10 March 2019

Uganda: Why We Need to Check the Mental Health of Our Soldiers

Photo: Daily Monitor
Ugandan army Officer (file photo).
opinion

Last week, a video circulated on social media of Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, Uganda's ambassador to Burundi, and his bodyguards physically assaulting Sgt Esther Namaganda, a female traffic officer who was on duty.

According to Namaganda, Gen Kyaligonza's bodyguards jumped out of the big car, approached her in silence and grabbed her by the collar on one side while the other held her left arm and she thought they were about to kidnap her.

The UPDF quickly responded by arresting Kyaligonza's army guards. Although a police case has been opened, it remains to be seen if any investigations or court proceedings will be brought against the Bush War general.

There is suspicion among some members of the public as to whether there will be any action against Kyaligonza since he is a senior member of the ruling NRM's central executive committee.

It was reported in The Observer this week that the defiant ambassador is not bothered with the ongoing police investigation, but only awaits the President to take any action he deems fit after getting correct facts.

"If the decision is to recall me, I would not be the first person to lose a post in Bunyoro [sub-region]. [Henry] Kajura left, Matia Kasaija and me were the only two politicians remaining on the national cake from Bunyoro and yet Kasaija's position [minister of Finance] is overshadowed by his deputy (David Bahati)," Maj Gen Kyaligonza allegedly told guests at his residence at the weekend.

The general seems to send a defiant message, with no sign of remorse. And his violent behaviour in the past does not seem to help matter.

In 2017, the Centre for Military Health Research at King's College London conducted research on British soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and found a link between military service and violent crimes.

It was found that 53 per cent of the soldiers involved in combat were more likely to commit violent offences and 80 per cent had higher risk of becoming violent criminals.

This begs the question on the quality, if any, of mental health support given before, during and after operations for our brothers and sisters in the armed forces.

Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.

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