UPDF: The pride of Uganda
As Winston Churchill once said; a nation that forgets its past has no future.
February 6th will always be remembered in the history of Uganda as the beginning of a struggle that brought an end to political turmoil and restored peace and dignity to a once chaotic state. Tarehe Sita is celebrated on February 6th every year, to mark the National Resistance Army’s (NRA) first attack on Kabamba Barracks in Mubende in 1981. This resulted into a five-year bush war which led the National Resistance Movement to power in 1986. The attack was orchestrated by just 41 soldiers wielding 27 guns.
Today, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) has become a force to be reckoned with in Africa and even the world at large. While officiating the National launch of the 42nd Tarehe Sita celebrations in Mbuya, The Deputy Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda lauded the professionalism exhibited by the UPDF.
“You have won the confidence of our people and please do all you can to maintain it. We have many questions about other institutions of government but not UPDF. For every failed project, the people are now demanding that we assign it to UPDF,” the deputy speaker remarked.
This year, the Tarehe Sita celebrations were held under the theme “Recognising the sacrifice of the founders of the people’s revolution for socio economic transformation” at Kakyeka Stadium in Mbarara District.
In the week leading up to the celebrations, the forces held charity activities countrywide. These activities included medical camps, tree planting campaigns, select facility renovations as well as cleaning activities.
Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempija, the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, said that this year’s celebrations are taking place in Mbarara and Greater Mbarara as a way to thank the people for the tremendous support they offered to the liberation struggle.
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) formerly known as the National Resistance Army were named so following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. In 2001, as part of his election manifesto, President Yoweri Museveni and Commander in Chief of the Forces promised to professionalise the UPDF. The main objective was to build an effective, efficient, accountable and professional national defence force.
Since its inception, the army has moved from being merely a somewhat rag tag force to a more professional and disciplined army.
Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the chief of Defence Forces described the UPDF as an army with a correct ideological foundation that shuns sectarian tendencies and embraces national interest while speaking at the launch.
He added that the force has a pro-people approach which fosters harmony between them and civilians which has become the main source of visibility.
The overall vision of the UPDF is “To transform the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) into a modern, professional, efficient and accountable force anchored on a strong civil-military partnership.”
As part of fulfilling this vision, the army has taken part in several developmental projects and many stemming from their commercial arm known as the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC).
Through NEC, the UPDF has been able to engage in several projects for the good of the country through their different subsidiaries. Such major projects include the Bulambuli Resettlement Project, NAADS programme, Operation Wealth Creation among others. This is in fulfilment of the mandate and objectives of the UPDF which mentions engagement of the army in productive activities for natural development and the creation of a productive and self-sustaining force.
The army has been equipped with such skills through recruiting of professionals as well as the different army training schools in different parts of the country. The soldiers acquire different skills such as armoured warfare, engineering and construction works, infrastructure development, architecture among others. Some of these schools include:
- Bihanga Military Training School – Located at Bihanga, in Ibanda District, Western Region.
- Kalama Armoured Warfare Training School – Located at Kabamba, Mubende District, Central Region
- National Leadership Institute – Located at Kyankwanzi, Kyankwanzi District
- Oliver Tambo School of Leadership – Located at Kaweweta, Nakaseke District
- Uganda Special Forces School – Located at Kaweweta, Nakaseke District
- Uganda Military Air Force Academy – Located at Nakasongola in Nakasongola District
- University of Military Science and Technology – Located at Lugazi, Buikwe District
- Uganda Junior Staff College – Located at Qaddafi Barracks, Jinja
- Uganda Military Academy – Located at Kabamba, Mubende District
- Uganda Senior Command and Staff College – Located at Kimaka, Jinja
- Uganda Urban Warfare Training School – Located at Singo, Nakaseke District
According to Lt Gen James Mugira, the managing director of the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), the army has the capacity, expertise and integrity needed to undertake projects in the fields of construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and health.
“I can assure you, I would not ask for even a coin from the government, if we are given business. If NEC is producing armoured vehicles, why should a government ministry, department or agency go to Germany to buy such vehicles if I can produce it here, so long as it meets the technical specifications, and the price is competitive?” he said.
“We need that preferential treatment because at the end of the day, you get money from the government, and it goes back to government,” he added.
Gen Mugira made the remarks at a press briefing on ongoing projects by NEC.
During this year’s celebrations, President Yoweri Museveni was awarded the highest military decoration in Uganda; the Katonga medal in recognition of his immense contribution to Uganda’s liberation struggles. President Museveni become the first ever Ugandan to receive the award after Col Muammar Quaddaffi of Libya and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
Other 65 awardees were also decorated with medals. The awards included civilian or military decorations which are the national independence medal diamond jubilee, which has UPDF 10 medals, the Uganda police 10 awards and Uganda prisons 10 awardees. The Kabalega medal, the Damu medal, and the Luweero medal were also awarded.