14 September 2012

Uganda: Rapid Army Promotions Normal


MUHOOZI Kainerugaba's recent promotion to the rank of brigadier was treated as unusual by some publications and also by Okello Lucima, the new spokesperson of the near defunct Uganda People's Congress.

They argued that he is too young and inexperienced to have attained such a rank. The fact of the matter is that rapid promotions in new and revolutionary political systems are not unusual.

For instance, at independence, whose Golden Jubilee we are marking this year, Milton Obote and many of the top political and military leaders that emerged with him, did not have much of an experience to write home about.

Noting that just a few years before his late 1950s LEGCO sojourn, Obote had been just but a clerk in Kenya! And yet this is not questioned in the ongoing series in one of the dailies currently analysing the politics associated with our independence.

What occurred in Uganda then was not unusual. It applied in nearly all the newly independent countries. For instance, many of the generals and senior officers in the Kenyan army, at independence were non commissioned officers, in the King's African Rifles.

They only got rapid promotion, also known as Africanisation, after the 1964 East African mutinies. After this mutiny, Mwalimu Nyerere disbanded the old colonial army and established the revolutionary Tanzanian People's Defence Force (Jeshi Ya Wananchi/ Wakombozi), whose officers were recruited from the Tanganyika National Union (TANU) youth league.

A handful as Herman Lupogo and Joseph Butiku were Makerere graduates. Lupogo was rapidly promoted to become a TPDF general, while Butiku who left the main stream military to become Nyerere's principal private secretary rose to the rank of major.

These rapid promotions did not undermine the efficacy of the TPDF, a mighty force that protected Tanzanian national unity in addition to territorial integrity from external, highly organized and dangerous aggressors as Portuguese colonialist in Mozambique, Ian Smith's Rhodesians and Apartheid South Africa.

The TPDF also protected Tanzania from Idi Amin, and actually liberated Ugandans from this ruthless dictator. It also contributed to the liberation of White led Southern Africa.

Given this background, Brig. Muhoozi's promotion is not unusual, bearing in mind his level of training and 12 years of eventful experience within the UPDF.

Soldiers with less achievement and capacity were more rapidly promoted by Milton Obote and the UPC in both the 1960s and 1980s, for instance, the murderous self-proclaimed Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada or Gen. Bazilio Olara Okello and indeed the inept Brig. Smith Apon Acak. And in our case, these promotions turned tragic, bearing in mind Amin's misrule or the criminal indiscipline of the so-called Uganda National Liberation Army.

In the history of the mighty NRA/UPDF many more officers have received more meteoric promotions. For instance, when the NRA instituted formal ranks in 1988, most of its officers had not served the 12 years Brig. Muhoozi has served, and had less training and exposure.

However, many became very senior. As for instance Colonels Mugisha Muntu, Lumumba, Kizza Besigye, Sserwanga Lwanga, Drago Nyanzi, Badru Kiyingi to mention but a few.

Months later, Muntu was catapulted from the rank of Lt. Col to Major General and concurrently made Army Commander!

These promotions were the more remarkable, because based on the NRA bush war tradition, most officers rose from the basic rank of private to become senior officers Muhoozi, on the other hand, within the UPDF, joined as an Officer Cadet.

Furthermore, most of these NRA officers were in their 20s while, some lacked the requisite formal education, for example Drago and Kiyingi, lacked world class professional officer corps training.

That said, however their promotion by the same Commander-in-Chief, President Museveni, who promoted Muhoozi, was deserving.

NRA not only captured power from a sitting government but also safeguarded our democratisation and social economic transformation.

Consequently, Brig. Muhoozi's promotion is less spectacular than many of the above mentioned NRA officers, for joining as an officer cadet and not a private, he skipped four ranks below the rank of Lieutenant, the basic officer rank.

Muhoozi is also one of the best trained living officers anywhere on planet earth. Furthermore, he has served in different command capacities and participated in battles, here and in the region.

The writer is the outgoing DPPS HE/Ambassadorial Designate.

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