Uganda. UPDF reputation risk to be spoiled?

28 Apr

The Ugandan People Defense Forces (UPDF), was created in 1995 as a transformation of the guerrilla army National Resistance Army used by Yoweri Museveni to win power in 1987.

Ugandan Army, 50,000 strong workforce is divided into 5 divisions of infantry, 3 divisions of heavy artillery , 4 tank divisions using Soviet tanks T-55 . The Air Force has 7 Sukoi Su-30MK2,, the modern Russian supersonic fighters with higher performance than those in the U.S. , the F-15 Strike Eagle. In addition to these jewels of technology by the unit cost of 78.3 million dollars, the Ugandan Air Force has 05 fighters MIG23, 6 fighters MIG 21, Aero L-39 Albatros, 02 Aermacchi SF-260, both light fighters: the first Slovak manufacture and the second Italian manufacturing .
This limited but powerful fleet makes Uganda Air Force the fifth power of the Continent after South Africa, Egypt , Angola, Nigeria and the first in the Great Lakes Region. Since 2013, the Air Force also has 5 fighter drones and reconnaissance 4 donated by the United States in the fight against international terrorism. These drones in stead to be utilized in Somalia are normally utilized in South Sudan where UPDF is backing President Salva Kiir. US reconnaissance drones in UPDF dotation has been utilized on 2013 in east of DR Congo in support of M23 Banyarwanda rebel movement.

UPDF has created a synergy between aviation and infantry base on the American model with the use of combat helicopters Mil Mi-24 Hind, Agusta-Bell AB-206 JetRanger and various troop transport helicopters including the AB.212, the FFA AS-202 Bravo, the Bell 412, and Mil-17 Hip-H. The exact number of helicopters is a state secret especially with regard to Augusta helicopters of which some sources indicate the number of helicopters bought to 15 exemplars, a real bargain for the famous Italian company, considering the price: $ 300.000 each Auguta-Bell AB-206 JetRanger.

The tactical use of helicopters is identical of the U.S. Army one. Combat helicopters are used to clear ground from hostile forces, against artillery position or tanks and to support the infantry during the combat operations; while those of transport are utilized to ensure rapid movement of troops and materials from the military bases to the front and vice versa. UPDF, thanks to the clever use of helicopters, it can be operative in the region, in 6 hours from the military decision taken by the General Staff .

The minimum age for military enrollment is for 13 years. A choice originated at the time of the liberation war and never changed despite heavy and constant criticisms from various associations in defense of human rights. It is estimated that 08 % of the soldiers currently serving have an age between 13 and 17 years old, normally used for national defense of remote areas of countryside and not for military campaigns abroad.

Officially, the use of child soldiers , called the kadogos , is prohibited since 1988 when President Yoweri Museveni decreed the disarming of young fighters and their reintegration into the social and economic contests of the country. The name Kadogos is originated from the first school that absorbed in February 1988 eight hundred child soldiers abandoned by the army : the Mbarara Kadogo School. From 90s onwards there is no evidence of the use of kadogos because their presence in the army is discreetly hidden.

UPDF is the backbone of the power held by President Museveni . Being originally formed by guerrillas who liberated the country, UPDF has played an important role in the civil wars in the north against the remnants of the UPA (Uganda People’s Army), President Milton Obote army who had allied themselves to a guerrilla original from Acholi ethnic group named Holy Spirit Army.

Subsequently (1988 – 2004) UPDF fought in north Uganda against the bloodthirsty guerrilla movement the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony. A guerrilla originate from the Acholi ethnic group too, the same as Milton Obote .

If the NRA is credited for having liberated the country and have made possible unprecedented economic development and the slow strengthening of democracy, the UPDF is credited to have defeating several rebel groups in the north and to have secured to the Country more than 27 years of stability.

Both two armies are composed by a very strong and important component of Rwandan Tutsi diaspora who fled to Uganda as a result of the first massacres against Tutsis took place in Rwanda in 1959.

Paul Kagame (now President of Rwanda ) , the legendary Fred Rwigyema , the historic leader of the rebellion in Rwanda killed during the first attempt to liberate Rwanda from the Nazi racial regime of Juvenal Habyariamana in 1991 , Colonel Peter Baingana and Colonel Doctor Chris Bunyenyezi (all Rwandan Tutsis ), formed the nucleus of the most combative and capable NRA revolutionary leaders and contributed to the creation of the modern army: UPDF before embarking themselves on Rwanda liberation ( first attempt in 1991 , second in 1993 ), which concluded with the dramatic last gasp of the regime Habyariamana : the Genocide implemented in 1994.

From 1996 to 2004, the UPDF has been forced to manage at the same time the civil war in the north and the two invasions of the Congo (1996 and 1998). Since 2001 Ugandan Army has also been transformed into a recruitment center for the American private Contractors sending about 8,000 Ugandan troops to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 2007 President Museveni has inaugurated the season of ” peace keepers ” in Africa with the start of the adventure in Somalia. Currently, UPDF ” Peace Keeping Forces” are present in 7 African countries : Ivory Coast, Darfur (Sudan), Liberia, Mali, Centroafrican Republic, DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan.

The idea of the peacekeeping force has been originated by President Museveni to increase the prestige of the country and make UPDF indispensable to solve the various crises in Africa using indigenous forces , as required by the modern U.S. military doctrine over African Continent.

Since December 2013, UPDF is engaged in the civil war in Southern Sudan in support of President Salva Kiir . The Ugandan invasion force is headed by none other than the son of the President: Muhoozi Kainerugaba. UPDF units are illegally present in eastern Congo since October 2013 and several Ugandan soldiers have participated to the Congolese rebellion Movement March 23 better known as M23 ( April 2013 – December 2013 ), masquerading as Congolese rebels .

To the 50,000 men officially declared it must be added 10,000 soldiers of the Special Forces responsible for the defense of the President and oil fields under the command of Brigadier Muhooz, about 6,000 men belonging to the paramilitary forces , 8,000 men employed in the private security firms and 16,000 enlisted soldiers in the national police. The exact number of actual UPDF forces is in reality unknown .

Known , on the contrary , is the political and economic role of the UPDF. 94% of ministers and parliamentarians of the National Revolutionary Movement (in power ) and the various opposition parties, including the historic opponent Kizza Besigye comes from NRA UPDF. Ugandan Army controls about 42% of the national economy and it’s able to dominate the Ugandan culture through the promotion of traditional military and patriotic values.

The army officially absorbs 18% of the annual national budget . In reality, the percentage is around 34% for a total of $ 1.2 billion annually.
To this must be added the European and American military aid , U.N. payment of Ugandan peace keeping involved in the various theaters of war in Africa. For the only Ugandan contingent in Somalia is recognized funding of 400 million euros. Since 2012, China is becoming one among the major UPDF contributors: 2.3 million euro per year.

According to data provided by the World Bank since 2010 the main suppliers of arms to the UPDF are (in rank of importance): Russia, China, Poland, United States and Italy . This data must not be misleading. The main suppliers are not necessarily the main donors. United States European Union prefer to finance the purchase of arms for UPDF by triangulation using others commercial suppliers likes Russians, Chineses, Polishs and Italians.

UPDF is receiving training mainly from the United States and Israel. Anyway China, Russia and North Korea are also involved. UPDF has become the fourth largest African army . Starting on 2012, the revolutionary old guard is being replaced with young Colonels and General trained at the military academy at West Point and in Israel. The new generation of UPDF command represents the political basis for Brigadier General Muhoozi strictly necessary for his probable candidacy for President in 2020.

Thanks to these important funding UPDF is the most important client of domestic and international selling deals in arms, military equipment , high technology, logistics and food. It is also the easiest and well paid employment for hundreds of thousands of young Ugandans.

President Museveni , strong of Somalia experience, is now pushing to create the first African military force of prompt intervention independent of the West, in cooperation with Angola , Rwanda and South Africa.

Anyway it is precisely in the most important and prestigious Ugandan peace mission: Somalia, that the Ugandan army is risking serious about losing his reputation even if the Ugandan intervention in Somalia has the lowest number of civilian casualties in modern wars.

On 16th April, the pro-government newspaper The New Vision is reporting that the Ugandan army units in Somalia also train militia Al- Shabaab terrorist who should fight . The article has created a wave of national indignation and a series of arrests in the army.

The scandal starts with a thorough denunciation of Corporal Jackson Byabagambi who presented April 14th irrefutable evidence that training of terrorists took place in military bases Ugandan Somalis in Somalia , the last of which ended April 10, 2014 .
Major Frank Kawero, and Captain Hassan Wantimba, in charge of the training of Somali soldiers at the barracks Aljazeera, Somalia, were immediately arrested and brought to trial in the Court Martial.

At a distance of only ten days, the main opposition newspaper Daily Monitor published an article denouncing UPDF contingent in Somalia that it has provocate the arrest of Colonel Hassaan Kimbowa currently before the Court Martial at Makindye military court.

The Colonel Kimbowa is accused by Corporal Ayub Masumbuko had sold to Somali civilians fuel and logistics equipment (trucks , generators, fridges, stoves, field kitchen equipment) for more than $ 460,000 .

Corporal Masumbuko has provided video evidences and documentation that clearly testify the traffic organized by Colonel at the military base Camp Abdullah former navy base AMISOM , the African military contingent in Somalia.

Every sale of fuel was for a value of $ 5,350 , obviously underestimated compared to the fuel market price in Somalia. The buyers were Somali merchants that sold the fuel at civilian market managing to get a large margin of profit. The deliveries order was normally issued by Colonel Kimbowa.” Corporal Masumbuko testifies.

Even Lieutenant Colonel Benson Olanya has been nailed by the evidence presented by Lieutenant Stephen Murashi. In his case, in addition to fuel even the logistics equipment supplied with the Ugandan contingent in Somalia , fell in its illegal sales activities .

These activities are an insult and a betrayal of Ugandan soldiers who are fighting in Somalia to stop the terrorist threat in the country and in Africa. While the soldiers are forced to use coal and wood to heat the food , their commanders sell fuel and logistics equipment.”, Lieutenant Murashi says.

Regional military experts argue that there is no guarantee that this illegal trade have benefited exclusively Somali traders , feeding the suspicion that part of it was bought indirectly by the terrorist group Al- Shabaab. The verdict for the Colonels Kimbowa and Olanya is scheduled for May 13, 2014 . Both risk the death penalty.

As a result of these scandals Ugandan Government is implementing a marketing operation aimed to convincing the public that they are isolated cases that will be punished in an exemplary manner. Moral integrity and ethics of the UPDF would remain unchanged.

Statement that contrasts or, even worse, covers , illegal activities committed by UPDF Generals and Colonels since the time of the Second Pan African war in the Congo. From 1998 to 2004 various senior UPDF officers were involved in eastern Congo in huge traffic of precious wood , minerals and hard currency. This illegal activities have permit to them to building real fortunes in Uganda.
In South Sudan since 2010, the Ugandan army is suspected to actively participate in the ivory smuggling, contributing to the extinction of almost elephant population in the young African nation .
The image of the dedication that the Government has towards the most important institution in the country : the army , has been undermined by the treatment of Ugandan soldiers in Somalia.

On 16th March 2012, the Ugandan Catholic weekly The Observer, criticized the failure to pay the soldiers involved in the military campaign in Somalia.
According to the contracts signed, the United Nations pay $ 1,028 to each Somali soldier . The Ugandan government holds back $ 200 in taxes and pay to the soldiers $ 928 (100 in Somalia and the balance on the individual bank accounts) . A veritable fortune whereas the average wage is $ 150 and the pay of Ugandan soldiers not engaged in Somalia does not exceed $ 200.

The testimonies of soldiers gathered by The Observer at the time revealed huge delays on payments in Uganda that seriously undermined the financial survival of their families and the morale of the soldiers at the front.

Army spokesman admitted the delays on payments by laying the blame not to not the General Staff , but to the Central Bank of Uganda , ensuring that the government would solve the problem within a few weeks .

A promise evidently forgot after the turn off of the national media spotlight. Late payments of salaries of the soldiers were denounced by the radio network Radio Uganda Network on January 26th , 2013. According to the survey carried out by the Ugandan media the situation has not only kept as was at the first complaint made by The Observer but it was even worse.

The Ugandan contingent (8,000 men) represents 36.5 percent of the total AMISOM forces engaged in Somalia (22,078 men). The second most important military contingents are to Burundian (5,432 men) and Ethiopia (4,395 men). Currently, the Ugandan contingent is placed under the command of Lieutenant General Silas Ntigurirwa .

AMISOM was created by the African Union January 19, 2007 with the approval of the Boards of the United Nations Security (Resolution No. 2093). Unlike the UN peace keeping missions, AMISOM has full operational mandate both defense and offense.

The recent scandals in Somalia we shall add the eternal problem of ghost soldiers . These are the soldiers who died in combat but are still registered on army payroll. Their salaries, ending up in the pockets of the Colonels of the departments they belong prevent the soldiers families to receive a war pension . According to a report by General David Tinyefuza published on 2002 18,000 ghost soldiers were still theoretically active within the army.

Since the publication of the report to the present day , the Government does not provide more accurate data on the argoment. According to some estimates, currently the phenomenon should cover about 12,000 soldiers, with a decrease of the administrative scam that testify the efforts made by the Government and by the General Staff to combat the phenomenon .

The desertions have continued to increase since 2012 (about 1,000 men per year) as well as the murders and suicides committed by veterans returning home after the campaigns of Afghanistan, DR Congo, Iraq and Somalia.

In the current campaign in South Sudan ‘s army is accused of sending to the front troops belonging to ethnic groups traditionally adverse to Banyangole (the ethnic group of President Museveni ) in order to protect Banyangole wellbeing .

It is undeniable that there are problems and corruption within the UPDF but the phenomenon is much lower than in other African countries and the base does not affect the Ugandan Army reputation. UPDF remains a powerful deterrent to regional destabilization and a major player on the peace in the Continent.” a Lieutenant Major under cover of anonymity reassures.

That corruption is lower than that recorded in other armies (Kenya and Congo in the firstline ) is certainly true, however, it should be noted that these deviations are increasing steadily since 2011 .

The exemplary sentences that are regularly imposed on the perpetrators of the most serious cases should not obscure the generalized climate of impunity that the UPDF Generals and Colonels enjoy.

The impunity is slowly eroding reputation hard -won during the years of guerrilla warfare and the confidence that UPDF still enjoys among the population. A fact that should give pause to reflect for the Supreme Commander of the army : President Yoweri Museveni , the Minister of Defense Crispus Kiyonga and the Chief of Staff , Gen. Katumba Wamala.


by Fulvio Beltrami
Kampala, Uganda


Una Risposta to “Uganda. UPDF reputation risk to be spoiled?”

  1. ntarugera 29 aprile 2014 a 13:39 #

    L’ha ribloggato su ntarugera.


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