The origin of the Ugandan military can be traced back to 1902 when the Uganda battalion of the king’s African Rifles was formed. They were trained by the British colonialists and became the Uganda Rifles after independence in 1962.
Its name has been changed several times over the years but the present day modern Ugandan army was constituted in 1995 after having gone through various tumultuous periods in the History of Uganda, mainly the seemingly endless conflicts, guerrilla wars and the absurd misuse of the army by the past regimes that engulfed the country’s past.
After the enactment of the new constitution in 1995, the army – the National Resistance Army (NRA) as it was previously called, changed its name to the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), reflecting a new start to a patriotic, professional and disciplined national army, an army of unity to protect and defend the people and the constitution of Uganda.
The UPDF is made up of the military component which is the armed forces and a civil component that is mainly administrative. The military consists of the land forces and an Air wing and has about 40 – 45,000 strong men and women of the armed forces.
The army, mainly the land component of the Ugandan military includes five divisions – each with up to five brigades, one armored and one artillery brigade. The headquarters (HQ) of the Ugandan military – land forces is located in Bombo, a small municipality north of the Capital, Kampala. The headquarters of the Ministry of Defence are located in Mbuya, Kampala.
The UPDF marine wing operates mainly in the Lake Victoria and the Nile River regions taking charge of patrolling the area. The army also has an Air Force wing.
The primary role of the Ugandan army is envisaged to be one of defence – and the term ‘defence’ is to be understood as being applicable to protection of not only the physical borders of Uganda, but also the interests and security of Uganda any where in the world.
Its main active role in recent times has been to get rid of any armed conflict in all parts of the country, to make Uganda peaceful and enjoyable and in this; was to get rid of Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the northern region – an armed conflict that has taken over 20 years with atrocities beyond human imagination!
On this front, the Ugandan military scored highly particularly given the sophisticated nature of the conflict, one that brought a lot of suffering to the region. Since 2005, Kony is not in Uganda and his remnants have been pushed to the forests in the DR Congo and the Central African Republic as they continue to pursue him there.
Forget about the ongoing propaganda of ‘KONY 2012’ on the social media network – for me, for all its good cause, it’s come rather too late and only confusing the world into thinking that the north is still in such deep conflict. Total peace has since returned to the region and its back to business.
The Ugandan military has also been deeply involved in peace-keeping efforts in troubled regions mainly in African as part of the African Union (AU) forces – with the very recent being in troubled Somalia were they are still involved.
It has also been actively involved in the area of disaster control and management, normally after natural disasters and in addition to the peace-keeping efforts in Somalia; it is also involved in on-going training of Somalia forces to speed up the stabilization process.
The military age for joining the UPDF is 18 for both men and women. As opposed to the past, women have now been recruited to the Ugandan military and they now have more access to military roles than before, but they are not bound by forced conscription. There are presently about 1600 women in active and reserve roles in the army.
Talk about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, one will say why even mention this for such a small nation but this is one thing that needs to be put on record. The Ugandan military is also top of the honour list for; they do not stock, manufacture, or proliferate any – At least you can quote me on that for now …