Ugandan Army; Uganda People’s Defence Force
The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), previously known as the National Resistance Army, is the armed forces of Uganda. From 2007 to 2011, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the UPDF had a total strength of 40,000–45,000 and consisted of land forces and an air wing.
After Uganda achieved independence in October 1962, British officers retained most high-level military commands. Ugandans in the rank and file claimed this policy blocked promotions and kept their salaries disproportionately low. These complaints eventually destabilized the armed forces, already weakened by ethnic divisions. Each post-independence regime expanded the size of the army, usually by recruiting from among people of one region or ethnic group, and each government employed military force to subdue political unrest.
On 9 October 1962, Uganda became independent from the United Kingdom, with 4th Battalion, King’s African Rifles, based at Jinja, becoming the Uganda Rifles. The traditional leader of the Baganda, Edward Mutesa, became president of Uganda. Milton Obote, a northerner and longtime opponent of autonomy for the southern kingdoms including Buganda, was prime minister.
On 1 August 1962, the Uganda Rifles became the Uganda Army. The armed forces more than doubled, from 700 to 1,500, and the government created the 2nd Battalion stationed at the north-eastern town of Moroto on 14 November 1963. Omara-Otunnu wrote in 1987 that “a large number of men had been recruited into the Army to form this new battalion, and … the new recruits were not given proper training” because the Army was already heavily committed in its various operations.
Following the 1964 mutiny, the government remained fearful of internal opposition. Obote moved the army headquarters approximately 87 kilometres (54 mi) from Jinja to Kampala. He also created a secret police force, the General Service Unit (GSU) to bolster security. Most GSU employees guarded government offices in and around Kampala, but some also served in overseas embassies and other locations throughout Uganda. When British training programs ended, Israel started training Uganda’s army, air force, and GSU personnel. Several other countries also provided military assistance to Uganda.
Decalo writes that:
… using classic ‘divide and rule’ tactics, he [Obote] appointed different foreign military missions to each battalion, scrambled operational chains of command, played the police off against the army, encouraged personal infighting between his main military ‘proteges’ and removed from operational command of troops officers who appeared unreliable or too authoritative.”
When Congolese aircraft bombed the West Nile villages of Paidha and Goli on 13 February 1965, President Obote again increased military recruitment and doubled the army’s size to more than 4,500. Units established included a third battalion at Mubende, a signals squadron at Jinja, and an antiaircraft detachment. On 1 July 1965, six units were formed: a brigade reconnaissance, an army ordnance depot (seemingly located at Magamaga), a brigade signals squadron training wing, a records office, a pay and pensions office, and a Uganda army workshop.
Tensions rose in the power struggle over control of the government and the army and over the relationship between the army and the Baganda people. Shortly after February 1966, Amin was appointed Chief of the Army and Air Force Staff, while Brigadier Opolot was transferred to the Ministry of Defence as Chief of the Defence Staff. On 24 May 1966, Obote ousted Mutesa, assumed his offices of president and commander in chief, suspended the 1962 constitution, and consolidated his control over the military by eliminating several rivals. In October 1966 Opolot was dismissed from the army and detained under the emergency regulations then in force.
At about the same time, Obote abrogated the constitution, revoked Buganda’s autonomous status, and instructed the Army to attack the Kabaka’s palace, forcing the Kabaka to flee. Elections were cancelled. Political loyalties rather than military skill became critical amongst both officers and men.
In 1970, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) assessed the Ugandan armed forces to consist of 6,700 personnel, constituting an army of 6,250 with two brigade groups, each of two battalions, plus an independent infantry battalion, with some Ferret armoured cars, and BTR-40 and BTR-152 armoured personnel carriers, plus an air arm of 450 with 12 Fouga Magister armed jet trainers, and seven MiG-15s and MiG-17s.
In January 1971, Amin and his followers within the army seized power in a coup d’état.
In 1976 during Operation Entebbe, the Israeli military destroyed 12 MiG-21s and three MiG-17s based at Entebbe Airport to prevent pursuit.
In 1977, before the Uganda–Tanzania War, the Ugandan armed forces were reported by IISS as consisting of 20,000 land forces personnel, with two four-battalion brigades and five other battalions of various types, plus a training regiment. There were a total of 35 T-34, T-55, and M-4 Sherman medium tanks. An air arm was 1,000 strong with 21 MiG-21 and 10 MiG-17 combat aircraft. The IISS noted that the Ugandan armed forces collapsed in the face of the Tanzanian onslaught and the serviceable aircraft were removed to Tanzania.
After the Uganda–Tanzania War, fighters available to the new government included only the fewer than 1,000 troops who had fought alongside the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force (TPDF) to expel Amin. The army was back to the size of the original army at independence in 1962. Titularly, Colonel Tito Okello served as army commander and Colonel David Oyite Ojok as chief of staff, leading the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
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But in 1979, in an attempt to consolidate support for the future, leaders such as Yoweri Museveni and Major General (later Chief of Staff) David Oyite Ojok began to enroll thousands of recruits into what were rapidly becoming their private armies.
After the Museveni government was formed in 1986, a number of key Rwanda Patriotic Front personnel became part of the National Resistance Army that became Uganda’s new national armed forces. Fred Rwigyema was appointed deputy minister of defense and deputy army commander-in-chief, second only to Museveni in the military chain of command for the nation. Paul Kagame was appointed acting chief of military intelligence. Other Tutsi refugees were highly placed: Peter Baingana was head of NRA medical services and Chris Bunyenyezi was the commander of the 306th Brigade. Tutsi refugees formed a disproportionate number of NRA officers for the simple reason that they had joined the rebellion early and thus had accumulated more experience.
Uganda People’s Defence Force
The UPDF has been controversial for having a minimum age for service of Many international organizations have condemned this as being military use of children. This has created an image problem for the UPDF and may have impacted the international aid Uganda receives. Western nations have sent a limited level of military aid to Uganda. “Between 1990 and 2002, the army payroll had at least 18,000 ghost soldiers, according to a report by General David Tinyefuza.”
The problem continued in 2003, when there was a severe problem of “ghost” soldiers within the UPDF. As of 2008, these personnel problems has been exacerbated by the surge of UPDF troops resigning to work with the Coalition Forces in Iraq.
After several interventions in the Congo, the UPDF was involved in a further incursion there, from December 2008 stretching into February 2009, against the LRA in the Garamba area. UPDF special forces and artillery, supported by aircraft, were joined by the DRC’s armed forces and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Called “Operation Lightning Thunder” by the UPDF, it was commanded by Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho, commander of the 3rd Division.
African Union Mission in Somalia
The UPDF has more than 6,200 soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The AMISOM force commander is Ugandan Lieutenant General Jonathan Rono. The force commander in 2009, Ugandan Major General Nathan Mugisha, was wounded in a car bomb attack on 17 September 2009 that left nine soldiers dead, including Burundian Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, the second in command.
The United States has provided extensive training for UPDF contingents headed for Somalia. In the first half of 2012, Force Recon Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the UPDF.
In addition, a significant amount of support to AMISOM has been provided by private companies. “Bancroft Global Development, headquartered on Washington’s Embassy Row, employs about 40 South African and European trainers who work with [AMISOM’s] Ugandan and Burundian troops.”
On 12 August 2012, two Ugandan Mil Mi-24s flying from Entebbe across Kenya to Somalia crashed in rugged terrain in Kenya. They were found two days later, burned out, with no likely survivors from the ten Ugandan servicemen on board the two helicopters. Another aircraft from the same flight crashed on Mount Kenya, and all seven Ugandan servicemen on board were rescued a day later. The aircraft were supporting AMISOM in the ongoing Somali Civil War. An accompanying Mil Mi-17 transport helicopter landed without problems in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa near the Somali border for a scheduled refuelling stop.
In August 2014, the Somali government-led Operation Indian Ocean was launched to clean up the remaining insurgent-held pockets in the countryside, with the AMISOM contingents including the UPDF providing support. On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubeyr.According to Pentagon spokesperson Admiral John Kirby, the Ugandan AMISOM forces had informed U.S. intelligence about where Godane and other Al-Shabaab leaders were meeting and provided information on a convoy of vehicles in which he was traveling.
Al-Shabaab subsequently threatened an attack in Uganda for the UPDF contingent’s role within AMISOM and the strike on Godane. The Ugandan security services, with the assistance of the U.S. military and intelligence, then identified and foiled a major Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in the Ugandan capital Kampala. They recovered suicide vests, other explosives, and small arms and detained Al-Shabaab operatives.
African Union Regional Task Force
In November 2011, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) authorized a Regional Co-operation Initiative (RCI) for eliminating the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA had been forced out of Uganda and was roaming remote areas of (what is now) South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR). The RCI was planned to consist of three elements: a Joint Co-ordination Mechanism chaired by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security and made up of the Ministers of Defence of the four affected countries (Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC, and the CAR); a Regional Task Force Headquarters; and, the Regional Task Force (RTF) of up to 5,000 troops from the four countries.
United States special forces were already assisting Ugandan forces in their operations against the LRA in the DRC and the CAR. In 2014, these forces were still assisting the RTF.
The RTF started to take form in September 2012. By February 2013, the RTF had 3,350 soldiers and had finished deploying to the three sectors envisioned, with bases at Dungu, Obo, and Nzara (South Sudan).
The RTF headquarters is at Yambio in South Sudan. The first Force Commander was Ugandan Colonel Dick Olum and the Deputy Force Commander was Colonel Gabriel Ayok Akuok.
In October 2014, RTF Commander Brigadier Sam Kavuma was deployed to Somalia and his place taken by Brigadier Lucky Kidega By March 2016, the Ugandan RTF Commander was Colonel Richard Otto.
During January 2016, UPDF 11 Battalion was based with the RTF in the CAR. In mid-2016, it was reported that Uganda would withdraw its contribution to the RTF by the end of the year.
South Sudan Civil War
14-18 July 2016: Ugandan forces under Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga undertake Operation Okoa Wanaichi, entering South Sudan and successfully evacuating up to 40,000 Ugandans and 100 other nationalities who were fleeing the fighting.
Command and organisation
A reshuffle of generals in May 2013 resulted in the establishment of the following command structure, with four forces, or commands, falling under the Ministry of Defence Headquarters at Mbuya (Land Forces, Air Force, Special Forces, and Reserve Forces).
- President and commander-in-chief: General (retired) Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
- State minister for defence: General (retired) Jeje Odongo
- Chief of defence forces: General David Muhoosi (since January 2017)
- Deputy chief of defence forces: Major General Wilson Mbadi (since January 2017)
- Joint chief of staff: Major General Wilson Mbasu Bwambale Mbadi (since 24 May 2013)
- UPDF spokesman: Brigadier Richard Karemire (since January 2017)
- Land forces
Commander of land forces: Major General Peter Elwelu (since January 2017)
- Chief of staff land forces: Brigadier Geoffrey Katsigazi (since December 2016)
- Commander of air forces: Major General Charles Lwanga Lutaaya (since January 2017)
- Commander of special forces: Colonel Don Nabaasa (acting commander since January 2017)
- Deputy commander special forces: Colonel Don Nabasa (since April 2016)
- Spokesman special forces command: Major Chris Magezi.
- Commander of the reserve forces: Major General Charles Otema (since January 2017)
Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Mbuya
- Chief of military intelligence: Colonel Abel Kandiho (since January 2017)
- Chief of logistics and engineering: Brigadier Charles Bakahumura (since January 2017)
- Chief political commissar: Brigadier Henry Matsiko (since January 2017)
- Commander of military police: Brigadier Sabiiti (since April 2017)
The UPDF has the following training schools:
- Senior Command and Staff College, Kimaka (Lt. Gen. Andrew Guti)
- Junior Staff College, Jinja (Brig. Godfrey Galooba)
- Uganda Military Academy, Kabamba (Brig. Emmanuel Musinguzi)
- Uganda Military Engineering College (University Military Science & Technology, Lugazi) (Brigadier Dennis Asiimwe)
- Oliver Tambo Leadership School, Kawaweta, Nakaseke District
- Karama Armoured Warfare Training School, Mubende (Brigadier Francis Chemonges, or Chemo)
- Singo Peace Support Training Centre
- Kaweweta Recruits Training School
- Ugandan Military Air Force Academy Nakasongola
- National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi
- Bihanga Military Training School, Ibanda (Colonel Semakula)
- Hima Training School, Kasese
- Anti-terrorism Centre (Major General Fred Mugisha)
- Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre, Jinja (Major General Nakibus Lakara)
- Uganda Air Defence and Artillery School, Nakasongola, Nakasongola District
- Uganda Air Force Academy, Nakasongola, Nakasongola District
- Uganda Urban Warfare Training School, Singo, Nakaseke District
Ugandan land forces on parade.
As of June 2013, the land forces commander appeared to be Major General
Before his appointment as commander of the defence forces, General Katumba Wamala served as the commander of land forces.
In August 2012, Major General Fredrick Mugisha, previously in charge of the African Union Mission in Somalia, was appointed the new joint chief of staff. Brigadier Charles Angina, formerly the General Court Martial chairperson, was promoted to major general and appointed chief of staff of the land forces.
The organisation of the land forces was reported in 2015 to be as follows:
- five division headquarters
- one armoured brigade
- one motorised infantry brigade
- one tank battalion
- Presidential Guard brigade
- one engineer brigade
- one commando battalion
- 5 infantry divisions (total: 16 infantry brigades)
- one artillery brigade
- two air defence battalions
The divisions are:
Second Division: Makenke Barracks, Mbarara (Brigadier Peter Elewelu). It is composed of three brigades and four auxiliary battalions, according to the website of the Ministry of Defence Uganda. This division, according to afdevinfo.com, includes the divisional headquarters at Mbarara; the 17th, 69th, 73rd, and 77th battalions; the Rwenzori Mountain Alpine Brigade; possibly another Alpine brigade; and the 3rd Tank Battalion. The division has been heavily involved with border operations since the Congo Civil War began in the 1990s. Brigadier Peter Elwelu took command in a ceremony on 17 July 2013. He had been appointed in June 2013.
Third Division: Moroto (Brigadier Dick Olum). Before 2013, the Third Division headquarters was reported to be at Mbale.
Fourth Division: Gulu District (Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga, until December 2016 when he took command of the Ugandan contingent with AMISOM in Somalia.
Fifth Division: Lira (Brigadier Sam Kavuma). Created in August 2002. As of 2013, the division appears to include the 401 Brigade.
Armoured Brigade: Kasijjagirwa Barracks, Masaka (Brigadier Joseph M. Ssemwanga)
Motorised Infantry Brigade: Nakasongola (Brigadier Tumusiime Katsigazi). Formed in September 2002 and is composed of three motorized infantry battalions.