With Museveni’s four decades of being in power, he is increasingly relying on the military to run both the government and State institutions
Uganda may be the only African nation where the army has formal representation in Parliament.
Originally intended to keep the military up to date with government operations, this has evolved into practically every aspect of Uganda’s public life being influenced by the military.
A normal effort to impose commercial order by Kampala Capital City Authorities in the last month might easily be misconstrued as a rebel cleansing from the city.
Military police from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), aided by the police, were often seen chasing sellers to remove them off the streets.
The UPDF troops are also stationed in almost all, if not all, of the police stations in the Kampala Metropolitan Area. The country’s political-military convergence is pervasive. The army’s control over police and other civilian jobs has been disguised as “joint security” operations.
The army is authorized under the Constitution, the Police Act of 2006, and the UPDF Act of 2005 to collaborate with the police on problems of national security.
One of the most eloquent government documents describing or understanding President Museveni’s strategy is the 2004 Defense White Paper on “defense transformation.”
A defense review identifies 134 potential threats in the paper, which are then classified into nine generic threat categories: border insecurity, destabilizing external influences, political instability, environmental stress, resource constraints, human underdevelopment, internal insecurity, economic shocks, and stress, social polarization, and civil disaster.
The majority of the identified dangers were non-military in character, yet the government seems to consider the military as a solution to them.
Thru remarks and acts such as the military attack on Parliament and law courts, President Museveni has made apparent his disdain for institutions such as Parliament, the Judiciary, and the police throughout the years. In most, if not all, of the situations, he has resorted to the military for the silver bullet.
President Museveni has appointed military personnel (both active and retired) to significant civil sector positions in recent years. Internal Affairs Ministries, which oversee the police, immigration, and prisons, are essentially in the hands of the military.
To put it another way, President Museveni, a UPDF General, is deputized by Maj (rtd) Jessica Alupo. The President’s son, who has yet to deny social media flattery from friends and followers that he will succeed his father as President, has been on a foreign affairs charm offensive.
General Muhoozi Kainerugaba has tweeted against Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burkina Faso, which should get any soldier in jail.
His visit to Kigali to meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been hailed as the pivotal element in Rwanda’s reopening its land border with Uganda after a three-year stalemate.
President Museveni’s Cabinet now includes two four-star generals, Katumba Wamala (Works) and David Muhoozi (State Minister for Internal Affairs). Senior Cabinet members include Generals (retd) Moses Ali, Kahinda Otafiire, Jeje Odongo, and Jim Muhweezi.
Generals David Muhoozi, Katumba Wamala, and Jeje Odongo have also led Uganda’s military in the past. Col (rtd) Charles Engola, Lt Col (rtd) Bright Rwamirama, and Col (rtd) Tom Butime are also former army officers in Cabinet.
Two more serving Generals have lately been appointed as senior public officers in two critical ministries. Maj Gen David Kasura Kyomukama is the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture, while Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu is the Permanent Secretary of Internal Affairs. With the appointment of Gen Musanyufu, the Internal Affairs ministry is now governed by three military generals.
When appointed as ministers, soldiers who are not part of the 10-member UPDF representation in Parliament sit in the House as ex-oficios.
Uganda Police, Uganda Prisons Services, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), and the Directorate of Citizenship, which also serves as the Secretariat of the National Citizenship and Immigration Board, are all part of the Internal Affairs ministry.
Only the Uganda Prisons Service is not managed by professional soldiers.
For over two decades, Uganda Police was commanded by Gen Katumba (briefly) and Gen Kale Kayihura. Following Kayihura, President Museveni nominated Maj Gen Steven Sabiiti Muzeyi to the position of Deputy Inspector General of Police. Gen Muzeyi was succeeded by the late Lieutenant General Paul Lokech.
Following Lokech’s death, President Museveni named Maj Gen Geoffrey Tumusiime Kasigazi as his police replacement.
President Museveni recently replaced CID director, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Grace Akullo, with Maj Tom Magambo to strengthen the military’s grip over police authority. Maj Magambo was promoted to Major from the rank of Private.
UPDF senior officers Christopher Damulira (director of criminal intelligence), Jesse Kamunanwire (human resource director), Jack Bakasumba, the Chief of Joint Staff (CJS), and Godfrey Golooba lead four critical top jobs in the police force below the IGP and his deputy (director of human resource development and training).
Maj Gen Apollo Kasita-Gowa is on board NIRA, which is staffed with several troops and is based in Kololo. Until recently, Brig Gen Stephen Kwiringira, a military commander, oversaw the organization, with numerous other army officers in charge of activities. The Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) was transferred to the military in 2019, with three top UPDF commanders appointed to manage the organization.
The Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control is led by Maj Gen Apollo Gowa Kasiita. The Commissioner for Citizenship and Passport Control is Brig Johnson Namanya, while the Commissioner for Immigration Control is Col Geoffrey Kambere.
Only Dr. Josephine Ekwang Ali, the Commissioner for Inspection and Legal Services, is not a career soldier among the DCIC’s top seven commanders.
In order to combat corruption, President Museveni established a military-led organization with a mission similar to that of the constitutionally required Inspector General of Government (IGG). Calls to dissolve the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, which was formerly led by President Museveni’s former adviser Col Edith Nakalema, fell on deaf ears.
The government’s position has been that the entity is providing further assistance in the battle against corruption.
Brig Henry Isoke, a top UPDF officer, recently took over for Col Nakalema.
In Uganda’s battle against Covid-19, the military was often given more cash than the Ministry of Health in the security response to the epidemic. The military was represented on the committees tasked with combating Covid-19.
President Museveni commanded in July 2021 that the UPDF Construction Brigade build schools and hospitals, a move he indicated would be eventually expanded to embrace other sectors of government.
The military also plays an important and active role in Uganda’s tax collecting activities. A unit of UPDF troops is permanently stationed in the tax body’s activities. Career soldiers have been assigned in government ministries, departments, and agencies, or members of their employees have received military training.
Paramilitary training has been provided to employees of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), for example.
Over the last two decades, the army has wielded considerable power in enforcing military punishment on civilians. This has been reinforced by President Museveni’s dissatisfaction with the civilian court’s proceedings and his government’s desire to retain the court’s ability to trial civilians.
The Constitutional Court declared last year in a historic decision that the Court Martial had no authority to prosecute civilians. The court found, by a vote of three judges to two, that although the Court Martial is a competent court under the 1995 Constitution, its powers are confined to serving officers of the UPDF.
The ruling comes five years after former Nakawa MP Michael Kabaziguruka filed a plea in 2016 challenging his prosecution in the General Court Martial. Mr. Kabaziguruka was charged with possessing guns, which are the exclusive domain of the armed services.
Mr. Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Attorney General (AG), has subsequently filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the Constitutional Court’s decision to halt civilian trials in army courts.
Given the backlog of cases and the time it takes to make such judgments, the status quo that the Constitutional Court overturned may continue for a long time. The Supreme Court’s ruling is likewise unpredictable.
As the army commemorates Tarehe Sita, the day when the battle against the government began with an assault on Kabamba after the disputed 1980 elections, it is safe to conclude that 41 years later, the UPDF is firmly in power. What is the goal?