Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents


Military Service

Recruitment and Training

Both before and after independence, Uganda relied on voluntary recruitment to the military, although the government forced some people to enlist during the 1970s. Minimum age for recruits was seventeen, and the maximum age, twenty-five. Military service required the equivalent of a seventh-grade education, although this requirement, too, was suspended at times during the 1970s and 1980s. There was no fixed tour of duty. Army regulations requiring either five-year or nine-year contracts for recruits were largely ignored. Soldiers who sought to leave military service applied to their commanding officer, who could reject or grant the request. In 1990 military officials claimed that women served in the military in the same capacity as men, but the number of women in the NRA and their contribution to combat were unknown.

Northerners dominated the military well before independence. This was in part the result of British economic policies that treated the northern region as a vast labor pool for cash crop agriculture in the south. Many northerners joined the army as an alternative to agricultural wage labor. Protectorate officials also recruited more intensely in the north. They posted most military recruits away from their home areas and among people of different ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. This practice was intended to ensure loyalty to military commanders and reduce military sympathies for local citizens.

Before independence professional standards for military training were high. During World War I and World War II, the protectorate fielded an impressive force, and Ugandan soldiers earned international admiration. Then during the 1960s, training standards declined amid the nation's political and economic crises. Morale plummeted when British officers retained most commands, although the government tried to increase the number of Ugandan officers by granting some commissions after only a crash course in military affairs. Professional standards deteriorated, and an increasing number of Ugandans found jobs more easily in the civilian economy. Military service attracted fewer educated recruits.

In the 1970s and 1980s, most training facilities were located across the south. Many recruits also trained in other countries (see Foreign Military Assistance , this ch.). In 1986 Museveni pledged to upgrade educational requirements for military recruits, improve training standards and discipline, and override regional and ethnic loyalties that slowed the pace of military development. By late 1990, he had made only limited progress toward these goals.

Data as of December 1990