Uganda: Museveni - the Region's Security Doyen

By Arthur Arnold Wadero

Uganda has played an outsized role in regional security under President Museveni over the past 35 years, turning him into the West's doyen on matters of stability, particularly in the Great Lakes.

It is not without basis, considering that Uganda was the first, and remains the largest, troop contributor to the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), or the National Resistance Army (NRA) as its precursor was called, says it has defeated 27 home-grown rebel groups from when it barrelled its way to State power in 1986.

One of the more notorious insurgent bands was the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), declared by the United States as a global terrorist group.

Led by Joseph Kony, it brutalised northern Uganda for almost two decades, leaving in its trail physical ruin and damaged generations mainly in Acholi Sub-region.

In 2005, the marauding LRA rebels had fled Uganda under UPDF firepower to spread mayhem in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic.

This onslaught galvanised regional armies operating under the aegis of the African Union, and in later years with intelligence and logistical support by the on-ground United States Special Forces, to counter LRA offensive and diminish its threat across frontiers.

The NRA's military portion first manifested when part of the fighters, before the fall of Kampala, broke ranks to start the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) war that catapulted Paul Kagame to power.

President Museveni also committed Ugandan troops, for instance, to fight for years alongside the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) against now deposed Omar al-Bashir government in Khartoum, culminating in the independence of South Sudan.

And when violence snowballed in Juba in December 2013, triggered by fractured relations between Salva Kiir and his Vice Riek Machar, UPDF quickly raced to secure the capital, evacuate trapped citizens and other foreigners.

UPDF Air Force then pounded the break-away and pro-Machar SPLA faction, tilting the balance of terror and power in favour of a shaken Kiir, who will be among guests in the VVIP marquee at today's swearing-in of Museveni for a sixth elective term.

But not all executed and planned foreign military exploits by Uganda --- some critics call it 'adventure' and 'war-mongering' --- has been a success.

One such still-birth case is the country's failure, after what western intelligence sources say was a clandestine scheme with South Africa, to deploy troops to fend off attacks that toppled Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The plan, according to sources, was for the mobilised African forces to confront Western powers head-on in close combat in the battle for the soul of Libya, and in defence of African Union mantra of 'African solution to African problems', had Gaddafi forces not merely melted away following blistering bombing raid led by France and Britain.

Closer home, the repeat volleys of violence in South Sudan, where Kampala is accused of taking side, has pushed nearly a million of its citizens to seek refuge ironically in Uganda.

Whereas the invasion of DRC in 1997 by Ugandan and Rwandan troops toppled long-serving Mobutu Sese Seko, the feat was drenched in the blood of soldiers of the invaders killed in their own clashes in Kisangani.

In addition, Laurent Desire-Kabila installed as a successor in May 1997 was assassinated in January 2001, bringing to an early and abrupt end the political victory.

It was not long before Kinshasa dragged Uganda to the International Court of Justice, accusing it of plundering its resources, among them precious metals and timber, resulting the court slapping $10 billion (Shs35.4 trillion) fine on Uganda - money still unpaid to-date.

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