UPDF spokesperson Brig Gen Flavia Byekwaso has asked Busoga regional NRM mobilizers to always endeavor to maintain peace and stability in their respective areas ahead of next year’s general elections.
Brig Gen Byekwaso made the remarks during a meeting of party mobilizers, religious leaders, members from the various security security organs from Busoga sub region organised by the office of the NRM National Chairman (ONC) Kyambogo on September 06 at Iganga Boys Boarding Primary School.
She clarified to her attentive audience that UPDF, the institution she speaks for, has no political affiliation to the ruling NRM party since they are required to execute their mandate while remaining non partisan at the same time.
She however noted that the most important value that endears the force to the ruling establishment is President Museveni, their leader, and his belief in peace and stability.
She highlighted the catchwords in Museveni’s re-election message for 2021 which is “for seniority and stability,” saying it relates well with the UPDF’s mandate.
She subsequently had a question and answer session where she engaged with members on a wide range of security issues and the involvement of the army in the electoral process.
There were calls by some members rooting for the complete withdrawal of the army from the electoral process accusing them of fueling electoral violence, in cases where they are bribed to side with particular candidates at the expanse of others.
Mr Ahammed Kimbowa, the Chairman of the District Bodaboda Association, claimed that security officers from both the police and the army were hired by various camps within the NRM party primaries which led to tensions.
Kimbowa asked the top leadership of the Army to rein in their members ahead of next year’s elections.
Others decried the excessive use of force in enforcing order during elections which poses a big risk to the blossoming of peace in the country.
Mr Paul Waiswa Bwenibwamulawo, a special national Coordinator in the office of the National Chairman, asked that the army puts in place strategies to reach out to the grass-root population with the aim of boosting its public relations, something he believes would go a long way in promoting stability in the country.
In response, Gen Byekwaso welcomed the proposal and promised to engage other stakeholders to promote friendship between the common man and the national army. This way, she added, it will become easy to gather intelligence information for the good of the country.
The call to have the army out of the elections however received opposition from majority of the members most of whom hailed the force for endeavoring to execute their mandate amidst all the challenges presented by a section unfriendly public.
Prossy Mwanjuzi, the District Coordinator Budiope, cited an incident in Budiope West where one candidate in the recently concluded NRM primaries attempted a physical fight with the members of the UPDF in protest of the outcome of the vote he was losing.
The military had to use some reasonable force in self defense, arresting the errant contestant in the process, she narrated.
This, she said, would have escalated into ugly clashes in the area had there not been the army. She thus requested for more deployment to reinforce the police.
On the matter of indiscipline in the force, Byekweso said such officers should be individually held accountable for their missdeeds.
She insisted the force has a well established code of conduct which emphasizes a very high standard of discipline, making it clear that whoever goes against it must always be brought to book.
Byekwaso further appealed to the public to report to her officers involved in unprofessional conduct while executing official duties, pledging that those implicated will face institutional disciplinary action.
She also warned that not even members of the ruling party will enjoy preferential treatment from the force during the electoral period.
Byekwaso, who became the Army mouthpiece just over a month ago, appealed to whoever felt they had something she could learn from them to always endeavor to tip her on how she can best perfect her new role being the first female to hold the position in the history of the national army.
She used the occasion to assure Ugandans that the Army is well prepared to ensure a peaceful electoral process, and warned whoever intends to cause havoc to reconsider such plans.
“I want to assure the nation that the UPDF is well prepared for the challenge ahead and however has intentions of disrupting our peace should be prepared for the repercussions. ” She said.