6 February 2013

Uganda: Tarehe Sita - Reason to Celebrate, and Ponder


Today is Tarehe Sita, the day our army marks the attack on Kabamba barracks in 1981, which essentially launched the five-year guerrilla war that eventually brought NRM to power in 1986.

The national celebrations, a culmination of week-long activities, are being held in Arua. The UPDF, and Ugandans in general, are justified to celebrate Tarehe Sita. Although the day is born out of unfortunate circumstances, the outcome of the war is worth celebrating in as far as we now have an army that most Ugandans are proud of.

In fact, of all the achievements of President Museveni and his NRM over the last 27 years, army discipline is only one of a few where there is hardly any dispute. In cases where soldiers have misbehaved, especially towards civilians, the resolve to punish them has been consistent. Cases like that of junior officer Herbert Rwakihembo, who shot and killed three civilians in Luzira in December, clearly demonstrate this. The army quickly organised a field court martial where he was tried and convicted.

It must also be said that UPDF has registered tremendous success in Somalia and made Uganda proud. There might still be disagreement as to whether the soldiers should have been deployed there in the first place, the casualties sustained, and the related terrorist attacks in Kampala in 2010, but there is no doubt they have done a good job. Mogadishu was a no-go area when they moved in six years ago but now the city is largely secure and the country has a new president.

The UPDF must also be credited for driving out Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army from northern Uganda, even if it took a little too long. However, as UPDF celebrates this day, the officers and men need to ponder the critical need to transit from a politically partisan force that overthrew a government and installed another to a truly national army, whose core duty is to protect the state, not necessarily the government of the day.

The umbilical cord joining the army and the regime, which has been deliberately maintained for political expedience, must be severed in national interest.

A happy Tarehe Sita to all officers and men of the UPDF!

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