Over 2000 officers and men are set to retire from the national army, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF),
According to the latest figures from the army, at least 2000 soldiers have submitted their applications to retire voluntarily from the force. Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesperson, says all the necessary laws are now in place to start retiring those who wish to leave.
Ankunda says the army has set new guidelines to streamline the retirement process. According to the guidelines, soldiers from the rank of Major and below, who have reached the age of 50 years, can be allowed to retire voluntarily.
This comes a few months after General David Sejusa, who until recently was the Coordinator of Intelligence Services, accused the army leadership of holding officers hostage for the fear that they would join active politics and challenge the current government. Sejusa, who was in the bush with President Museveni in a war that brought the NRM to power 27 years ago, said that he himself tried several times to leave the army but he was reportedly blocked.
Ankunda now says that the 2000 is an overwhelming number and the budget for this year may not accommodate all the applicants. He however adds that the process is already on and those who qualify will be retired.
Ankunda says to replace those who will be retired; the army will from next month recruit three thousand soldiers to fill the gaps that will have been created. He says it is a continuous exercise to ensure efficiency and freshness in the army.
It emerged in June this year that President Museveni had appointed General Salim Saleh to chair the committee to look into streamlining the retirement process for soldiers. Saleh is to be deputised by Reserve Force commander Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga.
For the last few months, the UPDF has been in the spotlight for allegedly refusing to retire army officers who clock the age of retirement for fear of joining politics. Sejusa, who is now in self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom, in various letters claimed that several officers are disgruntled and would want to retire but fear being reprimanded if they try to force their retirements.
The last time the army allowed or foced soldiers to retire in big numbers was in 1993 during the IMF-sponsored retrenchment exercise.