By Matthew Ikondere
The Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF), named so in the 1995 constitution of the Republic of Uganda, from the initial National Resistance Army, a force that saw the final overthrow of dictatorship in Uganda, and has continued to protect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, defeated armed groups such as that of Lakwena, a slave of mysticism as described by the Commander in Chief H.E Yoweri Museveni, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony and the Allied Democratic Force.
In his book Sowing the Mustard Seed, H.E Yoweri Museveni noted that his government introduced, a group of disciplined men and women to the general public of Uganda, who had never seen a disciplined army like the NRA/UPDF. This had a calming and reassuring effect on the population and the investors.
Over the past few weeks however, the UPDF has come under heavy criticism from the local media, some sections of the citizenry, politicians and these so called international human rights activists, and it has led to an unnecessary generalization of the UPDF as an unprofessional army, thus portraying a bad image of the force. This is not true. And such statements from individuals are either made out of ignorance or red herring.
Even when certain elements within the army are involved in acts that are prohibited, this does not erode the professionalism the army has struggled to build and maintain over the years. One thing we ought to know is soldiers are human and sometimes make mistakes too. Those that have committed crimes against the “wanainchi” have over the years been arrested, tried and convicted by the General Court Martial. It is clear that army leadership does not condone indiscipline from its men in uniform.
Serving in the military takes the ultimate sacrifice. Think about the gruesome training the soldiers go through, the sleepless nights (Hakuna Usingizi), watching over the country, maintaining the peace and stability, so that people can go about their daily business and sleep comfortably. These soldiers have families they take long to see or visit because of their selflessness and duty to protect the nation (Wajibu wa kulinda taifa).
We, as a patriotic citizenry, let us learn to appreciate the work these men and women in uniform are doing, and when they go wrong let us help them to do better. They too need our support. Let us protect them from negativity portrayed by some unpatriotic individuals.
The UPDF leadership has continued to fulfill its core mission; to preserve, defend and protect the people, property, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda.
The institution continues to take steps towards total professionalism of the army through training, self-sufficient ventures like the recent launch of the Nyoka Military Conversion facility used by the UPDF Service Brigade to assemble armored infantry fighting vehicles (Nyoka).
The UPDF has also revealed a plan to establish a National Defense College, a premium strategic National Defense Institution, that will provide professional joint military education at a strategic level. This clearly signifies the strides the UPDF is taking to manage the security of the state, and contemporary security challenges.
The UPDF has also contributed to regional stability and support towards international peace initiatives in Somalia, South Sudan, and Central African Republic among others.
It is of no doubt that the Uganda People's Defence Force is a subject of National pride, a genuine, patriotic, people’s army (Jeshi la wanainchi) and a guardian of stability.
Like the popular UPDF song says; Tuna lengo moja tu ijenge taifa, Uganda mpya kila mutu afanye kazi (Let us all work, because we have just one goal to build the nation).
Maisha marefu Kwa Wanaume na wanawake wa UPDF, na wale wote ambao wamekufa, tunakumbuka kwenu.