News and Views
‘Only patriots, revolutionaries can build an army like UPDF’
One of the greatest enemies of NRM is (Charles Onyango Obbo). When he was at the Daily Monitor newspaper and, more recently, while at the East African newspaper, all belonging to H.H. Aga Khan, he always pours venom on the work of NRM that it is corrupt, led by greedy people who cling to power, etc, etc.
The NRM, however, ignores such charlatans and continues with its historic mission of liberating Uganda, liberating Africa and modernising Uganda. In spite of internal treachery that sometimes delays our work, Uganda is growing and is unstoppable.
With the oil, which NRM, single-handedly, discovered for Uganda, the Obbos are going to hang themselves because we will, finally, easily get the $13 billion we need to invest in infrastructure to turn Uganda into a middle income country. All the aid (in form of loans and grants) we have got from outside, ever since 1986, amounts to only $18.9 billion.
The core areas where Uganda needs assistance is electricity, roads, railways, water works, irrigation, ICT, education and health.
In spite of the obvious achievements by NRM, the Obbos are always maligning this great NRM and its leaders. The NRM, however, unbothered and supported by Ugandans, continues to execute its historical mission.
Obbo, having run out of lies to tell from Nairobi, has now become “a war correspondent” writing from Mogadishu about the work of UPDF defeating al-Shabaab. This time, neither him nor his foreign masters in the form of the “the foreign diplomat he had coffee with before he went to Mogadishu”, can hide the great and unique work of UPDF in the very difficult situation of Somalia.
The foreign diplomat was struck by “how different” the UPDF was from other Third World armies. That is what the Obbos should have realised long ago because NRA/UPDF is a revolutionary army founded on the principles of nationalism, patriotism and pan-Africanism.
It is very “professional”. What did our previous manifestos say? Was it not to professionalise the previously guerrilla army? However, professionalism is not the only point that distinguishes UPDF from other armies, even the First World ones. It is the ideology that makes it unique.
That is why we supported the restoration of monarchy, although we are not monarchists ourselves. Regarding the quality of our military leaders and cadres, does Obbo remember that we deliberately recruited educated people (“A” level and degree-holders) into the army? What was the practice of Obbo’s political group?
Obbo’s foreign diplomat also observed that Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima “displayed a level of political astuteness that is rare among these African Generals”. Isn’t Obbo part of the groups that have been agitating that UPDF leaves Parliament (the 10 seats that are our listening post in the Parliament of our civilian members)? It is precisely because we know that NRA/UPDF is among the most ideologically advanced elements of the Ugandan society that we insist that a few of them should be in Parliament.
Hasn’t Obbo ever heard that the whole of NRM/UPDF were armed political revolutionaries? We are always fighting for ideology and not pay. It is not a career for us, it is a cause. The only thing we avoid, especially those in uniform still, is partisanship. Even NRM, although a political party, we are not really partisan.
Then, Obbo correctly compares the work of the 9,500 Amisom troops with the 38,000 US troops that were defeated by the Somalis in 1992. The US is our friend and it is not my job to make those comparisons. That job is for journalists like Obbo if only they were honest, were non-partisan and bothered to get informed instead of operating on prejudices.
I can only talk about the discipline of NRA/UPDF right from the bush days. We followed Mao Tse Tung’s exhortation: “Never take a needle or thread from the people without paying for it”. If a UPDF soldier killed a mwananchi in Mogadishu, we would not bring him for trial in Kampala. He/she would be tried and shot in Mogadishu in front of the relatives of the victims. This is what we did with Zabuloni and his friend in Mulule near Semuto in 1982. Has Obbo read that history of the NRA?
Besides, NRA/UPDF only fights just wars. In the case of Somalia, we only went to guard the airport and the sea port. It was the al-Shabaab who foolishly, intoxicated by their bankrupt foreign ideology picked from the Middle East and Asia of Islamic chauvinism, that attacked us that they wanted to drive out “infidels”. “Infidels” are their own African brothers and sisters. Who, then, are their brothers and sisters Arabs, Asians?
Somalis are part of the Kushitic people like the Oromos, the Nubians of ancient Egypt and many other African people who live in East Africa. The Somali word for cow is: “sa”.
In many of the Bantu dialects cow-dung is called “sa” “busa”, “amasha”, etc. The Somali word for water is “pio”. What is the Luo word for water? “pii”! Yet these confused al-Shabaab were calling us “infidels” just because many (not all) Ugandans are not Moslems. Besides, our military plans were not adventurist, trying to do too much at ago. Then, there is the question of handling civilians, which Obbo has, for a change, described well.
Then, Obbo relapses into his subjectivism by claiming that al-Shabaab was an opponent like we have “never faced” before and tells lies about our intervention in Congo. First, al-Shabaabs are no different from Lakwena – rushing and attacking in waves. Yes, al-Shabaabs have got more technical capacity, using IEDs, mounted heavy machine guns (12.7mm), etc.
However, remember that al-Shabaabs were attacking by suicidal assaults, a much more equipped army (UPDF) with tanks, IFVs, etc, compared to the NRA of 1986/87 that defeated similar maniacal, mass assaults by the Lakwenas. At that time the NRA had no weapon advantage over the enemy. Our strongest weapons were the heavy machine guns (Nabissojo, 12.7mm, sometimes 14.5mm fired with flat trajectory).
It was, again, the good command, correct tactics and a high ideological awareness that enabled us defeat the Lakwenas just like we defeated the al-Shabaabs recently. This time, though, we were much better equipped than when we fought the Lakwena suicidal fighters. About the so-called “disastrous” involvement in Congo, again, Obbo is wrong.
Apart from the misunderstandings with Rwanda, we achieved many of our aims. First of all, the agent of foreign interests, Mobutu, was defeated by RPA. I think at that stage we made some material contribution.
In the second phase, UPDF defeated all attempts by Angola, Chad and Kabila’s own forces to advance beyond Mbandaka. We used that time to defeat Allied Democratic Forces and secure the peace for Western Uganda. We only withdrew voluntarily but not before we defeated Besigye’s group PRA in Ituri. Under the Lusaka Accord, we paved (along with others) the way for the democratisation of Congo. It is only when the UN came in that they forgot about the Lusaka process.
However, all parties in Congo came to know that we sought no hegemony in Congo. That is why our relations with almost all the Congolese parties, including President Joseph Kabila, improved and they began to trust us. Today, the trade with Congo is of the order of $327.1 million (2010). It is the first time since the colonisation of Africa that you have buses from Uganda going to Goma, etc.
Congo now is an Afro-oriented country unlike in the past when it was a beach-head of foreign interests. The only difference, probably, that may be important for the likes of Obbo, our involvement in Congo was not supported by the Western countries. Our involvement in Somalia is now supported by the world because all other efforts had failed.
About the difference between urban warfare and the bush warfare, Obbo could be informed that, yes, urban warfare is different from bush warfare. Urban warfare needs a lot of vigilance and some specialised equipment and training. However, in terms of fatigue and energy expenditure, bush fighting is more exerting, involving long distances, crossing raging rivers, etc. Initially, in Mogadishu there was oversight in connection with acquiring some breaching means to break into walls. This problem was identified and solved.
Besides, this is not the first time NRA/UPDF is fighting in built up areas. Obbo needs to be reminded that Kampala is a city. How was it captured in 1986? 1st battalion, under Mugisha, assaulted Lubiri, Bakuli, Kampala Road and Radio Uganda, 3rd battalion, under Lumumba, was my tactical reserve in the battle for Kampala.
11th battalion, under Chefe Ali, assaulted Nansana, Makerere, Wandegeya and, eventually, Summit View. 7th battalion under Kyaligonza, assaulted Ndeeba and it took a whole day to capture Makindye barracks. 5th battalion, under Kashillingi blocked Entebbe Road at Kisubi. The Entebbe Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) group, however, broke through the Kashillingi force because of some mistakes he had made in deployment.
The UNLA group was 900 strong. I deployed my tactical reserve, 3rd battalion, under Saleh and Lumumba, who stopped them at Zana. The group surrendered at 2100 hours. 13th battalion, under Ivan Koreta, blocked Bombo Road. A special battalion, under Jet Mwebaze, captured Bwaise after clearing Sentema. Both the 19th battalion under Peter Kerim and the 15th battalion, under Samson Mande were on the Western axis under Tinyefuuza. 21st battalion and 9th battalion under Benon Tumukunde and Kihanda respectively, were part of my strategic reserve. One was in Kabale and the other in Kasese.
Therefore, urban fighting is not that new to NRA/UPDF. Yes, the al-Shabaab, intoxicated by ideological chauvinism, are more motivated in fighting than the UNLA; but the latter also tried to put up a strong fight. However, Lakwena’s group was as fanatical as the al-Shabaab, one using religion and the other using magic.
Obbo, quoting Paddy Ankunda, writes of “pincer movement”; he says: “I don’t think any army in Africa has ever done what we did for al-Shabaab out of Bakara Market”. That is not correct. How was Kampala captured?- By blocking Entebbe Road and Bombo Road and assaulting from Masaka and Hoima roads. At that time, we did not have enough manpower to block Mukono road. Also the time to infiltrate up to Mukono road before the assault was not there even if we had the forces. What was that if not a pincer movement?
However, NRA did more than merely executing pincer movements, threatening to encircle the enemy. It, actually, encircled big enemy groups both operationally and tactically. Operationally, we blocked Katonga Bridge, blocked Mityana road and blocked Fort Portal-Hoima road. Tactically, we sieged Masaka garrison and Mbarara garrison. There were about 1,000 soldiers in Masaka and 3,000 in Mbarara.
The NRA encircled, in an assault attack on the huge Lakwena group at Corner Kilak and killed 1,000 rebels. The remnants only survived because they broke through one of the encircling battalions. In border operations against West Nile Bank Front and LRA, we effected lethal encirclement battles which I would not like to go into. Therefore, the battles of encirclement and annihilation, rather than merely routing the enemy, are part of the doctrine of NRA from the very beginning. It is only where we are limited by manpower that we attack from one side, two sides or three sides. Otherwise, with enough means, we encircle the enemy on four sides to fight decisive battles of annihilation.
It is not correct to say no African army has ever done this. The Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF), in our fight with Amin was, mainly, using encirclement. That is how we captured Gayaza hill on the 26th of February, 1979, under General Mayunga. That is how Entebbe town was captured by General Maarwa. He blocked the Libyans from retreating from Entebbe, at Bwebajja.
That is why that area is called Kilibya – very many Libyan APCs were destroyed there and prisoners taken. That is how Brigades 208, 207 and 201 of TPDF destroyed the Palestinian Force that had come to support Amin at Lukaya. Maarwa, coming from Kanoni, Kabulasoke, encircled them at the Equator, while they were busy fighting 201 Brigade which was coming from Lukaya.
Samora Machel effected strategic encirclement against the Portuguese army in Mozambique, which was confronting Frelimo in Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces on the Tanzanian border. Samora, using Zambia, opened the 3rd Front through Tete Province, emerging in the rear of the big Portuguese army in north Mozambique, under Gen. Kaulza D’Arriaga. Portugal was supported by the White regimes of Ian Smith and the Boers in South Africa.
Now comes Obbo’s evil spirit. He writes: “Because the UPDF in Mogadishu had to mollycoddle civilians in ways it has never done before and were involved in urban warfare that was largely alien to them, the Somalia operation opened doors for the appointment of some of the army’s most creative minds to work there”. He continues: “Even if President Museveni wanted to promote an officer from his village or a loyalist, he had to find one that was qualified. Appointing an incompetent one would be to condemn him to a quick death at the hands of the al-Shabaab”.
Poor Obbo, even now you do not understand UPDF. We always look for capable fighters, commanders. Most of the commanders who captured Kampala, attacked Masindi on the 20th of February, 1984, attacked Kabamba on the New Year’s Day of 1985, fought at Corner Kilak, fought in the border operations against Kony and Juma Oris were competent commanders. That is why we won victories. There are some who make mistakes even in the Somali operation. These are, however, exceptions.
Obbo’s pathetic attempt to distinguish between bush fighters and urban fighters is another fallacy. Lokech, who is now the contingent commander in Somalia, first distinguished himself as a bush fighter on the Gulu-Kitgum road and in Congo in the battles of Dungu. A commander who is only good in urban warfare and not good in bush warfare is not a good commander. Urban warfare is just an aspect of warfare.
Marshal Zhukov, the principal commander of the 2nd World War given the large battles he fought, fought on the remote Russian-Mongolian border in 1939 against the Japanese, he fought in the Battle of Moscow in 1941 (not in the city itself but just to the West of it), he encircled and destroyed the German 6th Army in Stalingrad (partly rural, partly urban), he fought in the Kursk battle in 1943, in Leningrad, in the Vistula Oder Operation, in the liberation of Byerorrussia and, finally, in the battle of Berlin (a big city). A good commander must be good for both rural and urban battles. It is only what we call mission training that is different.
Then, Obbo takes on the Special Forces Group (SFG) and Uganda Police. They are loyalist as opposed to “the neglected wife”, UPDF. SFG is part of UPDF if Obbo does not know. It started in the bush as a mere section to guard the Chairman of the High Command (CHC) whenever I would be moving from zone to zone in co-coordinating the war. We decided not to divert battalions to guard CHC as he moved around the war zone. This concept proved to be good. By the time we came into government, it had become PPU (Presidential Protection Unit), then, PGB (Presidential Guard Brigade) and, finally, SFG.
It has always done three things in one: it is a protection unit for the President; it is one of the nurseries for leadership (Aronda whose astuteness impressed Obbo’s foreign friend is one of the graduates of this nursery) and it is part of our strategic reserve for war. Of course, Mr Obbo would not know because our commanders would not trust telling him all. In that Mogadishu Force, there are SFG specialist units, whose work is exemplary. Therefore, both the “favourite” wife and the “neglected” wife are both on that frontline which Obbo visited recently.
However, in fact there is only one “wife” UPDF. The distinctions are Obbo’s problem. I will just give Obbo one incident. During Bashir’s proxy war against us, he gave Kony a recoilless 82mm cannon to destroy our mambas. Kony, indeed, damaged a number of them. I sent an SFG unit to kill this gunner and capture this gun. They did not disappoint us; they caught up with the gunner at Barlegi in North Lango, killed the gunner and captured the cannon.
Since this was a hotbed of Kony activities at that time, I decided to camp there with SFG elements. Although Kony was still around, he feared to attack us and SFG provided the security for the area ever since.
This “massive and loyalist force” has a purpose. Obbo talks of “loyalists”. Are there soldiers who are not loyal to the President of Uganda whom Obbo knows? If he knows and does not report those un-loyal soldiers, then he is committing misprison of treason. Soldiers are loyal to the President because he is elected. Originally, they were loyal because of the just war against the killers. If, however, I had not been elected in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, those soldiers would not be loyal to me. If there are soldiers who are not loyal to the elected President of Uganda, then, whom are they loyal to?
Another pitiable position of the Obbos is that we are using our army to ingratiate ourselves with the Americans, so that they do not put pressure on us “on governance”. We do not need pressure to exercise good governance over our people. We fought for good governance and we are experts in that field. Since 1986 when I met President Reagan, we started working with the Americans and some of the Western countries.
Before that time, we, however, had little contact with the Western countries because they had been on the side of our enemies (Boer South Africa, Portuguese colonialists, British, French colonialists). We built this capacity by ourselves. We were slightly helped by our African brothers in Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and, to a small extent, Gaddaffi’s Libya, although we had fought him when he was backing Idi Amin. We work with the Western countries where our interests coincide. We do not need to ingratiate ourselves with anybody for opportunistic reasons.
‘Obbo -the hater’
In conclusion, I, in part, sympathise with poor Obbo. In spite of his hatred for NRM, NRM is growing stronger. Among other achievements, it has built a strong army for Uganda for the first time. Remember, the British left only one battalion at Jinja (4th King’s African Rifles). This army has defeated terrorism in Uganda, disarmed the Karimojong cattle-rustlers and contributed to regional peace. Obbo, the hater of NRM, cannot stomach this credit going to NRM. Hence, “loyalist” forces vs the “neglected wife”, mythical and comic “bush” and “urban” commanders. It is like somebody drowning in water. There is no coherence.
Mr Obbo, only patriots and revolutionaries can build an army like UPDF. We are patriots, nationalists (non-sectarian as far as religion and tribes are concerned) and pan-Africanists. I was in Mozambique, as a student, in 1968, in the liberated areas of Frelimo. What was I looking for? Money, power, term limits or what? In any epoch, nations have patriots and traitors.
It is patriots who can build an army like UPDF and we have done it. It is for the Obbos and even the foreigners who have got interest in Africa to decide whom they want to work with. Do they want to work with patriots or with quisling traitors? The patriots will march forward to victory whatever the obstacles. They need no sponsorship like the traitors do and are always grovelling in the dust for that sponsorship.