Uganda follows the British model of military ranks and formations. The national army is supposed to be composed of the Infantry, the Air Force and the Marine.

From bottom to top these ranks are: Recruit, Private (Pte), Lance Corporal (L/Cpl), Corporal (Cpl), Sergent (Sgt), Staff Sergent (S/Sgt), Warrant Officer class II (WO II), Warrant Officer class I (WO I), Cadet, Second Lieutenant (2LT), Lieutenant (Lt), Captain (Capt), Major (Maj), Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col), Colonel (Col), Brigadier (Brig), Major General (Maj. Gen.), Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.), General (Gen.).

Recruit is the title held during the first basic training to transform someone from civilian to a soldier thus becomes a Private upon successful completion of training. Cadet is the title given to someone who is undergoing training to become a Commissioned Officers and upon successful completion he becomes a 2Lt. From the rank of L/Cpl to WO I these are referred to as Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) while from 2lt to General they are referred to as Commissioned Officers. Generally all Non-commissioned Officers including Privates are referred to as ‘Men’ while the Commissioned Officers are referred to as ‘Officers’ thus the term ‘Officers and Men’. Among the officer ranks are Junior Officers (2lt – Capt) and Senior Officers (Major and above).

Basically the infantry is composed of riflemen or foot soldiers who are backed by support units like the armored, artillery, and Field Engineering. The smallest formation of an infantry unit is the Section (10 – 12 soldiers), the Platoon (three Sections), the Company or Coy (four Platoons), the Battalion or Bn (four companies), the Brigade or Bde (three or four Battalions) and the Division or Div (three or four Brigades).

A Section is commanded by a Corporal who is referred to as a Section Commander and is assisted by the L/Cpl. A Platoon is Commanded by either a 2Lt or a Lt assisted by a Sgt and is referred to as a Platoon Commander and Platoon Sgt respectively. A company is commanded by either a Major or Capt and are often referred to as Officers Commanding or O.Cs. A Battalion is commanded by a Commanding Officer and often to as C.O. A Brigade is commanded by a Brigadier and is often referred to as a Brigade Commander. A Division is commanded by a General and is often referred to as Division Commander. Any Assistant to any of these positions is referred to as Second in Command (2i/c). A Brigadier is a 1st star General, a Major General is a 2 Star General, a Lt. Gen is a 3 Star General while a General is a 4 Star General. As you will note above, the higher the rank the further one gets away from direct enemy fire thus the saying “Wars are started by Politicians, planned by Generals and fought by Men”.

There are administrative departments of the army that provide the logistical and administrative support to the forces at Company, Battalion, Brigade and Division level. These are linked to the army General Headquarters which seconds them to different formations to handle administrative tasks. These are Administration/Adjutant, Records, Finance/Pay, Intelligence, Medical, Supplies, Political Education/Commissars, Training and Operations, Transport etc. Such Officers hold ranks like S/Sgt, WOs, and Col. Warrant Officers are often referred to as Regimental Sergent Majors (RSMs) at Battalion level or Company Sergent Majors (CSM) at Company level. They are mainly concerned with assisting Commanders on matters of discipline of their Men. Literally, these positions are commonly referred to as Office positions since their holders don’t go to battle.

There is a set out procedure on how one qualifies to move from one rank to another and how to hold a position or an appointment. Promotions for Men is supposed to be proposed by their respective Unit Commanders and confirmed by the Promotions Board at the army headquarters. Promotion for Commissioned Officers is supposed to be proposed by the Promotions Board and confirmed by the Commander In Chief who is the President. This is called the Army Establishment which is supposed to clearly spell out the structures, recruitment, training, promotion, deployment, transfer and retirement of military personnel. Museveni has deliberately undermined the operation of army establishment for his personal interests.That is why the former armies like UNLA under Obote andUA under Amin did not have plenty of Generals and the total absence of the practice of rendering officers redundant (katebe).

Owing to their superior weapons, units like Mechanised, Armored, Artillery, Air Defense, Field Engineering etc provide the regular troops with the necessary superior fire support during combat. Sections of these units are simply attached to regular units but they retain their command link with their mother unit. It is these units that you see on major hill tops of Kampala city. It is these strategically powerful units that Museveni has placed under the command of his son.

When Museveni took to the Bush he took with him both soldiers (UNLA/FRONASA, former Iddi Amin soldiers and some Policemen) and civilians. In the bush formal ranks for Officers were abandoned but instead they were replaced by informal rankings. These were Provisional Junior Officer II (PJOII), Junior Officer II (JOII), Junior Officer I (JOI), and Senior Officer (SO) that were equivalent to 2Lt, Lt, Capt, and Major and above respectively. For the Men or other ranks, the formal ranks of L/Cpl, Cpl, and Sgt remained but S/Sgt and WOs were banned.
Among the Senior Officers (SOs)were members of the High Command and of course Museveni’s rank was Chairman of the High Command (CHC). That is why during the early days of coming to power many were merely referred to as Commander so and so. At the time of capturing Kampala in 1986, the NRA had not more than ten Battalions some of which had composed what was referred to as Saleh’s Mobile Brigade. Even though, these Battalions were not of a full battalion strength. Some of the former UNLAs who had just joined the NRA with their formal ranks initially had problems fitting into the NRA command structure then. There was this reference to ‘original’ and ‘non original’ NRAs. The Twatera Embundu (came from the bush) and the Twaliire (joined after fall of Kampala).
As the NRA numerically expanded, it created three Brigades i.e 163rd Brigade for central and Western regions, 151 Brigade for eastern region and 167 Brigade for Northern and West Nile regions.
Because of corruption and patronage by end of late 80s most Men who had joined the NRA before capturing Kampala were holding the rank of Sgt. Commanders would reward their cooks, escorts, drivers, friends, concubines etc with the rank of Sgt. Some influential Senior Officers would even promote their own preferences to the officer ranks. With small money some individuals would EVEN buy ranks. This anomaly is partly to blame for the burning of the Republic House (Army Headquarters) in 1989.

When formal ranks were introduced Museveni landed the highest rank of Lt. Gen followed by Major Generals Tumwine, Saleh, and Rwigyema. Below them were Brigadiers Kanyankole, Tinyefuza , Kyaligonza and Kategaya (who was given a honorary Brigadier). By Officers service numbers, Kategaya is 002 after Museveni who is 001. Museveni deliberately awarded him a honorary rank in order to keep him away from the main stream military. Below them were the Colonels Chihandae, Cheif Ali, Lumumba, Otafiire, Mushega, Muntu and another Mugisha. Below came the Lt. Colonels like Dr. Besigye, Nasur Izaruk, Dr. Bata, Sserwanga Lwanga, Kashilingi, etc. Below them came the Majors who comprised of both officers who had been senior Officers (SOs) and those who had been Junior Officers at the fall of Kampala. Below them came the Captains like Aronda, Kayihura etc. Below them came the Lts and 2Lts. The rank of Major had the highest concentration of dissatisfaction as it was used as the dumping ground of those who had deserved more senior positions but because they had fallen victim to the internal bickering over positions they had to be punished i.e Italikire Kiiza who had been a Captain in the Amin Army, played a crucial role in training the NRA and became a Senior Officer in the bush but ended up being given a major with his juniors.
Generally, awarding of formal ranks was Museveni’s first step to personalise the NRA. Though the high ranks dis not match with the level of training it served its major purpose of neutralizing the ranks held by those who were joining the NRA from other armies e.g UNLA, UNRF, FUNA, UFM/FEDEMO, UPDA, the gratifying of the contribution made by different individuals while punishing the disobedient NRAs. The Baganda who had tirelessly fought in the Luwero war got a raw deal.

At the time (1987/88) the Twaliires likes of Katumba Wamala, JJ Odong, Otema, and others who had just joined NRA from UNLA were mere Lts. Angina and Tolit were 2nd Lts. Wilson Mbadi was a recruit in Kabamba while the late 1985 entrants like David Muhoozi, Bantariza, Mugira, Mayombo, Kyanda, Kayanja Muhanga, Tony Owana were Privates. Muhoozi the first son was in primary school.

Between 1988 -late 90s promotions in the NRA took the following forms:

1. Catching the attention of the Commander in Chief or upon recommendation of a God father Senior officer or politician. This is how most of the Western axis late 1985 entrants like Mugira, Mayombo, Bantariza, Rwakitarate, David Muhoozi and many others plus the bulk of and the now senior ISO Officers were commissioned as Lts without any Officer training or command exposure. Some remnants of of the bush war got elevation while some got stuck either on the same rank or none at all todate. In this way totally illiterate and semi illiterate officers were commissioned.

2. Cadet training – the first Officer Cadet training was conducted by the Tanzanians and attended by a bulk of late 1985 entrants and post take over candidates around 1987/88. The bulk of them them took up junior command and administrative positions from where they have since risen to very senior positions. During the proceeding years, Cadet courses continued to be conducted at Jinja producing quite a number of Officers. However, they have since been phased in favor of the current Muhoozi Officer Corps. Such officers are the likes of Col. Wakalo, Col. Emmy Mulindwa, Igumba and many others. The few luck ones like Dan Tizihwayo, Kayanja Muhanga, Stephene Kashure, and a few others continue to thrive while their other course mates lost out completely. At the beginning of the century the practice of recruiting civilians and taking them for Cadet training commenced. At one time, some cadet officers were put under the radar over suspicion that they had been infiltrated into the training by the then opposition Reform Agenda.

3. Those from other armies retained their ranks and a few progressed to senior ranks especially those who had junior ranks while many lost out. Over the years the rebel groups from West Nile and Northern Uganda had been abandoning rebellion and among the terms of surrender was the provision to retain their ranks. Museveni has handled this by not assigning them to command positions i.e UNRF’s Ali Bamuze and Group including Taban Amin, LRA’s Banya and group, etc.

4. There was/ is also the practice of commissioning soldiers to officer ranks because of their university education without going through any form of Officer training or command exposure. This was common with departments like intelligence, medical, finance, ISO, former PPU etc. There are the likes of Mayombo, Balya, Mugira, Bantariza etc

5. For Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs), training and promotions had been suspended for many years almost throughout the late 80s and 90s. This led to many NCOs getting stuck on the same rank for over a decade while some were holding officer responsibilities in both Command and administrative positions. Around the late 90s the ranks of WO and Staff Sgt (S/Sgt) were introduced that saw a number of some of these senior NCOs elevated. Also, a short Cadet Course (6 months) was arranged for some NCOs who fell in this category whereby they were elevated to LTs. Lucky enough even some of these NCOs who work in stores, procurement, intelligence, VIP protection, Finance etc had accumulated huge financial fortunes that they could not mind much about promotions. The best example was of now Member of Parliament LT (RTD) Saleh Kamba who remained a Sgt for over a decade but was living like a Brigadier.

When the 1st Son Muhoozi came to the scene first as a member of the Local Defence Units (LDU), recruitment for Officer Cadet took the form of selective and secret recruitment. The first batches of his trainees have since then taken over command of strategic and sensitive positions. In the same vein those officers who have ever served under the President’s protection Unit (PPU) and now SFG are given priority to take over command of the regular army units.

Because there is no Army Establishment, Museveni created the rank of Ag i.e Ag. Col, Ag Brig, etc. He uses it where he is a bit shy to promote a junior person to a certain position and as the rest go to sleep he confirms that such person to the intended rank. For the same reasons the practice extends to acting appointments i.e Ag. Chief of Staff, Ag. Div Commander etc. The practice is also used where Museveni wishes to deny the affected officer full powers and the accruing confidence to execute his duties.

Appointments to both command and administrative positions is supposed to match with the rank and training of the affected officer. Since promotions are done without following any established procedures it is very common to find an officer staying on the same rank for decades while others are fast tracked to higher ranks. In many cases the rank and appointment held by some officers does not match with the training and experience but is based on shear preferential treatment, sectarianism and patronage. Appointment to some sensitive positions like in intelligence, SFG, Finance, Mechanised, artillery and air defence etc, depend on Political clarity (personal loyalty to Museveni). Where appointment to top command position is made fpr someone whose political clarity is in doubt but just for purposes of hoodwinking the unsuspecting public, obviously a tested loyal cadre is deployed to deputise such officer hence rendering him ceremonial while the real power lies with the 2nd in Command. That scenario is reinforced by the emergence of Muhoozi’s SFG as the controller of all the sensitive units which are simply attached to the regular units while their command and control is retained by SFG.

It is a presumption that any soldier who is mentally and physically fit if given the necessary training, exposure, facilitation and with a sound political leadership can accomplish a given military task. The situation under Museveni’s NRA is of selective recruitment, training, deployment, promotion, exposure and logistical facilitation depending on the particular commander’s political clarity. This political clarity consideration is undermining career development, morale and performance. Appointment to command and administrative positions is seen as being more of a means of enriching or bribery while punishing those whose political clarity is in doubt. Some sensitive units now under the control of SFG have ring fenced their command and administrative positions for only those with proved political clarity. On the contrary, those whose political clarity is in doubt are rendered inactive or not deployed for long periods (katebe).

Given the situation as outlined above, it is clear that there is stampede in the rank and file of the NRA. Obviously there is disgruntlement and a lot of malcontent inside there but since it amounts to high treason to express displeasure, the affected officers simply pray for divine intervention. Museveni is reluctant to retire them for fear that they will join the opposition. He has been buying time for these aged officers to depreciate more as he strengthens his SFG under the command of his son. It is for the same reasons that he is currently deploying these officers to civilian institutions like NAADs and other poverty alleviation projects. We are yet to witness more of such officers being seconded to more other civil sectors.The situation is expected to worsen with the impending withdraw of his troops from Somalia and South Sudan unless as usual he manipulates the situation to ensure his continued survival.

museveni is now stuck with his officers whose promotion and appointments have not been following the established procedures but instead have been based on his personal interest of regime survival.




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