By Michael Woira
Uganda became independent in 1962. In 1966 Milton Obote seized power from the Buganda King who became president with the help of Col Idi Amin, the second –in-command of the army. Amin ousted Obote in 1971. Amin expelled the Asian community and carried out purges in which thousands were killed. In 1979 Idi Amin was ousted by Tanzanian soldiers and the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). In 1980 Milton Obote again came to power after a dubious electoral process. The National Resistance Army (NRA) was established in 1981 as a guerrilla army by Yoweri Museveni. After a coup in July 1985, Tito Okello became the new president, but the NRA ousted him in January 1986.
Former Acholi soldiers fled to the north to be re-integrated in the Acholi society, but because of the difficulties of re-integration, they soon raped women and plundered the local population. The NRA detachments placed in Gulu and Kitgum to provide security were also ill disciplined. The Acholi attributed the disorder to witchcraft and against this background Alice Lakwena formed the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) which was based on moral rehabilitation of impure soldiers and the aim was to make war against the Kampala-based government, impure soldiers and witches. Lakwena used a mixture of western military organization and traditional, ritual practices and fought a conventional war. HSM was defeated at Jinja in October 1987. In 1987 Joseph Kony established his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Movement (LRA) after the HSM, with the difference that this group uses guerrilla tactics. His aim was to oust the Museveni government. In 1996 President Museveni was elected for a five-year term as President and he was re-elected in 2001.
Another rebel group operating in Uganda was the Allied Democratic Front (ADF). It has an Islamic leaning and was a wing of the West Nile Bank Front in Kaya, Sudan, until May 1996. In June 1997, 600 ADF rebels occupied Kasese in Uganda. The town was retaken by the UPDF after a fierce battle.The UPDF operated mainly against two rebel forces, namely the LRA in the north and the ADF in the southwest. The LRA used bases in Sudan and the ADF operated from the DRC. The Uganda Government was convinced that Sudan supports both these rebel groups. The ADF was responsible for most attacks against civilians in 1999, although the LRA also targeted civilians. At least 1,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed by the ADF in 1999.
Other smaller rebel groups were the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), an ally of the LRA, and the Arua rebels, the Uganda Rescue Front-2 (UNREF-2) and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU).
In April 2000 the government instigated peace talks with the LRA and UNRF-2, but meaningful negotiations did not take place with the two groups and other groups such as the ADF and WNBF remained resistant to talks.It was followed by an amnesty offer to rebels rejoining their communities and participating in the democratic process. Some rebels have accepted the amnesty, but the level of violence went on for a while. The rebel groups abducted 14 000 children from 1989 to 1999 to up their numbers and they used them as soldiers, porters and sex slaves.
Another security concern was the cattle rustling in Karamojain the Moroto area, northeastern Uganda. President Museveni vowed in February 2000 that the Karamojong would be disarmed by the end of July of the same year. However, only six of the expected 200,000 arms were collected by the third week of July. The cattle rustling problem exists across the Kenya border, making disarmament very difficult.Such scenarios and more are what the UPDF had to deal with to instate peace in the country.
Upon that background of insecurities that were in Uganda after independence, when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) led by President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni came to power in January 1986, the prime question was whether the new government could break the cycle of insecurity and anarchy that had afflicted the country since independence in 1962.Each new government had pledged to fix the security issue but had failed to achieve it. President Museveni has dealt with this issue in an exceptional manner and here at least a good number of achievements have been reached at by the security organs (UPDF, UgandaPolice, Uganda prisons).
The Ugandan Police Force and Uganda People’s Defense Forces have promoted a community-centered approach to addressing the ongoing issues of small arms proliferation, cycles of cattle raiding and counter-raiding (including with border communities in Kenya and South Sudan), and the inter-tribal violence still affecting the region like the case of Kasese have been solved and now there are no tribal wars simply because the forces and other means of preventing insecurity were used to calm down the situation.
The security agencies have supported civil society involvement in conflict prevention and security provision,conflict-sensitive approaches to development, and advocating stronger national and regional controls on small arms and light weapons. Future priorities include delivering conflict sensitivity support to institutions and stakeholders working on issues related to land, minerals, and cross-border security, as well as working to improve community safety in the Karamoja/Kenyan border region and other areas of the country experiencing insecurity.
Improvement of personnel management and welfare systems in both UPDF and UPF by establishing clear command and organizational structures and consistently ensuring training of personnel over the years through professionalization and modernization programmes. The UPDF has constructed and established a permanent home for the UPDF headquarters, which has enabled saving resources from renting office space.
Defense and security has fully operationalised its mandate of contributing to national development. The UPDF is already working on the Standard Gauge Railway construction. The force is also, more effectively, engaging in primary, secondary and industrial production, initially for internal consumption within the sector and later for commercial purposes. This model of managing the forces has enhanced professionalism within the forces and reduced the burden on the national budget.
In addition, Police capability to fight armed criminals has grown tremendously due to better training and acquisition of state-of-the-art forensic and other equipment. The Police capacity to deal with cybercrime has enabled the foiling of numerous attempts of hi-tech fraudsters.
Recruitment and training of young Ugandans to join the Police has been stepped up towards attainment of the internationally recommended ratio of 1 police to 500 people. The ratio in Uganda stands at 1:800, which constrains proper police service and on the other hand an employment opportunity to Ugandans and this has helped fight poverty that at many times leads to crime.
Establishment of National Service — A modern National Service programme was designed and implemented for the youth, school leavers and pre-tertiary students aimed at inculcating patriotism, nurturing and mentoring for positive attitudes towards hard work, and equipping them with basic military skills for personal and national development and beneficiaries have gained a lot from the training and skills got from the security agencies.
Libya, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and other African countries are still facing some insecurity problems but due to the enhanced capacity of our defense and security forces and the co-operation of regional sister countries, Uganda has remained stable and generally peaceful. The police boast of successfully countering terrorism through early detection and foiling of terror attack attempts within and outside the country. Police is committed to strengthening their security forces to enable them maintain the country’s security and fight crime. This will be achieved through continuous professionalization of the security forces and intelligence agencies. On this Heroes day I commend the forces for the work well done since 1986 to date and with the prevailing security, Uganda will shine and achieve its middle income status.
President YoweriMuseveniin his inaugural speech after swearing in at Kololo assured the public of peace and warned those who may have any plans of destabilizing the country. “Uganda has been at peace for the first time in 500 years, for many years now. Uganda will remain at peace. Nobody has the capacity to disturb this, however hard they might try,” he said.