Kampala — The creation of Special Forces within the UPDF is to respond to security challenges Uganda is expected to face when it joins the world's oil producing countries, military experts have told Saturday Monitor.
Security sources that said the development of Special Forces to be headed by Lt.Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, President Museveni's son, covers a commando unit in the Presidential Guard Brigade, based at Barlege, in northern Uganda, Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force which operates from the central region, staff from Internal Security External Security Organisations and a crack unit referred to in security circles as 'Warriors' under the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
President Museveni appointed Lt. Col. Muhoozi commander in charge of development of Special Forces in a series of changes in the military announced last week.
Several requests to State House to talk to Lt.Col. Muhoozi or the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB) spokesman, Capt. Edison Kwesiga failed in the last three days. Capt.Kwesiga is currently on a course. Promising to provide details after consultations, the army Defence Spokesman, Maj. Paddy Ankunda, said the Special Forces will include paratroopers, heliborne and marines' forces.
Heliborne troops are a specialised unit in the army that is carried by helicopters or aircraft during combat. "[The Special Forces] are part and parcel of the doctrine of the UPDF," Maj. Ankunda said. "They are developed in all the countries."
Military sources, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of discussing national security matters said one of the duties of the Special Forces is to protect the oil wells on Lake Albert in western Uganda.
Until recently regular UPDF troops have been in charge of protecting the country's strategic assets including the oil wells in the western region. The Special Forces will also be responsible for conducting rescue missions in hostage-taking situations, fighting terrorism, banditry, VIP protection and counter-intelligence.
The forces will also have the freedom to intervene in humanitarian disasters and in fighting armed drug cartels, the sources added.
On top of the Special Forces, UPDF has Land Forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala and the Air Force under Maj. Gen. Jim Owoyesigire. Special Forces will be among the specialised UPDF elements forming its core. The other specialised elements include CMI, the Armoured and Engineering Brigade.
President Museveni formed the Special Forces on the recommendations of a Cabinet Paper on national security, the sources said. The Paper formed the basis of the government White Paper on the Defence Review cabinet approved in 2004. The defence review was a project funded by the British government that studied Uganda's strategic military requirements of a small, affordable, well equipped and trained force.
The Defence review recommended a military force consisting of approximately 48,000 soldiers backed by adequate combat support and a reserve force of about 45,000.The Cabinet Paper which was presented by the Minister of Defence, Mr Amama Mbabazi, as a basis of forming Special Forces said Uganda faced many security challenges and a special force was vital.
"Therefore, Uganda must be prepared to face a range of possible scenarios ranging from best to worst case," the cabinet brief seen by Saturday Monitor indicates.
The brief gives three scenarios, one where there is a stable Uganda, the other Uganda struggling to consolidate development gains and the third where the country is in "disarray". The brief warns that global terrorism makes Uganda vulnerable and enough preparations must be put in place to counter the saboteurs of national interests.
"Over the next 10-15 years, Uganda may expect to face a diverse range of threats to the security of the state and its people. These threats may be expected to manifest themselves in different ways upon the circumstances," the brief says.
According to a source, members of Special Forces have received or will receive training to take part in joint and combined operations, where they can fight alongside the land and air forces.
Lt.Col. Muhoozi has previously participated in the operations in which three staff in the office of Minister for Water, Lands and Environment, Miria Mutagamba were taken hostage in September 2004.
The three gunmen reportedly attacked the ministry staff as the minister was out of office and held them at gunpoint. The captives were later rescued by the army and police following a shoot out.
The attackers were captured but have since been set free. Lt.Col. Muhoozi coordinated the operation from State House, Nakasero. Lt.Col. Muhoozi is also among 800 officers who graduated at the completion of General Staff Officer Intermediate Level Education programme at Fort Leavenworth, the US Army Command and General Staff College in Kansas.