control of the army, because he remains the Commander-in- Chief (cic) and a member of the UPDF high command. He can still direct operations and peddle his influence,â€ he says.
Lt. Col. Proscovia Nalweyiso says: â€œIn his capacity as CIC, he can still visit troops in war areas.â€ According to regulations of the UPDF, Museveni falls under the command of the reserve forces, which is officially commanded by Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh.
The Presidentâ€™s successful retirement from the army might pave way for other soldiers to retire. According to army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza, there are over 15 officers in the ranks of lieutenant and Colonel who are due for retirement. However, other sources in the army reveal that most of them have been on katebe (un-deployed), while others are members of parliament representing elective constituencies. Soldiers holding elective constituencies in parliament include Lt. James Kinobe, Major John Kazoora, Capt. Guma Gumisiriza and Capt. Charles Byaruhanga among others.
â€œThe system of retirement has been streamlined,â€ says Bantariza. A few lower ranking soldiers are happy with the streamlining, â€œIt will pave way for us to take up command positions and serve our country, rather than staying in the shadows of our old commanders,â€ says a 2nd Lieutenant, deployed in the artillery school at Butiaba. According to most soldiers The New Vision talked to, the president will be missed as an active soldier. Most of the soldiers refer to him as Mzee and they see him as their mentor.
Lt. Col. Nalweyiso, one of the longest serving officer in the UPDF having joined in 1982 explains: â€œFor us who have been working with him right from the bush shall miss him,â€ she says, adding, â€œIt is sad that he is leaving.â€
A junior soldier currently deployed in the Presidential Guard Brigade, but formerly in the 4th division in Gulu pointed out that the Presidentâ€™s hands-on approach will be missed by soldiers, especially those in war zones. â€œEvery time he went to the north and talked to our commanders, things changed. He boosted our morale because he made sure our welfare was okay,â€ one of them says.
Another says although they have not been seeing him directly, to them he is a father of the institution and that is what will remain even if he is retiring.
However, a few reasoned that the continued presence of the president in the army prevented some soldiers from growing up. â€œIt is like a boy who becomes a man, but continues to stay in his parents house. I assure you that the boy will never grow up,â€ a soldier says. He adds that now that the president has left the boys, many of them are going to turn into real men.
A retired Major, recently released from prison says he is worried about the presidentâ€™s exit. â€œManaging all those armed men and women is not easy. Museveni has been doing a lot in piecing them together, but l am worried that now he has left problems might emerge,â€ he says.
Politically, there are several implications of Museveniâ€™s retirement from the army. Analysts say it is an indicator that he considers the political battle ahead as more important than the military battle, that he has been fighting for many years. While addressing residents of Kashari on new yearâ€™s day, Museveni said that now that he has left the army, he is going to deal with the bad behaviour eating up the Movement.
In recent months movement leaders like Eriya Kategaya and Miria Matembe have come out to openly criticise the proposed lifting of term limits. Kategaya has even hinted at opposing Museveni if he dares stand again.
The President also says that retiring from the army will give him more time to build the new NRM-O, to which Bidandi Ssali, the vice-chairman of NRM-O agrees.
â€œIt is a very positive development in the process of the political evolution of Uganda. I think it will go a long way in facilitating the building of NRM-O as a political institution.
Awori says to continue taking part in Ugandaâ€™s politics, Museveni had to retire from the army. However, he says what is causing all the suspicion is the fact that he is retiring to take up a new leadership role that might cause him to stand for presidency in 2006.
Agustine Ruzindana, the PAFO chairman, says it is mainly because of the requirement of the PPOA, which bars him from participating in the activities of NRM-O when he is a soldier, that he has retired. He, however, thinks that Museveni should have retired a long time ago.
A Democratic Party supporter and MP says the Presidentâ€™s retirement from the army points to one line, which is the third term.
According to Reform Agendaâ€™s Betty Kamya, Museveniâ€™s retirement is an indicator of his intentions. â€œWhy should he retire from â€œhis army,â€ and take up a political position if he is not prepared to stay around for much longer? she asks. She adds, â€œIf he is going to run for the third term we are ready for him.â€
So What If Museveni Retires?