By Winnie Nankanja
Thomas Hobbes believed that Freedom is good, but Security is better. He made his point by imagining what it would be like to live without government, laws, or society. National security is the ability of a country’s government to protect its citizens, economy, and other institutions.
In today’s world, national security also encompasses nonmilitary targets such as Cyber security and environmental security.
Forty-one years ago, a group of 41 Revolutionaries and a fourteen-year-old stowaway called Andrew Kangaho attacked Kabamba army barracks in Mubende. They were led by Yoweri Museveni. This attack on Kabamba launched their war against the Uganda National Liberation Front(UNLF) forces of president Apollo Obote.
The justification for this attack was that the UNLF and the Obote government had retreated from their mandate to protect the citizens and economy of Uganda. Like Idi Amin before them, the Obote government had turned on the citizens and usurped their democratic rights.
Therefore, for Uganda to regain her dignity as a Republic worthy of the moniker ‘Pearl of Africa”, these 42 revolutionaries supported by a vibrant intellectual diaspora as well as a fed-up populace, and calling themselves the Peoples’ Resistance Army (PRA) launched a protracted peoples’ war against the Uganda Peoples’ Congress government of Apollo Obote.
Nearly five years later to the day, they captured Kampala. By this time they had reconstituted themselves into the National Resistance Army - NRA. Today, following the adoption of our 1995 Constitution, we know them as the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces - UPDF.
Since 1986, Uganda has continued to make significant strides in transforming its economy from a peasant backward one to a modern prosperous one. Today’s Uganda is markedly more advanced and more prosperous than at any other time in our 500-year history.
To grow this economy, President Museveni and the government he leads have had to invest in the transformation of our National army from a rebel movement to a modern national army. This modern national army - the UPDF - is the bulwark of defense of our territorial integrity as well as our economy.
Today, like all other nation-states, Uganda faces new threats in addition to the more traditional geopolitical ones. These threats include cyber warfare, energy security as well as political security.
Like any modern state, these threats have necessitated the retooling and redrafting of the concept of a traditional national army.
Like Thomas Hobbes, like Amilcar Cabral - incidentally taken from the African Revolutionary Politik landscape 48 years ago by pseudo ideologues - the UPDF now has as its strategic mission a duty: “To defend and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda, and the Constitution that encapsulates people's sovereignty through popular will.”
In order to be able to achieve this strategic mission, it has invested in securing our economy by being a part of it.
Through entities like Wazalendo - A savings and Credit Cooperative Society, National Enterprise Corporation - a manufacturing conglomerate manufacturing goods beneficial to both the forces and the civilian populace, and UPDF Medical services. To its Airforce, Land Forces, Marine, and Mountain brigades, UPDF is also building capacity in the area of Cybercrime and Cyberwarfare.
In doing this, it has become a guarantor of our “Freedom and Security”! In doing this, it has anchored itself to our 2007 National Vision Statement: “A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years.”
Yes, there have been a few cases of indiscipline among some of its rank and file. However, in keeping with the ideology that won it mass support in the trenches, forests, and thickets of the vastness of Luweero triangle, a strict code of conduct is administered. This code of conduct ensures that justice is always swift and severe.
This year, on the occasion, to celebrate 41 years of its existence as a Peoples’ national army, the UPDF has adopted “Retracing the peoples’ struggle for peace and security for a modern Uganda” as its theme.
This theme, in light of UPDFs active participation in our economic affairs as well as in light of its transformation into a modern military armada, is a most welcome one.
That the Elgon region plays host to this year’s celebrations is an affirmation that UPDF has not and will not forget its roots. For it was at Maumbe Mukhwana’s home, in January of 1973, in the Elgon metropole of Mbale that its founding Commander - Yoweri Museveni - heroically evaded capture.
Happy Tarehe Sita.