Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UPDF Thesis Musings

At the beginning of summer I thought I had a great thesis idea, to explore the evolution of the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) from a bush army that brought Museveni to power to a professional fighting force leading the fight against Al Shabab in Somalia.  In May I traveled to Uganda for 30 days to research the UPDF and met with some Ugandan officers, soldiers, regular people, Ugandan military trainers, and politicians who fought with Museveni in the independence war.  However, it was hard to get information about the transformation of the UPDF.  People were very proud of the way they came to power defeating the government forces, and what they are doing now in Somalia and the region hunting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), but didnt share much about the interim period.  While I was there an American researcher was arrested by the Ugandan secret police for asking too many questions of military officers so I ran out of sources.  After that, nobody wanted to discuss the UPDF and I didn't want to end up in a secret prison, so I dropped it.

I also discovered that although the UPDF is doing great things in Somalia and is a pretty good fighting force, some issues remain.  For example, there is no established program for promotion in the military and no retirement program.  You have to know someone to get promoted or a pay raise, which pays off if you are the President's son and just got promoted to General and placed in command of the Ugandan Special Forces.  However, there are many privates who have served since the bush wars and never got promoted or advanced.  One officer I interviewed said there was no retirement program so people serve indefinitely because there is no life after the military.  That's also why many of the military leaders develop side businesses (like rental vehicle agencies, shipping companies, hotels).  The officer also explained that the Ugandan budget did not provide for pay or planning beyond the month or year so there was no assurances that there would be pay for retirees in the future.  He did say that he got special government housing as a perk.  Another concern I had about the UPDF is that some leaders had risen to power after being implicated in the violent suppression of the opposition. 

As it comes time to officially commit to a thesis I am starting to doubt my thesis.  Is there enough substance to this topic?

Other ideas I had were to explore the security situation in Chad, looking at the 2008 rebel advance, French support, tribal pressures, Libyan interference, and religious conflict.  The other idea was look into the bromance between Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila from their origins in the bush to current discord with Uganda forces banned from the DRC and Rwanda forces messing around in the DRC.

There isn't a whole lot written about Chad so it will be hard to find a multitude of sources.  However, there is a whole lot written about the MKK love triangle and their involvement of the wars of central Africa.  I have always thought it was interesting how Kagame worked for Museveni when Museveni was fighting to come to power.  Then Museveni and Kagame brought Kabila to power but were given the boot after the second Congo war.  Their relationships still affect conflict in the region.

Any suggestions?

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