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UGANDA: Politics of Museveni’s army and police reserve forces

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“In all modern countries, there is an Army and Police Reserve. Crime Preventers are a Police Reserve. They do not have any political affiliation. Anyone who wants to become a Crime Preventer should join.”

Museveni during a press conference at State House – 14/2/2016.

The history of Reserve Forces in Uganda dates back to 1903 with the formation of Uganda Rifles Corps based at Entebbe and comprised of European volunteers. At the start of the First World War, in June 1914 Kampala Corps was formed for European volunteers. In August 1914 another Kampala Corps was formed comprising of Indian volunteers. In October 1914 Jinja Corps was formed for Europeans. At the close of 1914, a Volunteer Reserve Unit (VRU) was now in place with the one of Entebbe being named No. 1 Company VRU, Kampala No.2 Company for Europeans, Kampala No. 3 Company for Indians and Jinja No.4 Company for Europeans.

These volunteers were colonial government departments, trading and planting companies, and religious missions. They offered general services, services within the protectorate and others within their respective districts. They never operated as a Unit but supplemented the colonial army of the time, 4th Kings African Rifles (KAR). They were very active at the River Kagera Front against the Germans from Tanganyika. At the time River Kagera formed the border between British Uganda and German East Africa (Tanganyika). They were engaged in sniping, Despatch Riders using motorcycles, communication duties for those with telegraphy expertise, liaison officers and interpreters, manning machine guns and mortars. The Indian Corps had Seikh members and several Muslim and Hindu and about 30 ex-soldiers from Punjab. They guarded and escorted prisoners of war to Kisumu.

At the break of the war in 1914, the Buganda Kingdom Regent offered five chiefs and 550 spearmen to fight the Germans in France. This corps was first named the Uganda Armed Levies and later on the Baganda Rifles. Though it didn’t go to France, it was very active on the River Kagera Front and even went deep into the German territory of Tanganyika to as far as Tabora.

The Transport Corps of the VRU suffered a setback when they went to support the Belgian Congo troops who were advancing through Rwanda-Urundi into German Tanganyika. It is reported that whenever the Congolese ran short of food they turned their cannibalism on the Ugandan volunteers resulting into high desertion rates. The colonial Governor of Uganda terminated the call-out-services of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve. As the 4th KAR expanded, some 11 UVR men were incorporated and posted as officers.

With independence in 1962, the standing army 4th KAR became the Uganda Army. It had no reserve units and when the Iddi Amin and Nyerere war broke out in 1978, it was the active police officers, Prison Warders, Local Administration Police (LAP) and former soldiers who were recalled for active service. To break the Kagera Bridge, ballistic Engineers from Kilembe Mines were employed.

During the Obote and Museveni war in the Luwero Triangle (1981-1986), government troops had no reserve units. It is only the half-baked so-called Not Yet Approved (NYA) Militias from Kitgum and Teso who were engaged by the government. Upon coming to power Museveni introduced the Local Defence Units as a paramilitary force for civil policing. In dealing with the different insurgencies during the late 1980s and 90s, Museveni mobilized what he termed as auxiliary forces to supplement the national army.

During the Congo expedition, Museveni mobilized street kids, urban lumpens and army veterans. A recruitment office dubbed Renaissance 2000 was opened up along Butikiro Road in Mengo for this purpose. The conscripts were ferried to Nabigola in Mubende for drilling before being ferried to Congo. After such campaigns the LDU and Congo Expedition Conscripts were either disbanded, incorporated into the army while others were incorporated into the police as Special Police Constables.

In 1989 Museveni relieved his young brother Gen. Saleh from the position of army chief. Museveni claimed to have reassigned Saleh as the Commander of the non-existent Reserve Force. Article 17 (2) of the 1995 Constitution requires every able-bodied citizen of Uganda to undergo compulsory military training and to turn up for military service when the need arises. Instead, the regime has been selectively exploiting this article by taking potential candidates for political indoctrination (Mchakamchaka). The Police Act (1994) Cap 303 S.6 creates a Police Reserve consisting of officers who have clocked the retirement age, those whose contract with the police has expired, and those who having terminated their contract with the police and have offered to serve on the Reserve. It makes no mention of Crime Preventers and hence Museveni is as usual lying.

In the run up to the February 2016 General Elections, Museveni mobilized a Burundi Embonerakure kind of militia that he called Crime Preventers. Their task was to counter the much-feared opposition led mass protests under Power 10 through intimidation. It was claimed that 11 million Crime Preventers were mobilized under their umbrella organization Crime Preventers Forum. Gullible Ugandans believed that these were the personal designs of Gen. Kalekyezi thus the ongoing debate over their fate. The above quoted 14th February 2016 statement by Museveni puts that question at rest. Crime Preventers are here to stay though their national leadership may have to change from the stewardship of the Munyarwanda Blaise Kamugisha to Kiruhura. It is also worthy noting that that the figure of 11 million is exaggerated unless one believes that the crime preventers were more than the total number of Ugandans who cast their votes.

The UPDF Act (2005) S.6 creates a Reserve Force comprised of personnel seconded from regular forces, retired officers and discharged militants, auxiliary forces, state security organisations (ISO and ESO) and such other citizens of Uganda having undergone military training under Article 17 (2) of the Constitution. S.6(3) requires any member of the above mentioned categories as potential candidates to be called upon for service. S.6(4) requires the formulation of regulations that are to define the source, command structure/authority, and relationship within and between Reserve Force and regular forces. There are no such regulations in existence. Instead Museveni simply dumps the senior army officers he fears to deploy in active service and at the same time he fears to retire.

S. 30 stipulates the engagements of the reservists during peace time as production, mobilisation and sensitization of civilians, supporting maintenance of security, supporting civil authorities with professional skills. Instead Museveni has deployed the same officers he fears to deploy or retire into distribution of seeds under Operation Wealth Creation (OWC). S.31 stipulates the role of reservists in times of war as gathering of intelligence, mobilisation of logistics, covert operations behind enemy lines, reinforcements, evacuation of casualties and general logistical support.

S.33 requires every reservist to attend refresher training for 30 days every year. S.44 makes it a criminal offence for any reservist not to turn up for such annual refresher training and triable by the court martial.

The provisions of the UPDF Act pertaining to the Reserve Force are highly redundant because the so-called Reserve Force is non-existent. 99% of the retired and discharged officers and men are not only disgruntled but in poor health owing to neglect. Imagine if the likes of Gen. Muntu, Col. Besigye, Col. Bogere and others “aggrieved” officers are to be called upon to serve!!! Maybe the likes of Brig. Kasirye Gwanga can respond. It’s only during the election period that they are remembered just for the sake of manipulation.

The recently created department of Veteran Affairs under the Ministry of Defence is just another way of duping the army veterans. The notion of Veterans is also not very clear because it also refers to those civilians who helped the NRA in different ways during its guerilla war. We have seen former security service operatives take government to court over their pension and gratuity thus can’t offer their services again. At the hight of the mysterious killings in central region, in May 2017 during the Labour Day celebrations in Palisa, Museveni threatened “mobilisation of massive reserves to counter crime in central region”.

The so-called Reserve Force is therefore a scarecrow. Museveni is only banking on conscription of the deliberately impoverished, dispossessed and unemployed youth in the event of an outbreak of war. Otherwise, while some of the impoverished army veterans and retirees may respond with hope of plundering, the mchakamchaka, LDU, SPCs, and Crime Preventers lack the least basic combat skills to withstand even just war drums.









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2 Comments to UGANDA: Politics of Museveni’s army and police reserve forces

  1. Lahoma Lipkin says:

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