Every 6th February, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces commemorates Tarehe Sita through community engagements. Activities such as medical camps, cleaning, remembering fallen comrades and sharing ideological orientation barazas that focus on mindset change and development through wealth creation are shared. These military-civil engagements rekindle a successful partnership that did not only bring the National Resistance Movement to power but also transformed Uganda from the brink of a failed state to a rapidly developing and respected country of today.
This year’s celebrations took place in Busesa, Bugweri District, under a theme: “Celebrating the Peoples’ Struggle for Unity, Security, and Peace for Socio-Economic Transformation.” During the week-long activities, the army’s engineering brigade carried out several renovations and constructions in Busoga region including a two-classroom block in Namayingo and a maternity ward at Dohwe.
Busoga region hosts Uganda’s top military schools; Uganda Junior Staff College at Gaddafi Barracks and Uganda Senior Command and Staff College at Kimaka. They also host Magamaga barracks that has been transformed into an Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing and Assembly Facility. Busoga is remembered by the National Resistance Army for having played a crucial role in defeating Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement.
Tarehe Sita is significant, it is the day when 27 armed men and 15 commandos (men without guns) led by President Yoweri Museveni stormed Kabamba barracks, overrun the quarter guard and charged guns on their way to the bush. It is this attack on Kabamba on 6th February 1981 that marked the start of a strong bond between soldiers and civilians.
Prior to this event, Ugandans had become weary of anyone with a gun, there was no difference between armed government soldiers and armed thieves, both terrorized hapless civilians. The National Resistance Army rebels distinguished themselves as disciplined and respectful to civilian authority even when they were still seen as bandits.
NRA made history when in 1981, barely a year into the struggle, they introduced elections for village officials in the areas they controlled. These elections formed the first democratic government ever instituted in any Ugandan village. After NRA took over in 1986, this democratic culture got constitutionalized, and today, Ugandans vote for their leaders every five years.
The civil-military partnership has paid dividends, Uganda is at peace, and graduates flock recruitment centers to join the military, unlike the days when recruitment attracted illiterates and anyone running away from justice. Having educated soldiers has enabled Uganda to professionalize the forces easily, to the extent that UPDF participates in international peace keeping missions like in Liberia, Somalia, South Sudan and DR Congo.
Uganda has developed world class army academies that train international students, this is a departure from the old days when Uganda sent her citizens to train as cadet officers in Munduli in Tanzania and later to Kenya for advanced leadership training.
While presiding over the 43rd Tarehe Sita anniversary celebrations, President Museveni expressed his confidence in the military saying; “we have a strong army, police forces, intelligence, the prison services and Uganda wildlife authority. They are all capable and educated”.
Peace is attractive, it exudes confidence, which is why Uganda hosted an unprecedented four international summits in one month of January 2024; The Speakers’ Conference, The Non-Aligned Summit, The Intergovernmental Authority on Development Summit and The G77+China Summit. In January 2024, Bradt Guides, the world’s leading independent travel publisher ranked Uganda the fourth best travel destination in the world.
These high global rankings have their roots in cordial civil-military relations, for example, the main attractions cited in the ranking are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Majestic Kabalega (Murchison) National Park, the Rwenzori snowcapped mountains and all have been preserved and protected by security forces in corroboration with civilians living around them.
Peace is economic growth enabler, which is why Uganda continues to attract Foreign Direct Investment, in 2021, Absa Africa Financial Markets Index ranked Uganda as East Africa’s most attractive country for foreign investment. After one year, Uganda won gold as the best investment destination in East Africa at Dubai’s Annual Investment Meeting 2023. A report released this February 2024 shows that the Absa Africa Financial Markets Index has ranked Uganda’s economy as the strongest in the East African Community and fourth on the African continent.
All these accolades mirror the government’s deliberate efforts to increase the industrial sector’s contribution to GDP to 31% from the current 27%, increase the share of Ugandans employed in the industry to 26%, and boost locally manufactured exports as a percentage of total exports to 50% by 2040. Already there is significant progress, products such as soap, sugar, cooking oil, steel and cement made locally. Neighbouring countries like Kenya, South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi import goods from Uganda.
Therefore, part of the theme that says “…. Peace for Socio-Economic Transformation”, is on course, all that is required is consolidation and expansion so that Ugandans can have better jobs, better healthcare, quality education and world-class infrastructure. Aluta Continua.