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UGANDA: Of Obote’s thieving UNLA and Museveni’s pillaging NRA

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CHANGE OF GUARDS – At the commencement of British colonialism in Uganda, the IBEA company enlisted the services of marauding Nubian soldiers who had been abandoned by the imperial Egyptian empire under the Khadeive. They were a ruthless lot who at times would go on rampage looting and pillaging to replenish their supplies. At independence in 1962, Uganda adopted the Uganda Army (UA) which was very professional and disciplined. The UA served under both the Obote I (1962-1971) and the Iddi Amin (1971-1979) regimes. Indiscipline and gross abuse of human rights by security forces during the two regimes was not by regular soldiers but specialized secret service unit – GSU and State Research Bureau respectively.

Upon the overthrow of Iddi Amin in 1979 by Tanzania and Ugandan exiles, the UA was disgracefully disbanded. A new army called the Uganda National Liberation Army (a) from the two factions of Kikosi Maalumq (Northerners) and FRONASA (Museveni) was initiated. Maalum was the main exile armed group that fought alongside the Tanzanian army to oust Iddi Amin. It was comprised of those soldiers who had served under the UA but had deserted and escaped to Tanzania where they joined the liberation efforts. It was commanded by the likes of Oyite Ojok, Tito Okello, Zed Maruru, William Omaria and others.

Museveni’s FRONASA had been a kind of briefcase outfit comprised of a few Banyankole and Banyarwanda Tutsi young boys like Rwigyema, Saleh, Koreta, Chef Ali etc. It was not until the war had entered the Uganda territory that Museveni embarked on a recruitment drive mostly from the Rwandese refugee camps and ethnic Hima that FRONASA became visible. It was further boosted by Museveni’s taking up of the strategic Ministry of Defence.

A recruitment race ensued pitting Museveni’s FRONASA (westerners) and Kikosi Maalum (northerners) allegedly called to Obote. Consequently, both sides ended up recruiting rogues to bolster the ranks. Around 1979/1980, units of Kikosi Maalum were in charge of the strategic Kampala city when there was a lot of insecurity involving mysterious killings of prominent people in the city. Museveni unsuccessfully pushed for the Kikosi Maalum units to vacate the city. He had intended to carry out a military take over using his FRONASA faction. Having failed, he resorted to his Bush War. He took with him the Banyankole and Banyarwanda officer calibre to the bush. However, the majority of the ordinary FRONASA rogue junior soldiers from western Uganda remained in the UNLA.

As the counter insurgency operations against Museveni’s NRA intensified, the UNLA randomly recruited other rogue young boys mainly from the northern and north-eastern regions. These half-baked militias commonly referred to as Not Yet Approved (NYA) were deployed in a hostile environment in the Luwero Triangle. At night rogue UNLA junior soldiers would rob from civilians residing near military camps in Kampala. During day time, the rogue soldiers would grab radios, watches, bicycles and small cash from pedestrian urban dwellers.

At roadblocks junior soldiers would demand for chai (small cash) for buying cigarettes, food and local drinks. In fact, westerners within the UNLA were the most harmful at both the roadblocks and robbery sprees. They would even pull over their caps to cover their faces and change accent to sound Luo in order to disguise their identity. In the Luwero Triangle, both the NRA and UNLA grabbed abandoned chicken, goats and fresh food. While some UNLA’s took away doors, windows and iron sheets from abandoned houses, the NRA would grab cooking utensils, clothes, and beddings from the same houses. On several occasions the two protagonists would clash during such raids for replenishment of food supplies. Otherwise, why have we never heard of the UNLA having raided cows of the Balalo who were fully behind the NRA!!!

In Kampala city, the situation was aggravated by the existence of clandestine groups from the NRA more especially the urban hit squad, the Black Bombers. One of the core tasks of these squads was to undermine the relationship of the UNLA and the general public. It was unheard of for the UNLA to ambush and rob cash or goods in transit. It never carried out daylight robbery of banks and shops. It never raided hospitals for drugs. It never planted landmines to blow up public transport and the general population. It never raided and emptied government and private warehouses for produce. We did not hear of creation of ghost soldiers for the benefit of Commanders. Its Paymasters never ran away with soldiers’ pay. It was not riddled with expenditure/procurement scandals. The only recorded incident of people running away with huge public money was when the likes of Frank Guma and Bright Rwamirama ran away with soldiers’ pay and bank money to join the NRA. They were both rewarded with the position of Chief Controller of Finance in succession.

It was unheard of for a UNLA commissioned officer, leave alone a senior officer to be involved in theft or armed robbery. They were not bothered by accumulation of both legal and illegal personal wealth. They lived a simple life in government houses, driving army vehicles with their wives tending to goats and brewing of local gin. Maybe it could have been only about 0.001% of the UNLA officers who owned a viable business or constructed a moderate personal house in in the village or town. Let Gen. Katumba Wamala or Mugyenyi show us the personal houses they built during the five years they served under the UNLA and we compare them with the wealth that was accumulated by Gen. Felix in a short period.

In 1986 the disciplined NRA took over power and the defeated “thieving, rapist, killer” UNLA was disbanded. Most of the former UNLA officers and men were incorporated into the NRA. No former UNLA soldier has ever been formally accused of any of the above atrocities. Not even a member of the Obote II intelligence outfit, NASA that was accused of gross atrocities including murder and kidnap.

During the NRA interim period when western Uganda had been cut off, senior NRA commanders developed serious misunderstandings over sharing of loots. After capturing power, the disharmony arose from acquisition of government houses, vehicles, looted factory and farm machinery, positions and finance. The country witnessed the first incidents of senior officers staging daylight highway and street armed robberies.

Inflated payrolls, procurements, desertions with huge cash meant for soldiers pay, supply of “air”, looting of resources from neighboring countries, robbery from and sometimes killing of local and foreign traders and investors for cash, gold and diamonds, organised poaching and smuggling of multimillion worth of wildlife contraband, facilitation of drug dealers for pay, smuggling, illegal timber logging, violent land and property grabbing, etc. Unfortunately, those who have been involved in such vices are the ones who have made “successful service careers”.

Despite military personnel being among the least paid public servants, they are the topmost rich people in the country. Most of the successful business enterprises – estates, shopping malls, posh houses, market complexes, expensive cars, commercial buildings, arable farmlands and stock farms, commercial transport fleets etc are owned by soldiers. The wives of NRA soldiers run supermarkets, own fancy shops in shopping malls, do international trade, are money lenders, some export “slaves” to the Middle East. Let the IGG just carry out a sample probe into Maj. Juma Seiko’s source of wealth.

Maybe if former President Obote’s UNLA had illegally accumulated wealth by stealing and robbing, it would not have overthrown him. Unlike Museveni’s NRA officers, the UNLA had no personal wealth to defend or die for. History will judge as to who was stupid between UNLA and NRA.



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