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Uganda Land Forces

The Land Forces have the capacity to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda on land. They are strong enough to deter any possible aggregation from across national borders. However, these borders are both long and at times insecure. It is therefore important that sufficient forces be deployed intelligently, and with sufficient speed, to be able to find, contain and destroy the threat.

The National Resistance Army was renamed the Uganda People's Defence Force(UPDF) following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces is a battle-hardened outfit of at least 45,000 soldiers well armed with artillery, tanks and combat aircraft. Since its birth as the National Resistance Army, the UPDF has engaged in fierce warfare within and outside Uganda. UPDF has put down almost all the armed groups that roamed Uganda after the overthrow of Idi Amin in 1979.

The primary role of the Ugandan army is envisaged to be one of defense - and the term 'defense' is to be understood as being applicable to protection of not only the physical borders of Uganda, but also the interests and security of Uganda any where in the world. The Ugandan military has also been deeply involved in peace-keeping efforts in troubled regions mainly in African as part of the African Union (AU) forces - with the very recent being in troubled Somalia were they are still involved.

The UPDF is partially made- up of the remnants of President Katuga Yoweri Museveni’s guerilla army, the National Resistance Army (“NRA”) that seized power in 1986 after fighting a protracted guerilla war that ousted President Apollo Milton Obote during his second stint in office. while the UPDF seems capable of building an international reputation and securing training and resources from the United States, it is woefully unprepared to face mounting internal challenges.

Initially the National Resistance Army had almost had no external support. It got two consignments of arms from outside (the first was August 1981 with only 96 rifles and the second was July 1985 with only 800 rifles). There were also other elements like the 100 anti-tank mines of 1981 and the 800,000 rounds of AK-47 of 1985 that eased matters. Other than Castro’s fighters in the Sierra Maestra, nobody had ever been in the same situation of isolation and succeeded. The second unique factor was the smallness of the initial number of fighters. When it attacked Kabamba on 06 February 1981, there were about 40 combatants but with only 27 rifles.

The early successes were all by infantry. Kaiti, Muterere, Iyolwa, Apala Primary School, Alito, Opit Railway Station, Corner-Kilak, Puranga, Patongo, Chwero, Gulu barracks, Lira town, Soroti Railway station, etc. During these confrontations, some defensive but many offensive, the bandits were badly hit, losing a lot of combatants. At Corner-Kilak they lost about 1,000 combatants. By the late 1990s, however, the quality of infantry seemed to have deteriorated.

The performance of the tanks in combat at Kaaya, Tingiri, Aruu junction against the Sudanese from Kit and Businga showed that the Tank Force was reliable. The tank commanders would be sent for overseas courses in commanding formations of tanks and perfecting their coordination with Artillery, APCs, other fighting vehicles, ATGMs, infantry and Air defence troops.

The Artillery Regiment was also developed quite well. They acquitted themselves very well at Poki hill near Kaaya, Kajo-keji, Tingiri, Jabelin, Lalia hill near Torit, at Duria near Buta against the Chadians, at Businga, recently at Basankusu airport and briefly at Kasangulu against the Zimbabweans when Uganda was supporting the Rwandese.

By 1986, the National Resistance Army (NRA) had achieved complete military control in Uganda. According to eyewitness interviewees, including a number of strident opponents of President Museveni, the NRA conducted itself in an exemplary and restrained manner in the first few months. The revenge and plundering of which civilians had been warned did not materialize. Instead, the NRA forces were disciplined, restrained, respectful of civilians, and engaged in a program of affirmative political outreach. The new Government’s policy of “reconciliation with no revenge” appeared to be guiding NRA conduct. Hearing of these developments, some civilians who had preemptively fled to southern Sudan returned to their homes. The public was surprised by the peaceful nature of the NRA administration, at least in the first few months.

But the army, with its intense recruitment drives and policy of incorporating former rebel opponents into its ranks, was unable to eliminate the human rights abuses for which it had become infamous. Campaigns to pacify and stabilize rebel-occupied areas turned into army assaults on peaceful residents of the north and east, and the judicial system was slow to deal with those accused of serious atrocities. At the same time, the cost of maintaining the military escalated rapidly, and pressures to reduce the size of the army posed the dilemma of escalating unemployment among former members of the military.

By 2009 President Museveni became alarmed at the high rate of desertion in the Army and other agencies. The President was disappointed that the Army courts mete out light punishment to deserters, normally detaining them for a few months. He believed this helped escalate the problem rather than curb it. It is not clear what exactly was behind the new wave of desertions, but several soldiers serving in Somalia were said to have deserted in the recent past.

In early April 2013, the Army leadership sent a radio message to all division headquarters to arrest forcefully over 700 deserters across the country. About 400 soldiers, mainly returnees from the African Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), top the list. In August 2013 Uganda People’s Defence Forces embarked on an operation to hunt for army officers who have deserted their duties in the army which desertions have been linked to income. The most glaring cause of army desertions is the income some of the army officers receive in foreign services citing African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Army officers who have had a chance to work with foreign missions and generated some good money are prompted to desert the army to start up other businesses.





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