The Observer on Wednesday broke the news that the chief of defence forces (CDF), Gen Katumba Wamala, had suspended 15 of his officers for shortcomings related to the African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom) where Uganda is the biggest contributor of peacekeepers.
A Human Rights Watch report recently claimed that some elements in the Ugandan contingent had sexually abused vulnerable Somali women and girls. The UPDF contested this claim but pledged to investigate. Earlier, The Observer had reported about army officers ‘selling’ places to soldiers seeking to be enlisted for the mission.
In addition, it has been established that some officers were selling off fuel, food supplies and, in some cases, guns meant for the mission as a result of which several army officers are facing related charges in the General Court Martial. Thus the latest action by the CDF, which affected, among others, two brigadiers and a colonel, very high-ranking positions in the army, is connected to some of the stated allegations.
Now, even critics admit that UPDF is a disciplined army. However, being disciplined doesn’t mean that all individual soldiers are angels. Soldiers are recruited from the rest of society with its moral deficiencies; and so, rotten tomatoes are only to be expected.
However, a disciplined army would ensure that rotten tomatoes in its ranks are not allowed to soil the image of the entire force. That calls for the army leadership making it a point to punish wrongdoing without fear or favour.
Rampant indiscipline amongst politicians and civil servants leads to inefficiency in government and ultimately hampers social service delivery. Yet this persists because of a sense of impunity. If every Ugandan, in public and private life, knew that actions have inevitable consequences, this country would be a much better place.
To their credit, the UPDF leadership has tried to avoid this pervasive culture by maintaining a strict code of ethics for its officers and men. This army’s no-nonsense approach to discipline is obviously responsible for its relative success at home and abroad.
The UPDF is not perfect by any means but there is a lot civilians can learn from them.