Does Uganda need an army?



By Peter-Rhaina Gwokto, a Ugandan in Canada

The primary question over the years has been whether Uganda needs an army at all. The army we’ve had since independence continues to cost Uganda dearly in both financial loses and human lives. It’s created more problems than solved. It’s drained the national wallet off its meagre resources with nothing to show in return but a bunch of rich gamblers turned ruthless millionaires in every regime. If history and current events have any constructive meaning to overall development, Uganda’s army has been the greatest tormentor/aggressor than the tormented in the great lakes region. Uganda’s army since WW2 has fought more needless wars than any army in the region and every war in the region has caught Uganda’s army with hands deep in the cookie jars – it historically exacerbated insecurity than established security. There is not a single war in the region that Uganda’s army wasn’t or isn’t a participant – often, it has, itself, created these wars. It’s quick to turn a small dispute into a regional war of attrition to line up the pockets of generals and the president. The majority of wars were wedged by the national army against its own people and each time using the maximum weapons in its arsenal. The blood-letting wars are not meant to contain or neutralize offending opponents – if any – but to kill, destroy and annihilate them by leaving permanent emotional and physical scars that continue to traumatize the local populations for decades upon generations. Have any foreign armies invaded Uganda without Uganda’s army having started the war or intimidated them in the first place? Historically and contemporarily, Uganda’s army role is such that either it starts a war against her citizens or it invades another country. Here is the list:

KAR soldiers who fought at Japanese in the Burmese jungle know that they owe their return to Africa to Mau Mau. Had Mau Mau not begun, many of these veterans had started a settled life in India with new families. The British in Kenya returned these veterans to fight against their own people. So in fact, this was the first war in modern times where African neighbors started killing each other.

Obote 1 is remembered for two wars created by the national army. The first helped to bring Mmengo to order and resulted in the Kabaka’s forced exile to UK. It is the first postindependence war in which Ugandans shot at each other thereby igniting the chain of bloody internal tribal strife and military coups.
The second war was the first war that started pillaging of other country’s wealth. With or without invitation, Obote sent Uganda’s military to prop Lumumba in Congo. Having looted the country of its gold, Uganda’s army returned quietly without any claims of victory or defeat but the Congo Gold scandal followed Obote right to his grave. That was just the tip of the major loot to follow nearly 30 years later. Here, we find Uganda’s army fighting its first war outside Uganda – Uganda then, invaded Congo most probably with Lumumba’s blessing. So shameful was Uganda’s participation in this war that years later, Mobutu literally slapped Obote with his strong support and admiration of Amin.
Amin being a professional soldier that he was, drew a very thin line between the army and civilians such that he was able to cross-over to do the needful and return quickly into his military cocoon for safety. Overall, Uganda’s army under Amin did not start any war frontlines within Uganda, against Ugandans. But most noticeably was that his regime saw the
first invasion of another country by Uganda’s army for no apparent reasons than to
intimidate.

Under Amin, Uganda’s army made to major invasions into Tanzania with one resulting into a short-lived annexation of Tz’s administrative district – Kagera. Never at any moment of Amin’s regime did Tanzania chose to invade Uganda yet Amin’s believed an invasion by Uganda’s army was a pre-emptive strategy to disorganize and disorient Tanzania’s military. But when Tz decided to defend herself following the second major invasion, Amin found himself on the receiving end as his regime disintegrated. Although Uganda’s army didn’t create a local battlefront against its nationals, it nevertheless, had the brutal instrument for oppressing and systematically eliminating political opponents. This was the SRB, a variant of Obote GSU. Besides, religiously tormenting Tz’s president and his army, Uganda’s army only experienced a few minor “invitations to invade” in Egypt-Israeli war and backing Mobutu in a separatist war funded by Angola.

It would be easily said Israeli commandos invaded Uganda yet the truth is that, again, it was
Uganda’s army that started it all by thumbing its chest at the hijacked airliner full of Jews. It
was yet another war started by Uganda’s army and paid for in blood and cash by the citizens.
I cannot think of a foreign-related war in which Uganda’s army played a role but did not start
the war itself. It was Gadhaffi’s army that learnt its unpreparedness for a major war by
joining Uganda’s army in its war dances. In the 70s, Gadhaffi sent his foot soldiers and
fighter pilots to Uganda not really to support Amin but to train in jungle warfare. He realized
that Libyan soldiers didn’t know the whole wide world was more of a jungle than the
desserts they know. So it was a chance to practice with live weapons on live target – the
Tanzanians. On this effort, Libya failed miserably as Tanzanians captured Libyan soldiers
preferring to camouflage on the dry roads than hide in the grasses.

Obote 2:

Ohh bwoy…! This dude never learnt from his past mistakes. He basically continued from
where he left on a 8 year vacation like nothing happened. He simply did what he knew best:
creating frontlines within the country against fellow Ugandans as he did in the 60s. Obote’s war strategy (against his own country folks) is to stay put – lie low at the frontlines. Patience
was his middle name. Uganda’s army under Obote rendered the whole West Nile region
north of Arua a battle field – for a very very long time until the insecurity died by itself.
That’s what is meant by “patience pays”. But he also maintained one key instrument of his
oppressive regime in the 60s, which he, like a keen accountant, decided to carry forward: the
retooled GSU now called NaSA. I know one 4.5 hrs drive from me in Toronto. Then by
some weird turn of events, his one time minister Xeroxed the same strategy of setting
Ugandans to fight one another until the last man standing – which happened to be himself
(Museveni). Museveni also turned to Uganda’s army to intimidate and killed Ugandans into
submission. It worked very well in Luwero and the evidence is there for all to see.

Enter Museveni:
Uganda’s army under Museveni has been total disaster in one package. It’s played the role of
terrorist, pillaging aggressor, ruthless oppressor and a rampaging occupier. It’s the sum of all
army characteristics in past regimes since independence and it has the longest list of
aggression against its citizens and foreign countries. While Obote’s army used a strategy of
“lying low and wait”, Museveni’s was “infiltrate and lie low”. Once he had recruited
thousands of Rwandan refugees into Uganda’s army, Museveni’s problem was putting them
into use before they quit or get killed before his major offensive. While Obote’s minister of
defense, Museveni had created two parallel armies within Uganda’s army with one idolling
Oyite and the other (Rwandese) following himself. While he was away laying the foundations
for war, he kept his army on Uganda (Oyite) army’s payroll thus ensuring they lived. Once he
rung the doorbell, the Rwandese fled the mainstream army for Luwero bushes like ncenene
to the light of Clock Tower on Ebb road. They just evaporated… pufffffff, surprising Oyite
and Obote himself.

Museveni and a Ugandan army turned terrorist: That was it folks – Luwero says it all. NRA
soldiers were in the national army before the turned terrorists. They blew up buses and
civilian transportation on Kampala-Gulu road. They beheaded folks in Luwero to instill in
them fear. They exposed Luwero residents to the national army’s wrath such that civilians
were left with no choice but join them. They blew up river bridges. They even hijacked a
passenger plane enroute from Ebb to Arua for Kasese. They robbed banks and looted the
locals. Oh bwoy…! the only feature of the modern terrorist Museveni’s army didn’t have were
suicide bombers designed to spew shit and shrapnel on Ugandans by blowing up themselves.
they were essential cowards to that extent. Or, probably because Museveni did not guarantee
them 40 virgins as earned by their counterparts in the Middle East.
When all was done to his victory, Museveni expanded the frontlines within Uganda using his
national army-turned terrorists-turned national army to create four new frontlines to kill
Ugandans within its borders. In Teso, the Mukura incident defined the army’s role This was
reminiscent of the Nazi trains to Buchenvald and Auswitz except Mukura victims were
bbq’d alive in the wagons because there were no concentration camps to gas them in.
The Karamojong have outlived many a dictator’s army and Museveni’s Uganda army will not
create any better peace that the peace that exists now. The one thing Ugandans need to
know about life in Karamoja is that ‘insecurity’ and ‘security’ are a coincidental phenom – like
anywhere else, not everyday is Monday. There is nothing like living on luck in Karamoja
because everything is a normal way of life. Without Uganda’s army presence in Karamoja,
life is normal. The old West in America was peaceful because everyone owned a gun and
when everyone owns a gun or guns, a natural semblance of respects and fear cuts in to
maintain the status quo – peace – although violence could erupt anytime. But violence always
has a shorter span than peace yet the former is required to checkmate and keep an eye on
the latter.

Uganda’s army also perpetuated a front in the West for the sole purpose of looting DRC
under the cover of pursuing rebels, then followed it by pitching camps. The PRA is a rebel
group without a cause. Its founders were essentially two army colonels-turned bank robbers
named Samson Mande and Anthony Kyakabale. The two are thieves who deserve no place
in Uganda politics or government. Any government that forgives either of them on entering
Uganda would be a national embarrassment
Then there is the mother-of -all wars between the army and the people its meant to protect –
the Northerners, principally, the Acholi. For 20 years and still counting, the army has fought
Acholi-dominated LRA rebels with each side equally meting the same atrocities on the local
civilians. In the name of security in northern Uganda, the army used the war for several
intrinsic personal and national reasons:1- As long has international propaganda was in its
favor, the army was at liberty to intimidate and contain Acholi LRA rebels and hopeless
civilians in IDP camps to destroy their self-esteem and render them emotional wrecks. 2-
For the army chiefs, there is a lot of money to be made from shoddy supplier contracts, to
salaries for ghost soldiers, to even selling arms to the rebels who shoot them. 3- the army
created IDPs to isolate the Acholi and corrupt their culture but this project seems to have
failed for a people whose suffering has instead hardened their resolves and inflated their
pride in being Acholi. Above all, the camps were expected to transform into mini cities
whose lifestyles would discourage the Acholi from returning to their villages, with the intent
for Uganda’s army elites to grab Acholi’s unoccupied lands. This strategy has failed
miserably. Folks, again, this is Uganda’s army at work on Uganda’s civilians.

And folks, I never lived with nor acquainted myself with Museveni but the twist is that
Museveni – matter of fact – would prefer a closer political and social relationship with the
Acholi than with any other Ugandan ethic group. You have to see thru this truth with all
your heart and mind in order to agree with me. I have ruminated over controvery for years
and I believe it is a wish Museveni would love to practicalize. In fact, being a Muhima even
distances Museveni further from a Muhiru because the two are adversaries who will never
mato oput (drink) from the same calabash for socio-cultural and political reasons (caste).
Every social proximity between the Bahima and Bahiru is conditioned by accidental
geographical proximity but behind it all is a volcano whose sulfur fuels hatred and spite.
Besides, the Acholi people are homogenous with numerous clans and clan heads unlike the
distinctly separate Hiru and Hima who make up the Banyankole. A Muganda or Musoga is
the last Museveni would align with given a chance to make strategic choices. The Acholi is
Museveni’s trust because they share a lot more than anyone can imagine. Acholi’s stale
relationship with Uganda’s army under Museveni is not because of a North-West rivalry as
many Ugandans would love to believe. It is simply because the Acholi ignorantly provided
the military backbone to Obote regime – the backbone he longed to snap. Due to language
and geographical locale/proximity, he just didn’t know how to penetrate the kinfolks and
insure trust between the Hima and the Acholi instead choosing force because Kony refused
to give in to Ganda murderers who were terrorizing the Acholi. You will recall Kony stating
recently that he knows “Museveni is a good man”. Folks, don’t think Kony sounded
ridiculous by asserting so. He believe Museveni understood what he meant. There is
definitely a major change coming to Uganda – not peace in the North or an FDC win. It is
an unexpected and surprising natural alliance between Acholi and the Bahima. Little does the
rest of Uganda know that there has been a subdued – but known – relationship between
Acholi and Bahima/Balaalo. Growing up in Acholi, my grandfather’s herdsmen were 2
families of Balaalo and two rushed ahead during the NRA takeover to protect and assure the
old man as were many other families with Balaalo cattle keepers.

Oh! I ran away from the army and its aggressions. Of course there is the undisputed secret
service. Under Museveni, army’s oppressive tool increased from 1 GSU in Obote 1, 1 SRB
under Amin and 1 NaSA in Obote 2 to ISO, ESO, CMI, KAP, and KB with the first three
design to contain the elites while the latter two contains disgruntled grassroots and jobless
street hooligans-for-hire (a favorite for FDC). Incase you are wondering KB stands for
Kiboko Brigades, not Uganda’s Tsivangirai.

Folks, that was just the tip of the tamarind tree (for lack of icebergs in Uganda) regarding the
army’s place inside Uganda – UPDF, that is. Then, are the foreign invasions and occupations
by the army. To payback Rwandese refugees, Uganda’s army quickly released the 2nd master
plan from up its sleeves to topple Habyalimana. With Hutus outnumbering Tutsis and
fearing international condemnation, Uganda’s army aimed to cut off the snake’s head in a
swift run over Rwanda. It worked. Habyalimana was blown to dust in the skies over Kigali –
with presidential collateral from Burundi.

The PRA pursuit was the most effective springboard for Uganda’s army to enter DRC and
loot the country of its mineral and forest resources for years until the UN intervened. Before
that Uganda’s army had invaded and overrun Rwanda. That was enough payback for Tutsi
help in bringing down Obote. Finding no wealth to reap in Rwanda, Uganda’s army as well
as Rwanda’s aimed deep west and hit a jackpot in DRC. After instating Kabila Sr. the rest, as
we know, was mayhem, loot of mineral and forest wealth and, folks, for the first time
Uganda’s marauding army even looted and brought back women – a lot of women as though
they were commodities. In fact they were commodities because the soldiers dumped them as
soon as they came back to Uganda thus creating Congolese neighborhoods in towns like
Gulu, Arua and Fort Portal.

After Rwanda and DRC, Sudan was only spared by its deficiency in resources, Uganda’s
army can make do with an invasion anywhere there are resources to loot. A few months ago,
there was the credible story of Uganda’s army spotted in Kenya. That was a given truth if
anyone understood the hidden workings of this secretive and ruthless army.
In my opinion, Uganda’s army should be scrapped for being unproductive and contributing
to no known national gains except enriching the generals, straining the national purse,
facilitation poverty, and creating misery. In its place should be a highly trained, highly
educated, highly mobile and highly effective small regional paramilitary drawn along the
army barracks of the 70s and rotating service outposts.
To be continued…………..
___________________________
Peter-Rhaina Gwokto
Remember: “Even a small dog can piss on a tall building”. Jim Hightower

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