12 February 2011

Uganda: UPDF's Neutrality is Key to Poll Outcome


Next week marks the final bend towards the national elections on Friday 18. The country is steeled; expectations are high with a somber mood defining the uncertainty of the outcome of the poll.

Recently though, the army has increasingly and strongly been voicing its possible intervention "in case the Police need their help". The result has been an open verbal confrontation between the army top brass and several members of the opposition who claim the former is preparing to waylay the electoral process if incumbent President Museveni does not emerge winner.

Army Commander Gen. Aronda Nyakairima is on record making statements of how the army would be available to help the Police quell any anti-social acts likely to derail the peace of the nation. For the last decade now, taxpayers have sweated out their last coins to help the government professionalise the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces. Sections of the army have received specialised training and more sophisticated equipment have been bought to boost its effectiveness.

Consequently, Uganda's army has received international invitations to participate in peace missions such as in Somalia.

But having displayed such high level of military discipline and performance internationally, the same army is expected to be more exemplary back home. The lessons coming off the Egyptian experience should be a starting point for the UPDF in dealing with citizens.

UPDF's perceived disciplined demeanour should not be a mere veiled hypocrisy. As a national army, the public expects it to be non-partisan and ready to defend the Constitution, not a personality who is standing on the way of a democratic process.

The Egyptian army has been praised for not taking sides as President Hosni Mubarak battles to save his 30-year rule from an Egyptian uprising. Such is the disciplinary character that the UPDF is expected to exhibit come February 18 and after and should avoid any sort of verbal confrontation that is likely to indicate that the army is partisan or bending its loyalty to President Museveni.

Along its plaid history, the army has been reputed to serve the interests of who was in power and has soiled its reputation by engaging in coup d'états all with disastrous consequences to civilians. This time, please prove that you cannot to be taken for a ride.

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