The other week, rumors circulated that the UPDF had been put on standby class-one, an allegation that was not denied by the army establishment. Then this week media outlets published that the UPDF High Command have made the decision to give a 100% salary increase to the senior officers from the rank of Major to the five-star Generals. They also gave 0% increment to the junior officers, from Captain to Private.
The real implication of this decision is that the General who has been receiving in the region of 1.6 million will now get UGX15M! In a summarized brief, you will find the new salary structure placing a General at Shs15m, Lt Gen at Shs13m, Maj Gen at Shs12m, Brig at Shs10m, Col at Shs8m, Lt Col at Shs5m and Major at Shs2.5m. A Colonel’s salary was previously at Shs1.1m a Brigadier Shs1.3m, a Major General, Shs1.4m, a Lieutenant General, Shs1.5m and a General Shs1.6m.
Rational: Once, General Kahinda Otafiire was asked by some overzealous journalist about the fate of another UPDF General, who was embroiled in a scandal. His answer was that we, the rest of the lesser kind, should leave the issues of the Generals to the Generals. Of course, it’s very easy to leave the sticky issues to the Generals as long as they also manage to keep their issues to themselves.
But since they came out in public view on how they had made such a bizarre salary increment to themselves, then it’s now a public matter which we can discuss, especially its rationality. First of all, I don’t think that its wise decision to publish the salary structure of the army in the media. Whom do you satisfy when you do that? What do you intend to gain from that?
The Timing: An inquisitive mind is also questioning the timing and the spirit in which they arrived at this decision. Given the state of the economy today, which is harsh by the way, any salary increment is frowned upon by the citizens. The timing is sending out the message that something is not right.
Either the decision was made out of duress to appease the senior officers, or to patronize them. But even then, if someone wanted to appease and probably, please the senior offices, what did they expect of the lower ranking armed men and women, about their 0% salary increment?
Why should it be 100%?
Such a discriminative increment might sow seeds of discord within the army. This one is even worse than the discriminative increment for science teachers. It’s obvious that something is not right in this institution. Can we speculate that the news we heard about the UPDF being put on standby class-one is directly connected to this? It looks more than a recipe for disaster. Why?
Because, when you look at the demographic structure of the army, you will find that the top brass only constitutes a very small percentage. In terms of percentage, the senior officers only constitute 1% of the whole army compared to the lower ranking that constitute 99%. What happens if this percentage decide to mutiny?
Historical Perspectives: History has showed us that one of the most sensitive institutions in Uganda is the army. In 1964 the Ugandan army staged a mutiny in Jinja’s Ghaddafi barracks. When the then minister of defense Felix Onama was sent to talk to the soldiers, he was captured by the mutinous soldiers. The then Prime Minister, Dr Apollo Milton Obote brought in a company of British soldiers who surrounded the barracks.
The long and short of this story is that after some brief argument, coupled with the use of coercion, Obote accepted to increase the salary of the rebellious soldiers. Of course, he had the chance to reject their demands, since he had employed the services of the British army. But he chose to appease them, with the hidden selfish interest of using them in the future.
And indeed, two years later in 1966, Obote easily managed to use one of the rebellious soldiers in the names of General Idi Amin, to attack the Lubiri barracks and overthrow the Kabaka, Fredrick Muteesa. Obote later abrogated the constitution and became the President of the Republic of Uganda. From that moment, the Ugandan army became a very prominent player in the politics of the country.
In other words, by getting into the center of altering the course of political events, the Ugandan army took a turn-for-the-worst which resulted into a series of extra judicial killings and impunity that was witnessed for very many years. Knowing how important they were, the Ugandan army staged the 1971 military coup that dethroned Obote and brought General Idi Amin to power.
When Milton Obote came back to power in 1980, he again made the army his main bedrock-player in the politics of the country. At one time, he sarcastically scoffed at one of his political opponents thus, ‘’Ssemogerere, where are your commanders?” What Obote didn’t understand at all, was the fact that he was playing directly into the hands of his commanders.
He was making the soldiers believe that without them, he was nothing-politically! And as you all know; the same commanders overthrew him again for the second time in 1985. I hope I have not deviated by dwelling so much in history. The point here is that once a government pampers senior military officers, then you know the catastrophic consequences that follow.
In fact, what I had also forgotten is that the 1964 mutiny had also taken place in Kenya and Tanzania as well. But the difference was that President Julius Nyerere made the decision to fire the ring leaders of the revolt while Jomo Kenyatta refused to comply to their demands for the salary increment.
And paradoxically speaking, by the way, the most interesting bit of this version of the 1964 army mutiny is that, some of us have heard it from President Museveni himself. Gen Museveni actually lambasts President Obote for the way he handled the 1964 mutiny and going on to pamper the army and making it a central player in Ugandan politics. What are we seeing now?
The same Gen Museveni is giving a 100% salary increment to his senior officers and 0% to the junior officers, at a time when the economy is biting hard and the teachers, doctors and other public servants are on the verge of staging industrial action. We are not saying that soldiers are not entitled to a salary increment. All we are saying is that if soldiers are to get an increment, then they should all (across the board) be considered. This gesture, to avoid unavoidable consequences similar to those of 1964.
And lastly; like we have argued before, a salary review commission must be instituted to look into what every public servant earns. The commission should be able to iron out the inconsistencies and unfair/discriminative salary increments in all sectors of public service. Otherwise, the whole public service will erupt into a mutiny.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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