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Wednesday 22nd of October 2014 04:45:10 PM
 

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UPDF shines in South Sudan

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The changing face of the Ugandan army and what it says about Museveni’s plans for the future

Imade my career in the late 1990s and early 2000s in large part by investigating and reporting on corruption and incompetence in the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF). The National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power criticising previous governments for presiding over what it called “parasitic” armies i.e. the army depending on the taxpayer for its budget and on many occasions (under Idi Amin and Milton Obote II) looting from citizens.

The NRM promised to build a productive army. So beginning in 1987, the UPDF (then National Resistance Army) established the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC) as the productive arm of the army. NEC owned a weapons manufacturing plant, ranches, a mattress production company, a fumigation business, a pharmaceutical plant, established a construction unit and much more.

By 2000, nearly all of these businesses had been cannibalised by incompetent officers through gross corruption and mismanagement. The UPDF had become a springboard for private profiteers that procured substandard military equipment, expired food rations, and undersize uniforms. They were paid for supplying “air” (i.e. nothing) to the army, and placed ghosts on the army register.   The UPDF itself was by then a poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly fed, poorly dressed, poorly led and demoralised force that could not fight against more determined opponents. In 1999 and 2000, UPDF fought three battles against the more disciplined Rwanda Defense Forces and lost badly. In northern Uganda, the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army was expanding its theatre of operations and the intensity of the war was increasing.

In 2000, President Yoweri Museveni had, during his reelection campaigns,  promised to professionalise the army. But by 2003, some highly educated, professional and disciplined officers like the then director of records, Maj. Sabiti Mutengesa, were running away – preferring the misery of exile than remain and be commanded by thieving generals. Museveni’s promise seemed mere bluff.   In October 2003, Museveni fired the army commander, Maj. Gen. James Kazini and ordered the arrest and prosecution of 112 senior army officers. The country saw senior generals in the dock accused of theft and mismanagement. Kazini and others went to Luzira. A decision was taken to sell many of the NEC companies and liquidate the assets of others.

By 2005 I was still arguing that UPDF was an absurd spectacle. I remember one day the then-new army commander, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, and his then chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benon Biraro approached me: “Things are changing Andrew,” I remember Biraro telling me and asking me to visit one of their facilities. I never did.

It is with this in mind that I went to South Sudan to visit our troops and see first hand how UPDF stands. Let me declare a conflict of interest: my brother, Brig. Kayanja Muhanga, is the commander of UPDF in South Sudan. But that, I hope, has not influenced my assessment.

Ten years since my last criticism of UPDF corruption and mismanagement, I could not believe the army I found. Properly dressed soldiers in polished boots and pressed uniforms. Their meals comprise posho and beans; beef is imported from Gulu, rice forms part of their regular menu, and their stores are stocked with dry rations. The army that used to carry sacks of posho and beans to cook for themselves at the battlefield is a thing of the past.

The army today boasts heavy artillery, tanks, armored personnel careers, heavy machine guns, a motorised infantry, and close air support consisting of supersonic jets and armor-plated helicopter gunships. All are in the hands of highly trained, well-coordinated and synchronised units, highly disciplined, highly motivated, well fed and well led soldiers. Today’s UPDF is a formidable fast moving, hard striking juggernaut.

The transformation that has taken place in the army since I last wrote my investigative stories is mindboggling. It was clear to me that once the corruption waned and things got better, our sources in the army dried up – because there was nothing juicy to leak to the press. And we journalists did not follow the story of this transformation.

When this army pounced upon poorly trained, poorly armed (with light infantry weapons), poorly commanded and poorly disciplined militias of Riek Machar, one can imagine what happened. The UPDF fell into an L ambush along a 4km stretch at Tabakeka. But they had expected the ambush anyway and were already in a box-formation. In a battle that lasted between four to five hours, UPDF lost nine soldiers and 46 injured (and this due to an initial mistake). No one wants to talk of the casualties on the other side. But one can imagine what a highly armored, mechanised and motorised fighting machine with close air support can do to militias with light infantry weapons. It was the first and last battle the Sudanese rebels engaged the UPDF.

Visiting the UPDF field hospital made of prefabricated materials – with crisp clean wards that make Mulago look like a 15th century outpost, its operating theatre, its dental facility, its drug stores and seeing sick soldiers in clean hospital uniforms, clean beds, in air conditioned wards with proper meals you feel proud to be a Ugandan.

It is leap years from the UPDF that ran out of ammunitions and could not sustain its fire ratio during the 2000 battle against RDF in Kisangani. Back then, its injured troops could not be evacuated from the battlefront and there was no field hospital to take them for treatment – the only one available being a facility run by UNICEF.

It has been a long journey for UPDF. But this tells of something worrisome for Uganda’s future.

Museveni has modernised the army and thus gained capabilities to launch military adventures abroad, defend the nation, and strike at his domestic opponents if they dare challenge his power.

The transformation of the UPDF clearly shows that it is possible to reconfigure the state in Uganda to function effectively and efficiently.

So why has not achieved similar results to improve the capabilities of civil institutions like ministries of agriculture, health and education to serve the citizen?

Here, service delivery has remained atrociously poor – characterised by institutionalised corruption, incompetence, indifference, and apathy.

Every effort appears to be hampered by the democratic process with its electioneering. Politics is no longer a contest over alternative policies and programs. Instead, Museveni and the NRM find it more electorally rewarding to trade private goods (like ministerial and ambassadorial appointments) to elites than to deliver public goods and services to ordinary citizens.

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Comments (37)Add Comment
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written by Gen Adam Kifaliso , June 30, 2014
Andrew there is nothing sophisticated in UPDF ....and you must be insane state that UPDF is m7's army and he would use it against domestic political opponents ...m7 with his T54s , Chinese APCs and old Mi-24 choppers that don't number more than 4 can only fight rag-tag armies of South Sudan ...good you said it was punished by Rwanda , the other foolish thing is . why should the army keep the wounded in South Sudan when it can fly them home for treatment ..there is nothing like high armour and Andrew stop thinking that you are addressing chapatti fryers of wandegeya
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written by Wani, June 30, 2014
Mwenda, did your brother tell you to write this propaganda article? Your brother is the commander of the UPDF invasion forces in South Sudan. UPDF has never won ant convention war against any army. It is a guerilla army. That is why they always intervene and got dug-in for years without completing the mission in a short time. To a rag-tag army like those rebels they may look intimidating but against a true professional armies like that of Rwanda and others, they stand no chance.
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written by Joel, June 30, 2014
Lift the veil Andrew.Just cut the rigmarole and window dressing.Your subtle attempts to create the impression that Uganda can only transform and develop under a dictatorship are clear for all to see and I do not agree.This is a bad precedent and when another dictator replaces M7 how will you put a spin on it to now contradict your argument dictatorships help transform and develop nations.Otherwise fantastic PR job you are doing for M7s.When M7 is long gone it will take some considerable skill to keep contradicting yourself.Atleast the politicians do that everyday but a journalist with opinions changing like bank accounts get credited/debited is rather disturbing
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written by Lukyamuzi Kabakasman, July 01, 2014
When I read Haggai Mastiko's piece and then this one, I could see that only the names of the authors had changed. That Mwenda can claim that he hasnt been knowing what has been going on in the UPDF since his Kisangani reports is enough to show he is hiding something. So even the Somalia mission in which his bro commanded a battle group went by un noticed. And wow, he wakes up one day and heads to Juba still thinking he was to encounter a UPDF he had known in the late 90s. Such kind of mind programming can only appeal to the gullible and blind.
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written by Lukyamuzi Kabakasman, July 01, 2014
That he goes on to even suggest that M7 could use the UPDF on his home opponents shows how intimidatory they have always meant the country's army to be. The fallacy that M7 is part of Uganda's future as the title says is laughable for fact is M7 belongs to the past. Nature can never say one thing and M7's wit says another. With every coming year, the physical toll of aging on the man with a hat continues to show.
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written by Musinguzi, July 01, 2014
Dear Andrew, this article is not well balanced. As a person who normally insists on 'analysing and not moralising', this article fell short. You indicate that you left for S. Sudan with the negativie mentality about UPDF as you had when you're still critical of M7's gov't. This meant that whatever your impression or lack of it, would only be based on what you saw in South Sudan. And yet, the good things you said about our gallant boys and girls could not have been collected from that single visit. Your conclusions about the UPDF and the scope of your travel do not match. There is information you could not have got and/ or verified. This is unacceptable in the scientific process.
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written by Musinguzi, July 01, 2014
From a patriotic point of view, I would wish all that you said about UPDF were true and I feel you. We would want them to live well for protecting us in this volatile region. Sadly, although you declared your conflict of interest, you seem to have forgotten another big one. I have heard that the deployed troops are wholy or mainly composed of special forces (and I could be wrong because I am further down from platforms where you access such information) commanded by another close friend of yours. Although this doesn't mean that what you said is wrong, that fact might blur your proper view of things. .
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written by Musinguzi, July 01, 2014
The picture is further spoilt by the fact that you state that you had no knowledge of UPDF's transformation. Given the close proximity you have to the powers that be, that is possible but not probable. You should have stated that you knew more about the UPDF before your travel. That denial and attempted distortion of fact is very disturbing and renders this article unreliable
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written by Naissgai Naissgai, July 01, 2014
Andrew: There is one big analytical gap with your piece. Never, ever in this piece do you discuss the most important issue: The premise of this war. It was encouraged and rented out by President Museveni on the instigation of South Sudanese incompetent leader--Silva Kiir to fight another power thirsty thug--Riek Machar.
Had the Uganda Parliament democractically debated this foreign mission---(or more accurately invasion), then a post-facto analysis of the war would make sense. But within the context of this war, your analyis is misplaced, ab initio. If it is to colour your brother's prowess, and President Museveni's regional ambitions--which he may actually command--then, your article has achieved it.
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written by Maceni, July 01, 2014
The UPDF has changed but it has NOT TRANSFORMED.
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written by Maalo, July 01, 2014
Problem is there is almost no objective newspaper left in Uganda. I normally read this for a laugh and I think not many people take this paper seriously anymore. Check the stats of the online readers or people who actually buy the magazine on the streets. Advertisers apart, you start wondering who is paying to keep this magazine in circulation. Your guess is as good as mine.
Good evening
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written by OPIO, July 02, 2014
Salute to Brig. Kayanja Muhanga who is proving himself to be a great war commander again. This is a man who took down the notorious Bakara market in Mogadishu in hand 2 hand, street 2 street fighting when even Americans and Ethiopians had failed. Why then has Muhoozi been on a higher rank when he's never been in any battles. He only turns up in Somalia and Juba after the fighting is finished with a cameraman in tow 2 record him posing. The only battle Muhoozi ever fought is when he was seen driving in a convoy of Hamnvee's shooting in the back innocent protesting civilians in Kisekka mkt during the riots after 2011 elections.
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written by OPIO, July 02, 2014
Andrew pliz tell m7 that as he fades away he shd know that the greatest real war of self-interest for uganda that his UPDF has not fought is the one that would have created a brand new country in Eastern Congo just like the new South Sudan state. A mineral and oil rich area just next door to us that is the richest place anywhere on the face of earth and yet we have left it for Europeans to exploit and benefit their own children's future while Africans in the area starve away. A new state in this area would depend entirely on Uganda industry and supply lines and all those minerals would be traded here in KLA instead of Brussels and Vienna as it is currently.
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written by OPIO, July 02, 2014
Imagine that transporting machndise on a truck from eastern Congo 1000 's of miles to the capital Kishasha during the rainy season would take u almost1 month but only 2 days to KLA. These areas 4 all purposes r ugandan except 4 an imaginary colonial boundary line. Instead m7 has wasted our treasure and blood over the yrs fighting wrong wars in Somali deserts and CAR jungles. War is very expensive and shd be 4 defence or self-interest 4 future generations to benefit even after us. That is the tragedy of your UPDF Mwenda. No one will erect a rememberance stone to honor the sacrifice of our dead sons in Bor or Mogadishu or Obo long after these wars r over.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, July 02, 2014
I will think alike and put it that Museveni has changed yet Uganda has not transformed. We are still an egalitarian Country with a wide gap of disparity. But allow me to go bare knuckles. Museveni's import to south Sudan (not "export" because I think Museveni is currently leader of that country) is, his fascism- Like, Franco of Spain, Mussolini of Italy and Hitler of Germany, Museveni is stressing a militaristic pageantry and a strident pan- Africanism as ways of binding the people to a single dramatic dictator. The one bravery act that Opio could have escaped, was the rescue of the then minister of water (Mutagamba) who had been "abducted" by terrorists wielding a "knife!" This act earned Muhoozi the rank of Brigadier. I wish life was that kind.
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written by OPIO, July 02, 2014
UNITED REPUBLIC OF KIVU, Google and read abt it Andrew if u never hard of it. That is the country we ought to be fighting for and not instead entangling in the ancient never-ending tribal war of anihilation between the Dinka and Nuer. Eventually m7 likes it or not the Nuer will get the upper hand and take govt and then throw ugandans out of their country and to fill the void, instead turn to kenyans/ethopians who took no sides and didn't massacre them like how u boast of yr brothers' battle exploits against them.
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written by Robert, July 02, 2014
"Museveni has modernised the army and thus gained capabilities to launch military adventures abroad, defend the nation, and strike at his domestic opponents if they dare challenge his power". Andrew if this is your analysis of what UPDF is today and you are proud of a"national" army that can strike at domestic opposition to keep an ageing President in power, I must say you should feel sorry for yourself because you re a mere "joke" instead of an objective journalist you claim to be.
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written by Maceni, July 02, 2014
Slaves in 1776 did not wear shoes, in 1840 they wore shoes, better clothes and ate better food but they still remained slaves. There was change ---but no transformation. The UPDF still has its ‘revolutionary’ rebel outfit character, and is preoccupied with advancing the ideology of its commander in chief not the interests of the people of Uganda.
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written by Winnie, July 02, 2014
1. The Army has really transformed can you imagine we even now have Engineers,Dentists,Lawyers in the army its kind of prestigious to be in the army these days.
2. Muhoozi is like Prince William and Harry in the British army its even stylish for the rich and great statesmen like M7 to have their sons join the army it kind of morale boosts other army officers.
3. If Ug had not intervened in S.Sudan in time, those guys where going to blow each others' heads.
4. M7 is a kind hearted person you can even see the way he hugs and carries his pretty daughters.
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written by Winnie, July 02, 2014
5. All ways are justified especially those carried out by statesmen like m7 Blair,Bush,Obama at least the world trusts thier sense of judgement.
6. The Elder from kyagwe is not serious who does not know that Muteesa and Obote were best friends who enjoyed whisky even when obote's mouth was shout at Lugogo muteesa visited him 1st its actually said that the 1966 crisis was as a result of the two men being drunk.
7. Kayanja is a handsome and brilliant man like Andrew he even has a six pac women like him alot.
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written by Ocheto, July 02, 2014
This is really pathetic. South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, and for NRA which has been in power for time immemorial to continue comparing itself to South Sudan just shows how low the military standards in Uganda have fallen. Or it could simply be the usual poor attempt at justifying all the unbudgeted, blank check, funding NRM receives every year. Why would it not be well fed, when it has unlimited resources? They don't call it National Robbers Movement for nothing. But even then Amin's army, in terms of supplies and ordinance, would put NRA to shame. The real shameful truth inside NRA is worse than this propaganda dribble would like to have you believe.
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written by Ocheto, July 02, 2014
All that constant (failed) military adventurism, going to Rwanda, to Congo, to Somalia, and now South Sudan is not unlike what typical military dictatorships occupy their troops with. It is a way to keep them busy fighting dumb wars and not inevitably rebelling. Amin invaded Tanzania just so that he could find something"useful" to occupy his restless army.
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written by Musa, July 03, 2014
Andrew, this article makes opposite sense of what you intended to portray. Good source of insight into your motivations, clear that you are becoming an old man that you always claim to be. I am sure that in future if Andrew ever reads through this article, he would realize that he wrote it when his analytical capabilities were seriously denied due attention. What exactly took you to Sudan? can you be honest about this and share it with your readers next time.
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written by Musinguzi, July 03, 2014
Where did my friend Omeros go?
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written by Kokas Ikwap, July 03, 2014
Dear Andrew,

You saw this late. You would have seen this when the UPDF landed in Garamba to hunt for Kony. Not many armies in Africa could do that. I saw it then and became proud of being a Ugandan. But Uganda needs even a better army

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written by Silver, July 04, 2014
Dear Mwenda, please tell your readers??
Out of curiosity, I would like to know whether you still write as a journalist or as business man writing for casual articles for your newspaper.
This might avert the apparent excessive or misguided criticism which seems to be premised on the assumption that your articles are intellectual critiques.
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written by Diane Kenneth, July 05, 2014
I decided not to read any farther after Andrew declared a conflict as all that followed was clearly spelt out in that declaration.
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written by Diane Kenneth, July 05, 2014
meant to say ..."declared a conflict of interest"...
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written by Gen Adam Kifaliso, July 05, 2014
the higher a monkey climbs a tree , the more it exposes its ...........! Winnie knows better than us all here ...she is the presidential advisor in that field
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written by Kalubo, July 06, 2014
This is all bushs**t...............
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written by Kibula, July 07, 2014
Adam and Winnie are going senile at a young age. It is because of undernourishment. What Andrew says about the UPDF is partially true in that he withholds certain privileged information. The UPDF has grown to a capability of annexing and hold a territory as big as Uganda in Eastern DRC if it so wishes and even compel enemy to defray the cost of the campaign. I personally admire the UPDF's soldiers, healthy,educated,independent,disciplined and responsible. Wow to the fool who dreams of provoking them.... a la Besigye
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written by Musinguzi, July 08, 2014
Opio, all your statements about creating a state on ourWestern border makes sense to me. With the Banyamulenge who would have been our SPLA now defeated in the name of M23, on whose back will our troops ride a they go gun-blazing into Eastern Congo. The European knew this fact. That is why they put too much pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to stop M23 and had to sanction the first ever UN bridage mandated to fight and win over territories. We should find another reason to create this state
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written by Winnie, July 08, 2014
Kibula stand warned real men don't abuse ladies
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written by Paul Muwanga, July 11, 2014
Is it not this same "professional" UPDF that murdered scores of innocent Ugandans in Kampala in 2009 and again during 2010 at the Kasubi tombs?
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written by saba, July 14, 2014
Muhenda is kissing butt! He realized being principled was not paying the bills and was not giving him the luxurious life he always yearned for, since he is a social climber, he is now using his 'talents" to maximize butt kissing, stand close to him and you will find he reeks of butt. Dictators butt in particular since they pay in Dollars.
The Dictator even whispered into the Aga Khan's ear and had Mwenda get a show on NTV where he sits and spews crap defending the indefensible with a straight face with absolute authority in every single field,no response,comments or question from callers or anybody and when the Moderator got smart Muhenda squealed like a little yellow piggie, walked away and the Moderator was fired. So any thing he writes should be taken with a tablespoon of salt
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written by Winnie, July 15, 2014
Saba you are sooooooooooo insane i have just decided to forgive you. you know Andrew is a class apart he has made Monitor and NTV what they are actually he is their chief marketeer.
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written by Mate Magwara, August 05, 2014
Andrew, you only saw it late. UPDF is indeed a great Army and is moving faster than many pessimists think. It is not about M7, It is about Ugandans and of course under a wise leadership. The UPDF is one such institution Ugandans must be proud of and jealously guard. Bravo, our combatants of the mighty UPDF.

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