The making of another UPDF ‘loud-mouth’
Kampala, Uganda | Mubatsi Asinja Habati | There appears to be something cocky about soldiers in the UPDF when they are at the rank of brigadier. Many Ugandans are familiar with names like Brig. Kasirye Gwanga, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, Brig.Noble Mayombo, Brig. Shaban Bantariza, Brig. James Kazini and many others.
Many of these officers were promoted to higher ranks and some are deceased. But the commonality among them is the levels of fame or notoriety they gained when they were at the rank of brigadier. Often, it was because of their “loud mouths.”
The latest one to join the list is Brig. Deus Sande, commandant of the UPDF’s Armoured Warfare Training School, in the UPDF’s Masaka Armoured Brigade.
In a widely circulated video, Sande addresses a gathering of top business people in Masaka. In the most quoted part of the clip, he says: “As long as we are still here, we are not ready to give out power to ideologically bankrupt people. We cannot give away Ugandans. We cannot spoil what we struggled for many years ago. We are not ready. Do you think we are planning a handover? No. We are planning for consolidation of what we struggled for. ….It is up to the young generation to decide where they want to take Uganda but they should know that the Uganda they live in is not what it was many years ago. Uganda should not go the Somali way.”
Makerere University political history lecturer, Mwambutsya Ndebesa warns Ugandans not to ever take statements regarding not handing over presidential power to opposition politicians from the politicians and the army officers lightly.
“That is not a light statement and we should not underestimate them. First of all the army legally speaking are not supposed to make such a statement because they are supposed to be non-partisan. For politicians that is treasonable. Legal aspects notwithstanding, it implies the country is facing a very serious risk. I don’t think this is the attitude of securing our future,” says Ndebesa. He argues that the culture of militarism poses a serious risk to Uganda’s peace and stability.
History they say keeps repeating itself. In 2001 when Kizza Besigye emerged to challenge the government of Yoweri Museveni, senior army officers like Henry Tumukunde came out to make statements that the army would not hand over power to Besigye. But recently while appearing on NBS television he was dismissing Brig Sande’s statements as empty talk.
Brig. Sande’s mixture of braggadocio and ultra-patriotism have caused some in the UPDF to attempt to diffuse them.
The deputy UPDF spokesperson Lt. Col Deo Akiiki says comments made by Brig. Sande do not in any way represent the army position but him as an individual.
“Quote Sande as Sande, Army positions are communicated by the army spokesperson, it’s that simple,” said Lt. Col Akiiki.
The utterances have also sparked comments from ordinary Ugandans; mainly online.
“People must take pity with ¬ condemn folks like Brig. Sande Deus. These folks came from the bush with PTSD & were catapulted to public duty without treatment. In Brig. Deus’ case, he was sent to fight in Somalia as well. They need help. The problem is they live in denial,” said lawyer and political commentator Nicholas Opiyo on Twitter.
“I just watched Brig. Sande Deus make these remarks and the message perturbed me and why such a high ranking officer would make such a statement at this critical moment,” said Ugaman also on Twitter.
That is the important question. Why do these brigadiers make such statements?
Simple analysis shows that it could be down to anxiety and restlessness leading to excitement. This is because a brigadier in the UPDF, which follows the British army ranking system, is a promotion from the rank of colonel, which is a staff officer rank and just one rank shy of joining the senior officers of the army; the generals. Brigadier is a one star general and attaining that rank appears to cause excitement; especially about better things to come.
Take the case of current Lieutenant General Peter Elwelu. Just four years ago, in 2016, he was a brigadier when he was involved in the attack on the attack on the palace of the Omusinga Wesley Mumbere in Kasese. A year later in 2017 he was promoted to major general, which is a two-star general, and he is now a lieutenant general. That is just one rank shy of the most coveted rank in the army; that of general – also called ‘four-star.’
Therefore, most brigadiers have expectations of similar promotions and often work extra-hard and show ultra-loyalty to impress the appointing authority, the Commander in Chief, President Yoweri Museveni. In some cases, such as that of Brig. Deus Sande, the expected promotion takes a while.