Experts – UPDF Keeping NRM in Government

An upcoming book by legal experts has detailed how the UPDF has been fused with the state to maintain the NRM in power.

Militarized Democracy: The Uganda Case is written by Dr Busingye Kabumba, Dr Timothy Kyepa and Dan Ngabirano of Development Law Associates. The authors argue that the UPDF, which morphed from a rebel outfit of the National Resistance Movement into a national army, has continued to serve the interests of NRM as opposed to becoming a national army.

Although the trio acknowledge that NRM has made inroads in ushering in a new era of democracy in Uganda, its continued grip on the military has eroded those gains.

“The NRM continued to struggle to show a ‘human face’ while maintaining a firm grip on the military, which had been the means by which it acquired power in 1986, and which continued to be its real power base,” the manuscript partly reads.

Kabumba and colleagues argue that much as the NRM enacted laws that empower Ugandans to choose how they should be governed and by whom, this representation has at the same time been contradicted by its clear stance that “there was really, in any and all instances, one correct choice – a predetermined, preset ‘correct line’ which would be maintained, and defended, at all costs, and by any means necessary, including by force of arms.”

The manuscript of the book, which was on Thursday peer-reviewed at Metropole hotel in Kampala, provides a historical evolution of the military’s role in Uganda’s politics before delving into the discussion on how the military has been utilized by the current regime to consolidate power.

“This reality infused all spheres of the exercise of governmental power, and was particularly reflected in the way the NRM used the Parliament to enact laws to suit its political agenda the disrespect it showed towards court orders, especially those from the Constitutional court as well as deliberate use made (sic) of the military, both at home and abroad, to serve the needs and ends of the NRM government,” the authors note.

The authors cite instances such as the use of the army to suppress political dissent, participation of army in civilian politics and implementation of government programs.

“All these roles currently being played by the army are contrary to its mandate envisaged by the constitution,” Busingye told The Observer, on the sidelines after the review of the manuscript.

The review panel that included academicians, civil society and political leaders, welcomed the manuscript that will be published soon.

“This is a welcome debate and I think it is important that we discuss what the military is meant to serve and as to whether it is serving this purpose,” said Aaron Mukwaya, a political science don at Makerere University, during the panel review discussion.

In his criticism of the manuscript, Richard Mugisha of Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), which supported the research, aised the authors to link their thesis to the broader political economy.

“I think that the authors before they publish, because this is half of the story, they need to explain why a former colony can only be ruled by the military, and what is the impact of globalization on our functioning as a state,” Mugisha said.

When contacted last week, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said that the book was misplaced.

“Those [UPDF and NRM] are separate and very different altogether,” Ankunda said without delving into the substance of the manuscript, since he had not read it.


After considering the fact that the legal reform cannot be a solution to the current problem associated with militarization of the state, the authors recommend a state rebirth.

“Any prospects for a return to real democracy in Uganda should therefore be founded upon a wide and broad-based non-partisan and organic movement of Ugandans, united by this shared vision and committed to building it peacefully and sustainably,” the manuscript says.

Source : The Observer