It is true. The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) was a guerilla outfit called National Resistance Army (NRA) until, by constitutional design, it became a national army.
National armies fight conventionally. Guerilla armies fight unconventionally. National armies want to win wars quickly to save resources and minimize losses to human life.
Guerilla armies are not in a hurry to win wars. They function by overstretching national armies as long as they can do that they can change the collective mindset against the ruling regime and its army.
They take advantage of natural vegetation to conceal themselves, because they do their fighting mostly in the bushes and forests. That is what the NRA did in Luwero in The early 1980s before it triumphed over the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) of which it was an offshoot or breakaway insurgent group. And that is what Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have been doing in the Forests of the DRC.
When a guerilla army has transmuted into a national army it must change its collective mindset into that of a conventional army. However, this is not easy, if the the guerilla army manifested as one for a long time. As one of the coercive instruments (the other one being the police) it may in practice continue to act as if it is a guerilla army.
If it used to grab money from the banks or unions, the practice may continue but legally through allocations by the legislative body.
A former Guerilla army, transmuted to a national army, may appropriate all the resources of the country to itself and behave as if it is entitled to everything ( land, money, natural resources such fisheries, forests and even oil if the pertinent country has them). Even jobs previously left to civilians may be claimed by soldiers. This way it hurts the very people and institutions it maintains were liberated.
When a former Guerilla army transmuted into national army it remains fearful that other guerilla groups may arise and cause insecurity in the country and a threat to the existence and continued stay in power of the regime it subtends.
Therefore, it may impulsively destroy any bushes or forests that may serve as refuge for guerillas. This means it destroys forests, woodlands and bushes, and thus manifests as environmentally dangerous. Many forests have been degazetted easily. This devalues or erodes its legitimacy as protector of the national environment.
Indeed UPDF, while pursuing ADF in the forests of DRC, is destroying the rainforests of that country. Indications are that it has been allowed by DRC and joined by the army of that country.
Forests are important because they serve as sinks for Carbon dioxide, thereby purifying the air and reducing the green house effect of this gas, which is partly responsible for the rising climate change locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
One may say with confidence that fear of rebels is greatly responsible for recent deforestation of landscapes and rising climate change in Africa in general and Great Lakes Region in particular. The fear is political, not military: the fear of loss of power, which also means loss of glory, access to resources, and wealth.
In Africa, ultimate political power is not for serving and improving the living conditions of the people, but enriching those who access power. If it was to improve the living conditions of the people, then we would not be seeing former guerillas on the Continent of Africa becoming stinkingly rich when the people become poorer, and even lose their environment and natural resources, including land, to the former guerillas. Or else former guerillas connive with foreigner to deprive, dispossess and displace the people from their resources.
As if this is not enough, these days former guerillas in power are conniving with foreigners to export our young people into modern slavery in the hope that they are solving the worsening unemployment problem on the Continent, and ostensibly also to make foreign exchange for the countries through remittances from the young people. But they are depriving Africa of future workers, and leaving it for foreigners to grab.
In the past our people were forced to go and work in foreign lands by force and without pay. Today, former guerillas in power have formed companies to export the youth to foreign lands, especially Arab ones, for peanuts, while they make billions.
For God and My Country
The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist and Environmentalist
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