On 06th February, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) formerly known as the National Resistance Army (NRA) will celebrate Tarehe Sita. This day in 1981 marked the genesis of a five-year long struggle that brought National Resistance Movement (NRM) to power in 1986.
The NRA/UPDF has since been engaged in various conflicts both internally and externally in the efforts to maintain peace and security within Uganda and across Africa. From 1981-1986, NRA led the Ugandan bush war that facilitated the liberation of Uganda from the radical arms of Obote, marking the beginning of peace, unity and prosperity in Uganda which is now 33 years in counting.
While Ugandans still had hangover of the thought of peace, Alice Lakwena started the Holy Spirit Movement in 1987 in Northern Uganda. She believed that the Acholi were the only rightful rulers of Uganda. Gaining ground, Alice Lakwena was soon at the gates of Busoga subregion. The NRA re-organized and defeated her in Jinja in 1987. She fled to Nairobi and died in a refugee camp 10years later. However, Joseph Kony and a few other remnants of the Holy Spirit Movement re-grouped and started the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Acholi. This marked the start of the LRA brutal insurgency war in Acholi. There was an estimated loss of 100,000 civilians, and over 20,000 children were abducted by 2004. In 2006, the UPDF finally expelled LRA out of Uganda.
In 1995, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgency broke out to fight against the government of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The UPDF put up commendable efforts to put down the group, several training camps have been destroyed, at least 314 suspected insurgents were detained by 2012.
Uganda through UPDF has participated in many peacekeeping operations since the 1990s, including providing some troops and the Deputy Force Commander Brigadier (now Lt-Gen) Ivan Koreta to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
At the same time, UPDF is a leading troop contributor to African Union peace operations. Uganda was the first country to deploy troops to Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007. Although other states have joined AMISOM, Uganda remains the largest contributor, providing over 6,000 troops and police officers.
The current and four previous AMISOM Force Commanders were also Ugandan. In addition, around 2,000 Ugandan soldiers, along with troops from Central African Republic (CAR), DRC and South Sudan, were part of a Regional Task Force (RTF) targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) before the mission closed in 2017.
UPDF has also been instrumental in the development of the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) and other AU-affiliated conflict management initiatives. UPDF has provided the director for Eastern Africa Standby Force Coordination Mechanism (EASFCOM), and also participated in several joint multinational military exercises in the region and has developed a Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) for future missions.
In December, 2013, UPDF deployed in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, a timely intervention that prevented a blood bath that had built up in the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA), along ethnic lines, pitting the Dinka majority against the Nuer.
Today, UPDF is doing much more than create peace, internally, it is contributing to national development both directly and indirectly. In July 2013, UPDF officers were deployed under the Operation Wealth Creation program in the Ministry of Agriculture, to lead the campaign of transforming the country’s agricultural into a modern one.
Still in the line of national development, UPDF through National Enterprise Corporation; the commercial arm of the army, is manufacturing military ammunitions and light combat weapons in Nakasongola under NEC General Industries. Furthermore, in 2018, President Museveni commissioned Nyoka factories in Mayuge district. The factory specializes in assembling armed personnel carriers (APCs). All this effort has saved our government a lot of money on would be importations
From a direct business perspective UPDF in 2017 entered a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian Defence ministry to set a beef processing factory in Uganda. The factory was set up and commissioned in the same year and is now fully functional and earning Uganda a lot of foreign exchange.
In a nutshell, as our beloved officers in Uniform reach this special occasion of the 38th Tarehe Sita celebrations, they need to know that Ugandans are extremely proud of their contribution towards our country for not only moving us from war to peace but for directly contributing to our national economy.
Ms Kainomugisha Caroline is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizens Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT & National Guidance.