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Defense Ministry Reveals Achievements, Vows To Continue Professionalizing The Army

Minister Adolf Mwesige at the launch of Manifesto Week on Tuesday

Uganda’s Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs plans to continue professionalizing the army in the next five years (2021-2026). Speaking at review of the 2016-2021  NRM (National Resistance Movement) manifesto at the OPM  (Office of the Prime Minister) Auditorium in Kampala on Tuesday, Defense Minister, Adolf Mwesige said the ministry will continue with professionalization and modernization of the defense and security forces.

This, he said, will be achieved through acquisition and maintenance of equipment, infrastructure, recruitment and training (locally and internationally) among others.

Mwesige said the 26, 000 Local Defense Unit officers will be absorbed into mainstream Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF). But the absorption, he said, will come after an intense training to decide who gets absorbed and who does not.

Additionally, since 2016, the Ministry has recruited an average of 4,000 troops annually to replenish the UPDF manpower levels affected by retirement and attrition as  a result of operations both in and outside Uganda.

Defense Ministry  Acquired Force Capability Equipment

According to defense Ministry, training of army officers is geared towards professionalizing and modernizing the army in addition to making the UPDF thrive at the national, regional  and global stage. “Continuous Training of UPDF soldiers for both Combat and Operations Other than War was undertaken to ensure the individual soldier can play his/her part as a professional within a team in a modernised Force.

Trainings were undertaken both locally and internationally in order to have an efficient Force that can tackle the threats of the defence of Uganda, and deployments to enhance regional and International Peace, security and stability,” Defense Ministry says of achievements in the last five years.

President Museveni who is also the Commander in Chief inspecting the acquired equipment

The Ministry also embarked on the establishment of the National Defence College-Uganda (NDC). The Curriculum was produced; the site in Jinja was identified with the facilities therein.

The ministry, according to Mwesige, will also continue offering healthcare services like it showed during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Outside carrying out health service related work, the force also joined other agencies of government in distributing food to the public after the Covid-19 lockdown.

UPDF soldiers in COVID-19 Operation at Mulago

Defense Ministry also embarked on production of face masks and sanitizers through Luweero Industries.

Mwesige said his ministry is looking to enhance salaries of officers from the lowest rank to the Generals.

Already, he said junior officers have had their salaries increased. On top of these, the army, he said, will continue buying uniforms and boots locally under the Build Uganda Buy Uganda (BUBU) policy but also increase funding for the Luweero Industries, a subsidiary of the National Enterprise Corporation, the business arm of the UPDF.

Also top on the ministry’s plans is to continue strengthening internal and external security. This, he says, explains why the recently concluded elections were peaceful. The force will also continue training and setting up income generating activities for soldiers’ spouses in order to supplement their household incomes.

On settling claims by veterans,  8, 292 claimants have been settled to a tune of Shs70 billion out of the total Shs188 billion.

Over the years, Mwesige said, the UPDF has greatly improved through acquisition of modern equipment, regular maintenance of equipment and human capital development.

In the next five years, defense is expected to concentrate on relocating air force elements to Nakasongola and enhance salaries for scientists like engineers, pilots and doctors in order to retain them in UPDF and other establishments.

“In FY 2018/19, partial salary enhancement for lower ranks was done where a Private’s salary was enhanced from Shs385,000 to Shs485,000. However, this needs to be enhanced to Shs 537,837 equitable to a grade III primary school teacher. The enhancement will also be required across board from lower rank to General. In regard to payment of scientists, the Ministry has achieved in paying all medical personnel. However, due to inadequate funding, other category of scientists are yet to be addressed,” the Minister said.

UPDF Medical Air Lift Services

According to Mwesige, the Defense ministry performed at 100% in the last 5 years but even with the achievements, the National Service Scheme failed to take off. Other challenges include limited budget and the ever changing face of technology as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister assured Ugandans that the Defense sector  will continue to uphold its Constitutional mandate of defending and protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda, the People and their Property.

By Francis Otucu

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