Dr. Besigye keeps deceiving civilians who do not know the history of NRA well that we have been running a Military Government all these years. Surely, Dr. Besigye, you know very well that these sabotages by your groups would not have been possible if we were running a Military Government; nor would have been the indiscipline by the political actors possible. It is precisely because of the early civilianization and democratization of the politics that saboteurs have been able to delay our progress including industrialization.
We do not regret this, however, because it allows the whole population to be involved in the debates (needless debates created by either saboteurs or ego-centric actors) and, in the process, the population matures more politically and ideologically. That is why the NRM has been winning in all the General Elections in spite of the reckless and irresponsible lies by the opposition – “Museveni has sold Lake Victoria; Museveni has sold Lake Kyoga, etc.” It is slower but it is the only way to move.
An NRA/UPDF Military Government, provided we had our own financial resources (we did not have to depend on the outside money), would have moved much, much faster on the transformation of Uganda and Dr. Besigye knows that very well. The sort of schemes he has been promoting would not have been possible. However, right from the beginning we democratized Uganda and have had to cope with the slower pace and more tedious work of dealing with indisciplined, malicious, opinionated or, sometimes, just un-informed actors. Since 1986, the UPDF-NRA ensures peace as well as stability and the civilians manage or mismanage the politics, the administration and the justice. That is the accurate characterization of the situation of Uganda under the NRM.
I must congratulate Dr. Besigye because, in recent statements, he has acknowledged the undeniable success of the NRA/UPDF. In his recent interview, he, for instance, said: “in some parts of the country where there were no insurgencies, especially the Southern and Central Uganda, security has been generally better than it was before 1986 and one can say, therefore, thanks to the NRM Government.” He, then, spoils that correct assessment by quickly adding: “But that is debatable because indeed there was no challenge to the regime”!! Well that is not correct.
There was Itongwa who was quickly put out of action. There was “walk to work”, which was defeated by the Police in spite of the very weak legal framework that would allow a trouble maker to flout bail terms and continue to be free to threaten the merchandise of tomato sellers in the markets. There were challenges in the South and the Central regions but they were defeated. After all, the Rwenzori and Bunyoro are part of the South where ADF tormented people.
ADF was defeated without NRA/UPDF violating the human rights of the population. Similarly, in the North and North-East, the terrorists and cattle-rustlers were defeated. There were some mistakes like Mukula and Bucoro incidents as well as deliberate crimes like Kanyum. Where these mistakes and crimes came to the surface (were reported) decisive action was taken. Since 1986, we have publicly executed 22 soldiers on account of committing serious crimes against wanainchi, such as murder, armed robbery, rape, etc.
That is why the much suffering population of Northern Uganda and North-Eastern Uganda ran to IDPs because they were protected by the Army. They did not run into exile. They had confidence in the Army and they knew they were running away from terrorists. In fact, the population was blaming us for not defeating the rebels quickly. After all, the first people to take up arrows against the terrorists in 1991 were the people of Acholi. That is when Kony started cutting off people’s limbs, noses, legs, etc., because they were reporting him to UPDF because he was disturbing their peace.
Therefore, Dr. Besigye’s thesis that the NRA/UPDF maintained security only where it had no challenge is discredited by the facts of the history of the struggle for stability. Apart from a few mistakes that were not reported, the NRA/UPDF defeated the terrorists and protected people. Where violation of the human rights was reported, stun action was taken. On account of the exemplary discipline of the NRA/UPDF, its ideological orientation and its professional development, our Army has been able to operate in very sensitive situations like Congo as well as Somalia and come out with flying colours. Therefore, the NRA/UPDF brought “oturo” (to sleep peacefully without worry) not only to the people of Central and Southern Uganda but to all the people of Uganda (North, North-East and Karamoja included) as well as to the people of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), wherever it operates – whether challenged or not.
Having disposed of the more substantive points of Dr. Besigye, let me deal with the petty issues Dr. Besigye and his colleagues keep raising. These are: the story about Muhoozi and now Dr. Besigye has added the question of Museveni putting on military uniform when he is the President as well as why we should take MPs to Kyankwanzi, put them in military uniform and make them salute. Why take MPs to Kyankwanzi? What a question from Dr. Besigye, former National Political Commissar (NPC) of NRM? Have you forgotten how it was political education that galvanized our people to withstand all the difficulties the NRM faced – killings of our supporters, hunger, lack of drugs, living in the bush, etc.
If you are now allergic to the word political education, use “sensitization”, “advocacy” for certain ideas, etc. There is much “advocacy” and “sensitization” by foreign NGOs which the groups of Dr. Besigye associate so much with. Why doesn’t Dr. Besigye object to those programmes? Why then does Dr Besigye object to our advocacy for patriotism, Pan-Africanism, social –economic transformation and democracy? The wanainchi, including MPs, putting on military uniform in a regulated manner, is a big advantage. First of all, the MPs identify with the Army. What is wrong with that? They gain interest in Army work, they understand a bit better the work of the Army. This gives the Army a wider catchment area when it comes to recruitment.
Besides, our strategic doctrine is to maintain a small standing Army of about 50,000, with a large number of officers and NCOs, but have all Ugandans of military age as part of strategic reserve so that in case of war, a big war not this business of Kony, we are able to mobilize an Army of millions to defend our country. That is why we have our reserve command. Political leaders involving themselves in quasi-Army activities, builds up enthusiasm and understanding for the Army. Besides, it benefits the MPs themselves, not only in terms of ideology, but also in the rudiments in terms of self-defence.
Coming to Muhoozi, he was not irregularly recruited. When he was still in his A’ level holiday, he asked to bring along some of his school friends for elementary military training. I was very happy to see him pick up interest in the work of the Army, after all, he was born in the Army and grew up in the Army. While much of our Army work was clandestine and in the bush, whenever opportunity presented itself, my children would live with the Army (e.g. 1979 – 81 and 1986 to-date).
If a child picks interest in Army work because of those surroundings or for any other reason, patriots can only be very happy. Youths who join the Army not as a means of living but because of patriotic ideological interest in the Army, are a Godsend to that Army. Muhoozi having finished his degree course at Nottingham, U.K., expressed his long standing interest to join the Army where he was documented, went for Officer Cadet Course and qualified for the elementary Army leadership course. Why would any patriotic Ugandan be unhappy with that? If my son is not interested in the army to defend Uganda, having spent all my adult life doing nothing else but that, that would be proof that our system is a failure. Why would the children of other Ugandans be interested? It is, actually, also good publicity for the Army among the youth to attract them to join.
Muhoozi doing many courses. Dr. Besigye was part of the Army leadership because he was Chief of Logistics and Engineering (C.L.E.) at one time. He knows that we worked out a career progression scheme for the Army. The scheme provided the years the Army personnel should stay on a particular rank, when he should go for a course or retire when he is not able to progress. The only complication is that lack of adequate funds does not allow us to retire so many people because we would have to give them the retirement packages. That is what may cause clogging on ranks. Otherwise, training, serving and training again should be the way to go. Also training according to the skills needed. When the Besigyes were in the Army, the wish of the Army was to send them for many courses, within the country and abroad. Many of that group could not go to some of these courses and Dr. Besigye knows why.
Why does Aronda salute Saleh and Tumwine? It is because they are senior to Aronda in serving the country. We maintain layers of organic leadership – the active and the retired but available. I had retired General Saleh in 1989, because of drinking alcohol and appearing drunk in public. That weakness did not, however, eliminate the fact that Saleh had led operations in which we had captured the greatest amount of guns (Masindi, Kabamba, Mubende, Katonga, Masaka, Mbarara and Kampala).
When he corrected his ways, we called him back in 1996 to confront the aggression on our northern border. You know what good work he did with other commanders who were working with him – Kazini, Katumba, etc. Why does Besigye not value the services of such comrades? Gen. Tumwine is the officer that fired the first shot at Kabamba, he was our Army Commander for a number of years. He is always active in mobilization. War, Dr. Besigye, is not a tea party. The more brains you have, the better unless there are irreconcilable differences in which case we part ways.
Why does Museveni, being President of the Republic of Uganda put on uniform when he retired from the Army? First of all, Museveni is Commander-In-Chief of the UPDF. All Commanders-In-Chief, even the ones that have never been in Army, put on ceremonial uniforms on Army occasions. Those who were old enough would have seen Mzee Kenyatta, Mzee Obote and Mzee Nyerere putting on uniforms. Mwalimu Nyerere used to put on National Service uniform. Instead of putting on the ceremonial uniform, I prefer to put on the Army green that I used in all the Resistance wars (1971-79, 1981-86 and ever since).
I was sworn in as President on the 29th of January 1986, in that Army green. Sometimes I put on Army camouflage if it is well tailored. Even Army officers and personnel, who are not Commanders-in-Chief, should put on Army uniforms on ceremonial occasions even if they are retired. Have you not seen the 2nd World War veterans (the inter-imperialist war of 1939-45) putting on British Army uniforms given to them in 1946 when they left the British Army? They are a beautiful sight to see and a visual lesson in our history. Why would anybody be unhappy about this?
Regarding the MPs being the elected representatives of the people, that is correct. Only that Dr. Besigye forgot to include in his interview the fact that there is another Authority who is also an elected representative of the people – the President who gets more votes than any MP. It must have been an unintended oversight.
In the next piece, I will deal with the remaining elements of Besigye’s interview. These were: ‘Special Forces was created for Muhoozi; poverty; we went to the bush to overthrow Army rule; and power belongs to the people and not the Army’.
In the meantime, it is better for everybody if the promoters of endless political indiscipline and those who undermine patriotism were to rein themselves in. The patriotic forces that spearheaded the liberation of the country are ready and able to ensure that Uganda takes-off now that we have surmounted the consequences of the previous sabotage and are achieving a level of self-sufficiency in finance. We will, therefore, not tolerate any new sabotage schemes.
I thank the editor for the space for this clarification.
5th February 2013 – Arua