President Museveni, who is also the Commander in Chief of the Uganda Armed Forces, has unveiled plans to build the strongest military in Africa.
“One of our priorities is equipping our Armed Forces to be second to none in our region of Africa,” said Museveni.
“And I will not compromise on that,” he added.
The President was on Friday speaking shortly after the election of Representatives of Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) to Parliament at the Lands Forces Headquarters in Bombo, Luwero district.
In the 2019/20 financial year, the allocation to the security department grew by more than 50% from the previous financial year.
The Security budget was increased to a record Shs 3.6 Trillion from Shs 1.5Trillion.
The enormous defence budget triggered speculation that it was inspired by the recent diplomatic row between Uganda and Rwanda.
Last year, the increased spending on defence generated debate among members of parliament and other stakeholders with many questioning the incentive.
“We are concerned with the unexplained sharp increase of the country’s security and defense expenditure,” said FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda.
“Significantly to note is the fact that, classified expenditure has also correspondingly increased from Shs 347 billion in 2017, to Shs 640 billion in 2018 and to2.1 trillion in the new budget of2019/2020,” he added.
Defence Minister Adolf Mwesige said the money would be “spent on items that are crucial for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces and national security”.
He further said some of the equipment procured or refurbished are helicopters, marine boats, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery guns.
Uganda has in recent years bought dozens of T-90 main battle tanks as well as Chinese Type 85 tanks.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Uganda received 44 T-90S main battle tanks from Russia in 2011, as well as 23 T-55 AM-2 tanks second hand via Belarus in 2009.
Museveni also is keen on expanding the Airforce with more fighter jets to sharpen the military’s edge in the Great Lakes region.
However, it remains unclear where President Museveni would get funds to build the most powerful army in Africa.
For example, Egypt, which spends about $10bn annually on Defence, has nearly 10,000 armored fighting vehicles, 60,000 logistical vehicles, 900 aircraft, and large oil reserves from which to draw.
In Bombo, Museveni urged the new UPDF Members of Parliament going to represent the Army in the 11th Parliament to support his 7-point priorities in the coming new term of office.
“In this new Government, I will insist on my priorities. So when you go to parliament, please support my 7 priorities. This time, no bad budgeting will go unopposed,” said Gen. Museveni.
The seven priorities are – equipping the armed forces to be second to none in Africa; more funds for roads, railways and ferries for effective and cheap transport; cheaper electricity; affordable healthcare; free education; increased salaries for scientists and security forces and allocating more money for the wealth creation funds such as Operation Wealth Creation, Youth Fund, Women Fund, Emyooga among others.
“We need to put more money in these sectors and we must do it. When you go to parliament, please support my seven priorities,” said President Museveni.
The ten elected UPDF officers include Gen. David R. Muhoozi, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, Lt. Gen. Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, Lt. Gen Peter Elwelu, Lt. Gen. James Mugira, Maj. Gen. Sam Kavuma, Maj. Gen.Henry Matsiko, Col. Dr. Victoria Nekesa, Lt. Col. Charity Bainababo and Maj. Dr. Jennifer Alanyo.
The President said the primary historical role of the Army’s representation in parliament is to listen to what is happening in Parliament and then report back to the army so that it takes decisions as a force.
“We are here to elect the 10 UPDF MPs. They were put in the constitution on account of our history. They would be like a listening post to what is happening in Parliament,” Gen. Museveni told the attentive army officers.
Uganda, like many other African countries President Museveni said, had become ungovernable and a failed state.
He said Uganda was rescued by freedom fighters who started as a student movement in 1965 and later build an Army (NRA).
“The NRM/A liberated the country together with peasants. After we realized that the army couldn’t govern the country, we handed it over to civilians. The country is not ours, it is Ugandans’. We are also just part of it,” said Museveni.
President Museveni said the NRM has done a remarkable job of turning a failed state into a prosperous state, which is about to enter middle-income state.
“Before there was lack of everything including sugar, soap, etc. but now there is surplus of everything. The problem we now have is market. Uganda is now stable because the economy is well run. Uganda has done very well,” he added.
Museveni warned about poor budgeting and distribution in the new parliament and pledged to challenge such decisions using the powers given to him by the constitution as President.
“In the last 30 years, I have only used my powers against Parliament on about four occasions including one in 2001 when we had a cabinet meeting in Gulu and I ordered that 23% must be cut from all ministries to give Defense and defeat Kony and by August 2003 it was the turning point against Joseph Kony. The other was in 2006 when I insisted on putting more money on roads and electricity,” he said.
Commissioner Ssebaggala M. Kigozi, a member of the electoral Commission commended the President and Government of Uganda in general, for the facilitation extended to the Electoral Commission which enabled them to organize and conduct elections across the country.
“The Electoral Commission wishes to thank you for the wise leadership that has transformed this country,” said Ssebaggala.
Article 78 of the constitution provides for representation of Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) in Parliament.
Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, the UPDF Council, which is the electoral college for this election will be required to elect ten (10) representatives from among the nominees submitted by the Commander In Chief, One third of whom shall be women.