Following the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown that has seen Uganda open up in a phased manner, Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) has carried out a review of deployments in the country.
According to the Defence spokesperson, Brig Gen Richard Karemire, the review entails redeployment of some forces including elements of the Local Defence Unit (LDU) from the positions they “were during the lockdown.”
Karemire told this news website that the army has scaled down deployment and the LDUs are redeployed to conduct patrols to keep criminality at bay, and to other vital installations like factories, while some of them are scheduled for fresher training as part of UPDF’s continued professionalization.
LDUs are auxiliary forces and are therefore part of the UPDF forces, Brig Gen Karemire says.
“UPDF’s doctrine emphasises having a small but a well trained and equiped force backed by a sizeable reserve force which includes the LDUs, reservists and others,” Karemire explains.
The UPDF Act, 2005 (7)(c) provides for sources and organisation of Reserve Forces.
“Auxiliary forces, state security organisations and such citizens of Uganda as having undergone military training under Article 17(2) of the constitution,” the act states.
The recruitment of LDUs was aimed at enhancing the existing foundation of security in the country to fight crime and ensure continued security of people and their property.
Prior to their recruitment and subsequent deployment, there was a spate of crime in, especially Kampala Metropolitan area. To the LDU’s credit, alongside other security agencies, the rate of crime has exponentially reduced.
It should be remembered that when the country witnessed a spate of armed crimes in 2018, including armed robbery, kidnapping and murder of women in Wakiso and Kampala, several Ugandans called upon the UPDF to step in, and normalise the situation, to which the army positively responded through recruiting, training and deploying LDUs.
The same year, President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, H.E. Yoweri Museveni announced 12 measures to combat crime. Among others, the President listed installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in the Kampala Metropolitan area (KMP) and fingerprinting of firearms. The Local Defence Unit, according to Brig Ge Karemire, was also part of the security plan of the President.
“We recruited the LDUs, trained and deployed them to respond to issues of criminality at the time. They underwent training as an auxiliary force particularly to respond to armed robberies that were lethal and indeed crime has gone down,” Brig Karemire told this news website.
“As a result of their contribution, the rate of crime has indeed gone down especially in the Kampala Metropolitan area. We no longer hear of those lethal armed robberies,” adds Brig Karemire.
The concept of Local Defence Unit, provided for under the UPDF Act under auxilliary forces, is not new.
LDUs fought alongside UPDF during the counter insurgency struggles in northern Uganda, against the terrorist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the rebellion was defeated leading to peace and stability in the area.
The LDUs supported the army in defeating insurgency in Teso sub-region and in Karamoja during the disarmament campaign. Both sub-regions are now peaceful and secure.
However, some LDUs have in the recent past been accused by some members of the public of excessive force during enforcement of measures against the spread of Covid-19.
The Defence spokesperson admits that there have been some mistakes by some of the LDU personnel but notes that isolated acts by individuala shouldn’t overshadow the positive contributions of the force.
“Of course, there have been some mistakes, but whenever individuals violate the Code of Conduct of UPDF, they have been tried before the General Court Martial and handed sentences. These mistakes, however, should not overshadow the contribution of the LDUs. The mistakes have been committed by a few in comparison with the bigger size of the LDU force,” he says.
The Defence Spokesperson further explained that it was not correct to blame the entire force because of the mistakes of some individuals.
“We need to distinguish between the commissions of individuals from the contribution of the force, and also know that there are many good and disciplined LDUs. What should be very reassuring is UPDF’s zero tolerance to indiscipline and violation of the code of conduct,” he adds.
UPDF has on several occasions condemned acts of some of the LDU personnel who manhandle civilians and indeed many of them have been arrested, tried and sentenced, including the most recent case in areas of Kisaasi in Kampala, when men in uniform were captured on video kicking a civilian.
The army arrested the soldiers and said they don’t and will never condone acts of indiscipline within their ranks.
Recently in Oyam district, two LDU personnel, Felix Okumu and Jolly Thomas Opoka and a soldier Geoffrey Ogwang were sentenced to 40 years, life imprisonment and 20 years respectively, in relation to the murder of 65-year-old Francis Ogwang Munu.
The trio had killed Ogwang when they beat him up while enforcing curfew guidelines on June 27.
In an interview with this website a couple of months back, Brig Karemire said that the UPDF is built on four pillars which include patriotism, pan-Africanism, discipline and the ideology of being a pro-people force, which he said distinguish UPDF from the previous armies and that they can not tolerate compromising of the principles on which UPDF was built.