NRM’s Achilles Heel & Men in Uniform

The army in Uganda has come a long way. During the colonial period, of course, the army served colonial masters – those in the army were the enforcers of inhumane policies against their own people – men in uniform were to be feared.

Then during the first regime of President Milton Obote (Obote I) it was believed that he not being a military man himself was not able to reign in the army. So, once more the men in the army were to be feared they were not our friends.

Obote’s inability to reign in the army it is believed resulted in his overthrow by strong military man Idi Amin. President Amin is world notrious, no need here to explain how the army under his military regime was feared. Only another army could overthrow Amin’s regime and it was the case.

Amin was overthrown with the help of the Tanzanian Army. When the Tanzania Army marched into Uganda and overthrew Amin it was discussed in affectionate terms – it was perceived as of good gentlemen in uniform as compared to the Uganda army under Amin.  The men in uniform in the Tanzania army we did not fear, they were our friends.

The overthrow of Amin ushered in the Obote II era and again it is believed that Obote was again unable to reign in the army, which resulted in his overthrow by military force. The overthrow of Obote ushered in the National Resistance Army (NRA), which like the Tanzania Army was received with affection and was heralded as a complete change of guard to gentlemen in uniform.

The NRA has since transformed and turned into the ‘professionalised’ Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). The men in the UPDF are generally considered gentlemen within the context of Uganda’s history – they are not to be feared, for their boss – President Museveni has them under check, it is generally widely believed among Ugandans.

It is no wonder, for example, that when General Aronda Nyakairima died he was mourned by Ugandans of all walks of life in a manner often reserved only for famous ‘super-star-personalities’. The eulogies for Gen. Aronda left no doubt of how he is affectionately regarded by Ugandans of all walks of life:

Virtues of humility, respect, tolerance and co-existence that defined his conduct …(He was) inducted into the International Hall of Fame at the Lewis and Clark Centre at Fort Leavenworth for attaining the highest position in the military of their countries … Aronda was a strict disciplinarian and wasted no time with those that veered off the ethical path. (Source: The Sunrise)

A selfless and disciplined son of Uganda who should forever be remembered by Ugandans for the contribution he made to the country. Death makes a mistake when it picks the young ones when the old ones are there. I think this has been a mistake that death has made. We should struggle to continue with what Aronda fought for instead of inciting the public on social media … A corruption and scandal free government official who dedicated his life to serving the country and bringing about development. (Source: Eagle)

The Uganda Police Force is currently headed by a military man, General Kale Kaihura, and before him another military man, General Katumba Wamala; the latter who is also highly regarded among Ugandans.

What is fascinating however is the refusal of a significant proportion of Ugandans to give credit to the institution of the UPDF for producing gentlemen in uniform; but rather they insist that those individuals – the gentlemen in uniform – who serve exceptionally within the UPDF are independent of the group-think of the UPDF?

In the recent past, similar sentiments are being expressed in relation to the Spokesperson of the Uganda Police Force, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, who was brutally murdered. The dominant narrative goes something like: he was serving a rotten police force but for him he was good person?

If President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) ideology is never credited for anything else it must be credited for so elevating the virtues of individual merit over group merit – placing individual agency over and above group influence.

Now we see the Achilles hill in the NRM ideology which permeates many levels and institutions of governance within the ruling party – the NRM Organisation – and in all opposition political parties – individual egos are just too big and it is oft the time that egotistical behaviour – defiance of the group – is celebrated.

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