UPDF Is a Unique Army but It Still Has Gaps

Part XVI of these series is a speech that President Museveni made to senior UPDF officers in Bombo during the Army Council meeting of December 20, 1999.

In his speech, Museveni makes candid a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, Opportunities and threats) analysis of the army: –

Members of the High Command and Army Council, I congratulate all of you on finishing the millennium. Furthermore, I congratulate you for finishing when you are members of the prestigious Army Council of the UPDF.

UPDF is unique:

UPDF is a unique army in the history of the world. This is for two reasons:

1. It was an army that almost had no external support. Those who know, remember that we only got two consignments of arms from outside (the first was August 1981 with only 96 rifles and the second was July 1985 with only 800 rifles).

There were also other elements like the 100 anti-tank mines of 1981 and the 800,000 rounds of AK-47 of 1985 that eased our work. Other than Castro’s fighters in the Sierra Maestra, nobody else has ever been in the same situation of isolation and succeeded as we did.

2. The second unique factor was the smallness of the initial number of fighters. When we attacked Kabamba on the 6th of February, we were about 40 but with only 27 rifles. Utilising the few arms we got at Kabamba, Karuguuza and Sunga police posts, our rifles went up to 60.

On the 7th of February, at Budimbo, I reorganised the group in the following sections of 12 people each: Section I – Sam Magara Section II – Elly Tumwine Section III – Hannington Mugabi and Section IV – Jack Muchunguzi. We now have surplus rifles, including the RPG-7B, with three rockets, that we had got from Nsunga police post, having been abandoned there by Amin’s fleeing soldiers.

That was our first RPG at that stage. The RPG was treated as a platoon support weapon operated by Kyakabaale Anthony. It was Tumwine’s Section II, with Kyakabaale’s RPG, that laid the first ambush of the resistance war at Kyekumbya, on the 18th of February, against a lorry of Tanzanians. In that ambush, we used one of the rockets and remained with two but one had no fuse.

That such a small force could grow into the present Regional Force of divisions and support arms, speaks volumes about the correctness of the methods we used to build this force.

This healthy army building continued until victory in 1986. By that time, we had the following battalions: 1st under Kutesa and Mugisha 3rd – Lumumba 5th – Kashaka 7th – Kyaligonza and Stanley Muhangi 9th – Kihanda 11th – Chefe Ali 13th – Koreta 15th – Mande 17th – Wasswa 19th – Kerim and 21st – Benon Tumukunde. There was also Special Force under Namara Katabarwa and Jet [Mwebaze] that cleared Sentema and blocked Bwaise.

Those who remember, these were effective and oversize units. 19th Batallion was, for instance, 1,900 officers and soldiers. Even before this phase, the precursor units we had like Kabalega were effective and cohesive.

You may remember how the late Benon Tumukunde and Kashillingi successfully defended the sickbays against Obote’s attacks (Tumukunde at Sebuguzi’s and Kashillingi at Musisi’s dam) when the main force had gone away to Kabamba and Hoima respectively. Since then, we have developed even more but a lot of gaps have also developed. These gaps affect performance unnecessarily. What are these gaps, what caused these gaps and how can they be filled?

Filling the gaps:

The following are the gaps:

1. Officer Development

Officer development, NCO-training and training of soldiers and ensuring that the soldiers remain up to the mark. In short, training, command and control (mafunzo na kusimamia). The biggest blow against officer development has been lack of training and lack of training has been due to the ill health of the candidates, the insurgency which has taken away resources and bad plans that have not prioritised training using the scarce resources.

Sometimes, I intervene and insist on some courses like OBC, officer cadet courses, some NCO courses that were run in Gulu by Chefe Ali and Coy Comanders’ courses in Monduli, Tanzania. However, to-date, according to the Training department, 1,200 officers have never received any leadership training at all while another 1,200 have not gone beyond officer cadet course or OBC!

Failing the health standards meant that those who gained a lot of experience in combat could not benefit from the goodwill abroad for our cause to develop professionally. Sometimes, in order to save the face of Uganda, I would improvise by bringing in officers who had no basic combat experience to go for higher command courses.

While it is true that most courses first give a resume of the earlier courses, a resume is not the same as climbing the ladder, course by course. During military training, you study a topic in the classroom and then you go to the field to implement it. I do not think that with a resume at higher courses, you would do this.

Therefore, not only are the skills not developed but even the professional attitude is not developed. People become stunted professionally. They remain semi-civilian. Failing the health standard also means that the fitness standards are very low. When we sent some of our people to Nachingwea for training, soon after, one of our very good people broke down and died because of the physical exertions.

It is, therefore, a dilemma. How do you have officers and soldiers who are not physically fit? It is, of course, worse when they do not develop their theoretical knowledge of military combat skills, organisation and administration.

However, to have a leader who only knows about combat skills theoretically and not practically, because of physical incapacitation, is also quite limited. It is, however, better than having somebody with no practical knowledge and no theoretical knowledge. Lack of physical fitness also means that commanders can no longer go with their troops if it involves walking.

If officers cannot walk with their troops, they start relying on reports. In time, these reports become falsified and the combat situation is no longer correctly understood.

On the question of developing the officers of UPDF, I propose two measures:

a) Recast the training corp in the training schools so that the trainers use more modern and rigorous methods of training. I will link you with trainers from European academies such as Sandhurst take full aantage of them. In the coming budgets, rebuild Officer Cadet School at Jinja, equipping it with everything that is required.

b) Furthermore, I want all the officers to fill in their ranks with the requisite training. The state lent you high ranks before you did the requisite training in order to improve management but also in anticipation that you would do the requisite courses in time as a fill-in. It has taken us too long to do so. Let us now, however, do it. Since one of the problems was failing to meet the health standards of the foreign academies, let us build our own Command and Staff College, probably at Ssingo.

This is partly for historical reasons. That Command and Staff College should, initially, be manned by staff and instructors from more aanced armies. The first intakes should be of those whose mastery of English is good. Then let us create our own instructors who should, then, master Swahili as a language of instruction.

Thereafter, our own staff should pass that knowledge to our officers, even those of our commanders who do not have good mastery of English. In the meantime, the Army Commander is to ensure that the education department is alphabetising all commanders so that they will be ready to master Swahili.

Training for Infantry:

The second gap is lack of continuous training for infantry. Infantry used to perform well in the bush and soon after the bush. The early successes were all by infantry. Kaiti, Muterere, Iyolwa, Apala Primary School, Alito, Opit Railway Station, Corner-Kilak, Puranga, Patongo, Chwero, Gulu barracks, Lira town, Soroti Railway station, etc.

During these confrontations, some defensive but many offensive, the bandits were badly hit, losing a lot of combatants. At Corner-Kilak they lost about 1,000 combatants, including Eric Odwar. Since then, however, the quality of infantry seemed to have deteriorated. That is how we have, sometimes, got setbacks in some incidents involving Anywar, the one east of Gulu and the one involving Willit.

Even now, though, there is still some good performance like the operations by Bwirizayo, Lwasse and the commander who defeated Kony south of Koch-Goma. I want to resolve this weakness once and for all. In order to even out the erraticness of the performance of infantry, I told you to have manuals for all commanders covering the activities they engage in constantly so that they always remind themselves all the time.

I even wrote a draft for you. Up to now, I have never had a response on that draft. This is an area you must resolve. I want every infantry man of UPDF to be a good marksman, to know instinctively how to identify and utilise cover (Kutambua na kutumia cover), how to aance under fire, how to prepare a defence, how to be an integral part of a section and platoon and all the basic infantry skills.

We cannot continue to compromise on this one. As I have told you, the best way to do it is to have a handbook on all these basic skills and practices. All Cos and OCs of Coys must have this handbook.

Some arms have taken aantage of the opportunities we gave them to build credible forces. The Armoured Brigade, starting with Kazini, took aantage of the Koreans and the Russians to build quite an effective force. I could clearly see this in the pre-Kaaya rehearsal we had at Olwiyo, the pre-Jabelin rehearsal we had in Aswa ranch, the shooting exercises at Kaburangire and Kalama. Aronda has maintained the standard of the force.


The performance of the tanks in combat at Kaaya, Tingiri, Aruu junction against the Sudanese from Kit and Businga shows that the Tank Force is reliable. This must be maintained. The tank commanders should be sent for overseas courses in commanding formations of tanks and perfecting their coordination with Artillery, APCs, other fighting vehicles, ATGMs, infantry and Air defence troops.

You should acquire simulators and training tanks instead of using MBTs for training, which is not economic. I do not know whether your maintenance crews did all the stages of training. If there is any stage maintenance you did not do, do it. Also acquire more tank carriers. We should be able to carry, at least, a company of tanks at a go.

You know that we have been looking into using improved ammunition such as the types we used at Jabelin and also into the target acquisition systems. A lot of potential in improving the lethality of our tanks exists.

We shall handle them within the means of our budgets. However, I direct that the facility at Kalama be improved. Construct a yard with concrete floor for parking our tanks build there a dormitory with a water-borne sewerage system and build a civilised observation point at the top of the hill.

The Artillery:

The Artillery Regiment has also developed quite well. They acquitted themselves very well at Poki hill near Kaaya, Kajo-keji, Tingiri, Jabelin, Lalia hill near Torit, at Duria near Buta against the Chadians, at Businga, recently at Basankusu airport and briefly at Kasangulu against the Zimbabweans when we were supporting the Rwandese.

Whenever I observe the Artillery exercises at Butiaba, I see that the regiment has got the basic skills. They need to speed up the rate of fire. It takes too long between the ranging shots and the barrage. An enemy would have shifted position. Recently, I directed the Army Commander to ensure that he acquires a meteorological station for the regiment Atmospheric conditions affect accuracy of fire.

We need computer assistance to correct the distortions of the atmospheric conditions. In the direct fire weapons, the 76mm did not do well because the legs were not secured in the ground. You must solve that problem. The Army Commander must also solve the issue of the acoustic range finders to quickly locate the enemy artillery so as to annihilate it.

Air defence:

The Air Defence has always done well. They shot down two MI-24 combat helicopters of the Sudanese at Jabelin in spite of the fact that they were equipped with ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) they shot down a MIG-21 at Aswa valley they shot down Zimbabwean MIGs at Kasangulu. The only bother has been the high- altitude Antonov that merely harasses our forces out of range and terrorises civilians.

That is why we bought the 100mm anti-aircraft gun. Although it is out-of-date, it was bought cheaply and can be upgraded. It will turn out to be an all-weather solution to air-threats, especially the aanced ones, if we equip it with TV cameras in addition to better radars and computers. It solves the question of range and can be immunised against ECMs of aanced aircrafts.

We are about to complete our air-defence capacity after we have acquired MIGs that, moreover, we are in the process of improving by upgraidng. As far as the anti-aircraft guns are concerned, we need tow capacity. Acquire, within the means of your budget, appropriate tow vehicles.

Sometime ago, we acquired ATGMs. First, we acquired the Milan. Then the rather inefficient Red-Arrow 73 and, eventually, the very effective Red-Arrow 8 and the Mapatz. These are very lethal systems. In the shooting exercises at Nabugabo and in the field they have proved very effective. One of the systems helped us to defeat the Angolans at Bbumba with 100 per cent kill rate against the Nyolas of the opposite side.

The Military Intelligence recently performed well against the terrorists in Kampala. They should keep it up. In addition to relying on technical means, they should ensure that agents infiltrate all hostile groups. They should also improve the technical means. You are not yet able to listen to mobile telephones and satellite phones.

You should resolve this issue. Brigadier Ivan Koreta knows something about this subject. Also the capacity of locating the enemy’s transmission positions, either by radio or by telephone, is crucial to enable us to eliminate terrorists quickly before we waste resources in protracted anti-bandit operations. The system has developed some forensic capacity, which is quite good.

Army aviation (helicopters) have done a tremendous job. Sulambaya (M-17) not only carries out fire-fight missions, but it is a troop carrier, an ambulance and logistic vehicle for ordinance. However, the weakness of the Air-force is that they do not recruit young potential pilots. I hope this weakness is resolved.

Army aviation should have been part of an Airforce. As you know, however, we have not been having other elements of the Airforce. We have now, however, acquired interceptors. These will form the fighter squadron of the Airforce. It is high time, therefore, we built a fully-fledged Airforce comprised of the following elements:

i ) Helicopter transport squadron

ii) Helicopter fighter squadron comprising of the MI-24, an interceptor squadron comprising of the MIGs and

iii) A transport squadron comprising of appropriate cargo planes and a few passenger planes for coordination.

Marine service and field engineering:

As far as marine service and field engineering are concerned, they are still in a pre-mordial state. Field engineering is still at the stage of just storing mines and carrying out simple demining operations. You must plan to go beyond this stage so that you acquire bridging equipment, you are able to do fortifications if necessary and some capacity in road construction.

It is, therefore, good that field engineering is now part of the Armoured Brigade where the rather large component of the de-mining equipment we have is also housed. I am, here, referring to the Mambas, the Buffaloes, the Chubbies and specialised de-mining tanks – the T54s. Unfortunately, however, you have been using the special de-mining vehicles for cross-country fire-support missions while chasing bandits.

This use is not appropriate. We are now buying you better suited vehicles in the form of the BTR-60s, Desert-Riders and the BMP-2s. These are the ones suited for cross-country operations against bandits and cattle rustlers. Henceforth, you should desist from using the anti-mine vehicles in cross-country roles. You should confine them on the roads for escort duties and anti-mine operations.

The Marine service has remained stunted. Yet 20 per cent of Uganda’s land area is under water. Apart from the Alinda boats which we bought from Yugoslavia many years ago, there has been no further development in the Marines service. I do not even know whether the Alinda boats are still in service. The Alinda boats had a rider that had a radius of 20km.

I saw some gunboats in Eritrea, which had riders with a radius of 45km. They could also negotiate the Red Sea waters. You should not forget that Lake Victoria is a large water body with high waves. You, therefore, need to assess whether the Alinda are still more suitable boats or whether we need to acquire more boats in future. Remember also that there are lakes Albert and Edward, which are on the border with Congo.

Source : The Observer

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