President Museveni has for the first time detailed how his National Resistance Army rebels were in a period of less than five years able to acquire 20,000 or so guns.
Speaking during the 42 Tarehe Sita celebrations at Kakyeeka Stadium in Mbarara on Monday, Museveni said the botched attack on Kabamba barracks by his group at the start of the rebellion was a blessing in disguise for them.
“On February, 6 1981 at 08am is when 43 of us but with 27 rifles attacked a huge garrison of the Kabamba military training school to regain some of the 1000 rifles FRONSA had handed to the joint force of UNLA after defeat of Amin,” Museveni told the gathering.
“Although the attack itself didn’t succeed, we collected out 40 rifles from the houses around, captured eight lorries, were joined by some of fighters like Anthony Kyabale, successfully drove our fleet of vehicles and late camped at Budimbo.”
Explaining the notion of a blessing in disguise of the attempted attack on Kabamba, Museveni noted that three days after the incident that alerted Obote of NRA’s quest for power, government troops would later attack them.
“The failure to capture the 1000 rifles was God’s intervention because even if we had capture those guns, government would have recaptured them from us because on February 6, government forces surprised our temporary camp and recaptured some equipment including my brief case which had a document on which our new structure had been written.”
A day after the attack on Kabamba, Museveni sat down with his troops and detailed to them the new structure which had four sections and a few other individuals who formed the bodyguards of the chairman of the high command(Museveni).
Whereas Sam Magara was in charge of the first section, Elly Tumwine commanded the second one, Hanington Mugabi took charge of the third section and Jack Mucunguzi was in charge of the fourth section.
“Each of the section had 12 rifles and by end of February, 6, we therefore had about 60 rifles compared to the 27 we had started with,” Museveni said.
A section is a military sub-subunit which usually consists of between 6 and 20 personnel
The NATO and US doctrine define a section as an organization “larger than a squad, but smaller than a platoon and as such, two or more sections usually make up a platoon.
Obote mocks toothless NRA
Museveni told the gathering that after the attack by government forces on NRA forces and recaptured some guns from them, the then President Milton Obote and then Vice President, cum Minister for Defence , Pawulo Muwanga mocked the rebels as being toothless.
“When government army showed Obote and Paulo Muwanga, the parade state of our army, they just laughed with contempt. They had forgotten that biology informs us that a healthy zygote may end up as giant human being. NRA was a health zygote which ended up into an army.
The president said by February 1986, the National Resistance Army which had now captured power had got over 20000 guns .
“Of the 20,000 rifles we had by 1986, we had got 800 from Gaddaffi of Libya and one million rounds of ammunition. Nyerere had given us 5000 rifles with one million rounds of ammunition whereas the rest were captured from the government army. Obote would buy guns from North Korea and we would take them from him.”
“The tactical battles of quick decision enabled NRA of small sections to become a powerful force of big brigades by 1986.”
He also noted that the NRA then in 1986 had 21 battalions and a special force, all this feat reached at in a period of five years since the first attempt on Kabamba barracks.
Museveni said the rest is history as the 1986 National Resistance Army(NRA) would later metamorphose into the current celebrated Uganda People’s Defence Forces(UPDF).
He however warned the UPDF against repeating the mistakes of the past armies that forced people to hate them.
“UPDF must be careful. You must never adopt the habits of old armies of brutality and corruption. If you do that people will hate you .The people hated those armies.”