Uganda People's Defence Force

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), previously known as the National Resistance Army, is the armed forces of Uganda. From 2007 to 2011, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the UPDF had a total strength of 40,000–45,000 and consisted of land forces and an air wing.[5]

Uganda People's Defence Force
Nguvu ya Ulinzi ya Watu wa Uganda
Uganda People's Defence Force emblem
Service branchesLand Forces, Air Force, Special Operations Command[1]
HeadquartersKampala, Uganda
Military age18 years of age
Active personnel46,800 (2014)[2]
BudgetUSD: 933.6 million (2015)[3]
Percent of GDP1.2% (2015)[4]
Domestic suppliersNational Enterprise Corporation
Foreign suppliersRussia
United States
South Africa
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Uganda
RanksRank insignia of the Ugandan People's Defense Force

After Uganda achieved independence in October 1962, British officers retained most high-level military commands. Ugandans in the rank and file claimed this policy blocked promotions and kept their salaries disproportionately low. These complaints eventually destabilized the armed forces, already weakened by ethnic divisions. Each post-independence regime expanded the size of the army, usually by recruiting from among people of one region or ethnic group, and each government employed military force to subdue political unrest.


The origins of the present Ugandan armed forces can be traced back to 1902, when the Uganda Battalion of the King's African Rifles was formed. Ugandan soldiers fought as part of the King's African Rifles during the First World War and Second World War. As Uganda moved toward independence, the army stepped up recruitment, and the government increased the use of the army to quell domestic unrest. The army was becoming more closely involved in politics, setting a pattern that continued after independence. In January 1960, for example, troops were deployed to Bugisu and Bukedi districts in the east to quell political violence. In the process, the soldiers killed twelve people, injured several hundred, and arrested more than 1,000. A series of similar clashes occurred between troops and demonstrators, and in March 1962 the government recognized the army's growing domestic importance by transferring control of the military to the Ministry of Home Affairs.


On 9 October 1962, Uganda became independent from the United Kingdom, with 4th Battalion, King's African Rifles, based at Jinja, becoming the Uganda Rifles.[6] The traditional leader of the Baganda, Edward Mutesa, became president of Uganda.[7] Milton Obote, a northerner and longtime opponent of autonomy for the southern kingdoms including Buganda, was prime minister. Mutesa recognized the seriousness of the rank-and-file demands for Africanising the officer corps, but he was more concerned about potential northern domination of the military, a concern that reflected the power struggle between Mutesa and Obote. Mutesa used his political power to protect the interests of his Baganda constituency, and he refused to support demands for Africanization of the officer ranks.

On 1 August 1962, the Uganda Rifles became the Uganda Army.[8] The armed forces more than doubled, from 700 to 1,500, and the government created the 2nd Battalion stationed at the north-eastern town of Moroto on 14 November 1963. Omara-Otunnu wrote in 1987 that "a large number of men had been recruited into the Army to form this new battalion, and ... the new recruits were not given proper training" because the Army was already heavily committed in its various operations.[9]

In January 1964, following a mutiny by Tanganyikan soldiers in protest over their own Africanisation crisis, unrest spread throughout the Uganda Army. On 22 January 1964, soldiers of the 1st Battalion in Jinja mutinied to press their demands for a pay raise and a Ugandan officer corps. They also detained their British officers, several non-commissioned officers, and Minister of Interior Felix Onama, who had arrived in Jinja to represent the government's views to the rank and file. Obote appealed for British military support, hoping to prevent the mutiny from spreading to other parts of the country. About 450 British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Scots Guards and Staffordshire Regiment (elements of the 24th Infantry Brigade) responded. They surrounded the First Battalion barracks at Jinja, seized the armory, and quelled the mutiny. The government responded two days later by dismissing several hundred soldiers from the army, several of whom were subsequently detained.

Although the authorities later released many of the detained soldiers and reinstated some in the army, the mutiny marked a turning point in civil-military relations. The mutiny reinforced the army's political strength. Within weeks of the mutiny, the president's cabinet also approved a military pay raise retroactive to 1 January 1964, more than doubling the salaries of those in private to staff-sergeant ranks. Additionally, the government raised defense allocations by 400 percent. The number of Ugandan officers increased from 18 to 55. Two northerners, Shaban Opolot and Idi Amin, assumed command positions in the Uganda Rifles and later received promotions to Brigadier and commander in chief, and army chief of staff, respectively.

Following the 1964 mutiny, the government remained fearful of internal opposition. Obote moved the army headquarters approximately 87 kilometres (54 mi) from Jinja to Kampala. He also created a secret police force, the General Service Unit (GSU) to bolster security. Most GSU employees guarded government offices in and around Kampala, but some also served in overseas embassies and other locations throughout Uganda. When British training programs ended, Israel started training Uganda's army, air force, and GSU personnel. Several other countries also provided military assistance to Uganda.

Decalo writes that:[10]

... using classic 'divide and rule' tactics, he [Obote] appointed different foreign military missions to each battalion, scrambled operational chains of command, played the police off against the army, encouraged personal infighting between his main military 'proteges' and removed from operational command of troops officers who appeared unreliable or too authoritative."

When Congolese aircraft bombed the West Nile villages of Paidha and Goli on 13 February 1965, President Obote again increased military recruitment and doubled the army's size to more than 4,500. Units established included a third battalion at Mubende, a signals squadron at Jinja, and an antiaircraft detachment.[11] On 1 July 1965, six units were formed: a brigade reconnaissance, an army ordnance depot (seemingly located at Magamaga),[12] a brigade signals squadron training wing, a records office, a pay and pensions office, and a Uganda army workshop.[13]

Tensions rose in the power struggle over control of the government and the army and over the relationship between the army and the Baganda people. Shortly after February 1966, Amin was appointed Chief of the Army and Air Force Staff, while Brigadier Opolot was transferred to the Ministry of Defence as Chief of the Defence Staff. On 24 May 1966, Obote ousted Mutesa, assumed his offices of president and commander in chief, suspended the 1962 constitution, and consolidated his control over the military by eliminating several rivals. In October 1966 Opolot was dismissed from the army and detained under the emergency regulations then in force.

At about the same time, Obote abrogated the constitution, revoked Buganda's autonomous status, and instructed the Army to attack the Kabaka's palace, forcing the Kabaka to flee. Elections were cancelled. Political loyalties rather than military skill became critical amongst both officers and men.[14] Many educated southern officers were court-martialled or dismissed in 1966 and 1967, and ethnicity became the key factor in recruitment and promotions.

Since 1970

In 1970, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) assessed the Ugandan armed forces to consist of 6,700 personnel, constituting an army of 6,250 with two brigade groups, each of two battalions, plus an independent infantry battalion, with some Ferret armoured cars, and BTR-40 and BTR-152 armoured personnel carriers, plus an air arm of 450 with 12 Fouga Magister armed jet trainers, and seven MiG-15s and MiG-17s.[15]

In January 1971, Amin and his followers within the army seized power in a coup d'état.[16]

Shortly after the expulsion of Asians in 1972, Obote launched a small invasion across the Tanzanian border into south-western Uganda. His small army contingent in 27 trucks set out to capture the southern Ugandan military post at Masaka but instead settled down to await a general uprising against Amin, which did not occur. A planned seizure of the airport at Entebbe by soldiers in an allegedly hijacked East African Airways passenger aircraft was aborted when Obote's pilot blew out the aircraft's tires, causing it to remain in Tanzania. Amin was able to mobilize his more reliable Malire Mechanised Regiment and expel the invaders.

In 1976 during Operation Entebbe, the Israeli military destroyed 12 MiG-21s and three MiG-17s based at Entebbe Airport to prevent pursuit.[17]

In 1977, before the Uganda–Tanzania War, the Ugandan armed forces were reported by IISS as consisting of 20,000 land forces personnel, with two four-battalion brigades and five other battalions of various types, plus a training regiment.[18] There were a total of 35 T-34, T-55, and M-4 Sherman medium tanks. An air arm was 1,000 strong with 21 MiG-21 and 10 MiG-17 combat aircraft. The IISS noted that the Ugandan armed forces collapsed in the face of the Tanzanian onslaught and the serviceable aircraft were removed to Tanzania.

After the Uganda–Tanzania War, fighters available to the new government included only the fewer than 1,000 troops who had fought alongside the Tanzanian People's Defence Force (TPDF) to expel Amin. The army was back to the size of the original army at independence in 1962. Titularly, Colonel Tito Okello served as army commander and Colonel David Oyite Ojok as chief of staff,[19] leading the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).

But in 1979, in an attempt to consolidate support for the future, leaders such as Yoweri Museveni and Major General (later Chief of Staff) David Oyite Ojok began to enroll thousands of recruits into what were rapidly becoming their private armies.[7] Museveni's 80 original soldiers grew to 8,000; Ojok's original 600 became 24,000. When then-President Godfrey Binaisa sought to curb the use of these militias, which were harassing and detaining political opponents, he was overthrown in a military coup on 10 May 1980. The coup was engineered by Ojok, Museveni, and others acting under the general direction of Paulo Muwanga, Obote's right-hand man and chair of the Military Commission. The TPDF was still providing necessary security while Uganda's police force—which had been decimated by Amin—was rebuilt, but President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania refused to help Binaisa retain power. Many Ugandans claimed that although Nyerere did not impose his own choice on Uganda, he indirectly facilitated the return to power of his old friend and ally, Obote. In any case, the Military Commission headed by Muwanga effectively governed Uganda during the six months leading up to the national elections of December 1980.

After the Museveni government was formed in 1986, a number of key Rwanda Patriotic Front personnel became part of the National Resistance Army that became Uganda's new national armed forces. Fred Rwigyema was appointed deputy minister of defense and deputy army commander-in-chief, second only to Museveni in the military chain of command for the nation. Paul Kagame was appointed acting chief of military intelligence. Other Tutsi refugees were highly placed: Peter Baingana was head of NRA medical services and Chris Bunyenyezi was the commander of the 306th Brigade.[20] Tutsi refugees formed a disproportionate number of NRA officers for the simple reason that they had joined the rebellion early and thus had accumulated more experience.[20]

Uganda Peoples' Defence Force, 1995 to present

The National Resistance Army was renamed the Uganda People's Defence Force following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.[21]

UPDF's primary focus was the conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group operating in the country's northern region. Since March 2002, UPDF has been granted permission to carry out operations against LRA bases across the border in South Sudan. These raids, collectively known as Operation Iron Fist, have resulted in the repatriation of many abducted children being held by the rebels as child soldiers or sex slaves. The LRA has fled Uganda and been pushed deep into the jungles of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (principally Orientale Province).

The UPDF has also been the subject of controversy for having a minimum age for service of 13.[22] Many international organizations have condemned this as being military use of children. This has created an image problem for the UPDF and may have impacted the international aid Uganda receives. Western nations have sent a limited level of military aid to Uganda.[23] "Between 1990 and 2002, the army payroll had at least 18,000 ghost soldiers, according to a report by General David Tinyefuza."[24]

The problem continued in 2003, when there was a severe problem of "ghost" soldiers within the UPDF.[25] As of 2008, these personnel problems has been exacerbated by the surge of UPDF troops resigning to work with the Coalition Forces in Iraq.[26] They mostly work as an additional guard force at control points and dining facilities, for example.

Prior to 2000, the United States armed forces trained together with the UPDF as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative. This cooperation was terminated in 2000 because of Uganda's incursion into the DRC. Following the June 2003 UPDF withdrawal of troops from the DRC, limited nonlethal military assistance has restarted. The UPDF participates in the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance programme with the United States.

After several interventions in the Congo, the UPDF was involved in a further incursion there, from December 2008 stretching into February 2009, against the LRA in the Garamba area. UPDF special forces and artillery, supported by aircraft, were joined by the DRC's armed forces and elements of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Called "Operation Lightning Thunder" by the UPDF, it was commanded by Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho, commander of the 3rd Division.[27][28]

Recent operations

African Union Mission in Somalia

The UPDF has more than 6,200 soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).[29] The AMISOM force commander is Ugandan Lieutenant General Jonathan Rono.[30] The force commander in 2009, Ugandan Major General Nathan Mugisha, was wounded in a car bomb attack on 17 September 2009 that left nine soldiers dead,[31] including Burundian Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, the second in command.[32]

The United States has provided extensive training for UPDF contingents headed for Somalia. In the first half of 2012, Force Recon Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the UPDF.[33]

In addition, a significant amount of support to AMISOM has been provided by private companies. "Bancroft Global Development, headquartered on Washington's Embassy Row, employs about 40 South African and European trainers who work with [AMISOM's] Ugandan and Burundian troops."[34] Bancroft director Michael Stock told The EastAfrican that these mentors are embedded with AMISOM units in Mogadishu and southern and central Somalia. They coach commanders on how to predict and defeat the tactics which foreign fighters bring from outside East Africa and teach to al-Shabaab."

On 12 August 2012, two Ugandan Mil Mi-24s flying from Entebbe across Kenya to Somalia crashed in rugged terrain in Kenya. They were found two days later, burned out, with no likely survivors from the ten Ugandan servicemen on board the two helicopters. Another aircraft from the same flight crashed on Mount Kenya, and all seven Ugandan servicemen on board were rescued a day later. The aircraft were supporting AMISOM in the ongoing Somali Civil War. An accompanying Mil Mi-17 transport helicopter landed without problems in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa near the Somali border for a scheduled refuelling stop.[35]

In August 2014, AMISOM launched Operation Indian Ocean against al-Shabaab in Lower Shabelle and other coastal areas of southcentral Somalia.[36] On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubeyr.[37] According to Pentagon spokesperson Admiral John Kirby, the Ugandan AMISOM forces had informed U.S. intelligence about where Godane and other Al-Shabaab leaders were meeting and provided information on a convoy of vehicles in which he was traveling.[38]

Al-Shabaab subsequently threatened an attack in Uganda for the UPDF contingent's role within AMISOM and the strike on Godane.[39][40] The Ugandan security services, with the assistance of the U.S. military and intelligence, then identified and foiled a major Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in the Ugandan capital Kampala. They recovered suicide vests, other explosives, and small arms and detained Al-Shabaab operatives.[41][42][43]

African Union Regional Task Force

In November 2011, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) authorized a Regional Co-operation Initiative (RCI) for eliminating the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA had been forced out of Uganda and was roaming remote areas of (what is now) South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR). The RCI was planned to consist of three elements: a Joint Co-ordination Mechanism chaired by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security and made up of the Ministers of Defence of the four affected countries (Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC, and the CAR); a Regional Task Force Headquarters; and, the Regional Task Force (RTF) of up to 5,000 troops from the four countries.[44]

United States special forces were already assisting Ugandan forces in their operations against the LRA in the DRC and the CAR.[45][46] In 2014, these forces were still assisting the RTF.[47]

The RTF started to take form in September 2012. By February 2013, the RTF had 3,350 soldiers and had finished deploying to the three sectors envisioned, with bases at Dungu, Obo, and Nzara (South Sudan).[48][49]

The RTF headquarters is at Yambio in South Sudan. The first Force Commander was Ugandan Colonel Dick Olum and the Deputy Force Commander was Colonel Gabriel Ayok Akuok.[50]

RTF operations, however, were plagued with difficulties, including the fact that Ugandan forces were restricted from operating in the DRC.

In October 2014, RTF Commander Brigadier Sam Kavuma was deployed to Somalia[51] and his place taken by Brigadier Lucky Kidega[52] By March 2016, the Ugandan RTF Commander was Colonel Richard Otto.[53]

During January 2016, UPDF 11 Battalion was based with the RTF in the CAR.[54] In mid-2016, it was reported that Uganda would withdraw its contribution to the RTF by the end of the year.[55]

South Sudan Civil War

December 2013: Uganda reportedly deploys troops to Juba to evacuate Ugandan nationals following outbreak of fighting.

13 January 2014: President Museveni speaks of battle 90 km south of Bor involving UPDF.

16 January 2014: Colonel Kanyanja Muhanga announced as UPDF force commander in South Sudan.

January 2014: Ambush and battle reported at Tabakeka, a few kilometres outside Bor, with nine UPDF fatalities and 46 wounded.

22 January 2014: Updated casualty report says nine UPDF dead and a dozen wounded, including: Captain Celistine Egau, Sergeant Santos Ochen, Private Richard Oyaka and Private Arthur Mbagira.

9 February 2014: Colonel Kayanja Muhanga, Officer Commanding "Zulu Task Force”) promoted to Brigadier.

21 October 2015: First re-deployment of troops out of South Sudan, from forward base in Bor, about 190 km north of Juba.

9 December 2015: Mention of c. 3000 men from South Sudan in seven battalions registering late for upcoming Ugandan election.

14-18 July 2016: Ugandan forces under Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga undertake Operation Okoa Wanaichi, entering South Sudan and successfully evacuating up to 40,000 Ugandans and 100 other nationalities who were fleeing the fighting.[56]

UN Guard Unit, Somalia

The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) was established on 3 June 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2102 and works alongside AMISOM in Somalia. In 2014 it was decided the mission needed a guard unit to secure and protect UN personnel and their installations in Somalia. Uganda has provided this unit, initially of 410 personnel, since 2014. The United Nations Guard Unit, or UNGU, is based at Mogadishu Airport.[57] [58] [59] [60] [61]

  • UNGU I (Lt. Col. Wycliffe Keita) – May 2014 to mid-2015
  • UNGU II (Lt. Col. Richard Walekura) – mid-2015 to August 2016
  • UNGU III (Lt. Col. Keith Katungi) – August 2016 to July 2017
  • UNGU IV (Lt. Col. Mike Hyeroba) – July 2017 to mid-2018
  • UNGU V (Lt. Col. Stuart Agaba), 529 personnel – mid-2018 to July 2019 [62] [63]
  • UNGU VI (Lt. Col. Nathan Bainomugisha) - July 2019 to present [64]

Uganda Military Training and Mentoring Team, Equatorial Guinea

During February 2017 Uganda deployed a UPDF team to Equatorial Guinea to assist in the training of that country's armed forces.[65] The second contingent of 248 personnel was welcomed back in Uganda in January 2019 when a third team was despatched.[66]

  • First Contingent – 100–150 personnel; deployed February 2017 to ...
  • Second Contingent – 248 personnel; ... to January 2019
  • Third Contingent – January 2019 to present

Command and organisation


A reshuffle of generals in May 2013 resulted in the establishment of the following command structure, with four forces, or commands, falling under the Ministry of Defence Headquarters at Mbuya (Land Forces, Air Force, Special Forces, and Reserve Forces).[67]

  • President and Commander-in-Chief: Gen. (rtd) Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
  • Minister of Security: General Elly Tumwine
  • Defence Minister: Adolf Mwesige [68]
  • State Minister for Defence: Bright Rwamirama [52]
  • Chief of Defence Forces: Gen. David Muhoozi (since January 2017)[69]
  • Deputy Chief of Defence Forces: Lt. Gen. Wilson Mbadi (since January 2017)[69]
  • Joint Chief of Staff: Lt. Gen. Joseph Musanyufu

Land forces

  • Commander of land forces: Lt. General Peter Elwelu (since February 2019)[69]
  • Chief of staff land forces: Brigadier Geoffrey Katsigazi (since December 2016)[70]

Air forces

  • Commander of air forces: Lt. General Charles Lwanga Lutaaya (since January 2017)[71]

Special forces

  • Commander Special Forces Command: Maj. Gen. James Birungi, (commander since June 2019)[72]

Reserve forces

  • Commander of the reserve forces: Major General Charles Otema (since January 2017)[71]

Fisheries protection forces

  • Commander of the fisheries protection unit: Lieutenant Colonel James Nuwagaba[73]

Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Mbuya

  • Chief of personnel & administration': Lt. Gen Joseph Musanyufu
  • Chief of military intelligence:Brig. Abel Kandiho (since January 2017)[69]
  • Chief of training and recruitment: Brigadier Jim Willis Byaruhanga
  • Chief of logistics and engineering: Brigadier Charles Bakahumura (since January 2017)[69]
  • Chief of communications and information technology: Brigadier Michael Bossa (June 2016)
  • Chief of communications and information: Colonel Victor Twesigye
  • Chief political commissar: Brigadier Henry Matsiko (since January 2017)[74]
  • Chief controller of finance: Colonel Baguma Mugume
  • Chief of civil-military relations: Brigadier Moses Diiba Sentongo
  • Chief of doctrine: Lt. General Pecos Kutesa
  • Chief of legal services: Brigadier Ramadhan Kyamulesire
  • Chief of production: Brigadier Jacob Musajjawaza
  • Chief of records: Colonel Arthur Musinguzi
  • Commander of military police: Brigadier William Bainomugisha (since April 2017)[75]
  • Director of medical services: Brigadier Ambrose Musinguzi
  • General court martial: Lt. Gen Andrew Gutti
  • Chief of pensions and gratuity: Colonel Metland Bitumbika
  • Commissioner National Secretariat of Patriotism Corps: Brig.General Patrick Mwesigye

Training schools

The UPDF has the following training schools:[76]

  • Senior Command and Staff College, Kimaka (Lt. Gen. Andrew Guti)
  • Junior Staff College, Jinja (Brig. James Kinalwa)
  • Uganda Military Academy, Kabamba (Brig. Emmanuel Musinguzi)
  • Uganda Military Engineering College (University Military Science & Technology, Lugazi) (Brigadier Dennis Asiimwe)
  • College of Logistics and Engineering (COLE) (Magamaga - Mayuge District. 91KM East of Kampala) (Brigadier Christopher Bbosa)
  • Oliver Tambo Leadership School, Kawaweta, Nakaseke District[77][78]
  • Karama Armoured Warfare Training School, Mubende (Brigadier Francis Chemonges, or Chemo)
  • Singo Peace Support Training Centre (Brigadier Jack Bakasumba)
  • Kaweweta Recruits Training School
  • National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi
  • Bihanga Military Training School, Ibanda (Colonel Semakula)
  • Hima Training School, Kasese
  • Anti-terrorism Centre (Major General Fred Mugisha)
  • Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre, Jinja (Major General Nakibus Lakara)
  • Uganda Air Defence and Artillery School, Nakasongola, Nakasongola District
  • Uganda Air Force Academy, Nakasongola, Nakasongola District[79]
  • Uganda Urban Warfare Training School, Singo, Nakaseke District[80]

Land forces

As of June 2013, the land forces commander appeared to be Major General David Muhoozi.[81] In 2012, Muhoozi was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and appointed commander of the air defence unit in Nakasongola. He previously served as the brigade commander for the mechanised brigade in Masaka.

Before his appointment as commander of the defence forces, General Katumba Wamala served as the commander of land forces.[82] Wamala was among the military cadets sent to the Monduli Military Academy in Tanzania in 1979 (now the Tanzania Military Academy) and served as inspector general of police until 2005. Wamala succeeded General Aronda Nyakairima as chief of the defence force.

In August 2012, Major General Fredrick Mugisha, previously in charge of the African Union Mission in Somalia, was appointed the new joint chief of staff.[83] Brigadier Charles Angina, formerly the General Court Martial chairperson, was promoted to major general and appointed chief of staff of the land forces.[83]

The organisation of the land forces was reported in 2015 to be as follows:[84]

  • five division headquarters
  • one armoured brigade
  • one motorised infantry brigade
  • one tank battalion
  • Presidential Guard brigade
  • one engineer brigade
  • one commando battalion
  • 5 infantry divisions (total: 16 infantry brigades)
  • one artillery brigade
  • two air defence battalions


The divisions are:

  • First Division: Kakiri, Wakiso District.
  • Second Division: Makenke Barracks, Mbarara (Brigadier Peter Elewelu). It is composed of three brigades and four auxiliary battalions, according to the website of the Ministry of Defence Uganda. This division, according to, includes the divisional headquarters at Mbarara; the 13th, 17th, 69th, 73rd, and 77th battalions; the Rwenzori Mountain Alpine Brigade; possibly another Alpine brigade; and the 3rd Tank Battalion. The division has been heavily involved with border operations since the Congo Civil War began in the 1990s. Brigadier Peter Elwelu took command in a ceremony on 17 July 2013. He had been appointed in June 2013.[81]
  • Third Division: Moroto (Brigadier Dick Olum). Before 2013, the Third Division headquarters was reported to be at Mbale.[85]
  • Fourth Division: Gulu District (Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga, until December 2016 when he took command of the Ugandan contingent with AMISOM in Somalia).[86] James Kazini served with this division in 1996-99.
  • Fifth Division: Lira (Brigadier Sam Kavuma). Created in August 2002.[87] As of 2013, the division appears to include the 401 Brigade.[88]
  • Field Artillery Division: Masindi (Brigadier Sam Okiding, who was Ugandan Contingent Commander with AMISOM, 2015–16)
  • Air Defence Division: Nakasongala (Brigadier Garvas Mugyenyi since May 2013)


  • Armoured Brigade: Kasijjagirwa Barracks, Masaka (Brigadier Joseph M. Ssemwanga)[89]
  • Motorised Infantry Brigade: Nakasongola (Brigadier Tumusiime Katsigazi). Formed in September 2002 and is composed of three motorized infantry battalions.[90]
  • 209 Brigade
  • 301 Brigade[91]
  • 302 Brigade [92]
  • 303 Brigade
  • 305 Brigade [93]
  • 307 Brigade, Mburamizi, Kihihi, Kanungu District.[94] [95] Formed in June 2001 in Ntungamo District, when it included the 69 Battalion.
  • 401 Brigade, Lira/ Pader[96]
  • 403 Brigade, Kitgum [97]
  • 405 Brigade, Kotido [92]
  • 407 Brigade [92]
  • 409 Brigade, West Nile
  • 503 Brigade, Gang-Dyang, Kitgum.[98]
  • 507 Alpine Brigade, Kasese.[99] [100]
  • 509 Brigade, Pader.
  • 601 Brigade

Army equipment

Origin Type Acquired In service Notes
T-90 Russia Main Battle Tank 100[101] 44[101] T-90S variant; 56 on order.[101]
Type 85 China Main Battle Tank -- In service as of 2017.[102]
T-54/55 Soviet Union Main Battle Tank 199[101] 173[103]
T-34 Soviet Union Medium Tank 10[101] --
M4 Sherman United States Medium Tank 12[101] 3[104]
PT-76 Soviet Union Light Tank 50[101] 20[103]
BMP-2 Ukraine Infantry Fighting Vehicle 31[101] Sourced from Ukraine.[101]
BTR-80 Soviet Union Armoured Personnel Carrier 32[101] BTR-80A.[101]
BTR-60 Soviet Union Armoured Personnel Carrier 20[103] 12[105]
BTR-152 Soviet Union Armoured Personnel Carrier 74[101] --
OT-64 SKOT Czechoslovakia Armoured Personnel Carrier 36[101] 4[103]
Mamba South Africa MRAP 40[106]
RG-31 Nyala South Africa MRAP 15[101]
Buffel South Africa MRAP 51[101][105]
Casspir South Africa MRAP 42[101] For peacekeeping missions.[107]
Eland Mk7 South Africa Armoured Car 40[105] Eland-90.[108]
Alvis Saladin United Kingdom Armoured Car 36[109] --
Ferret United Kingdom Scout Car 15[101] -- Some sources report up to 60.[103]
BRDM-1 Soviet Union Scout Car 98[101] --
BRDM-2 Soviet Union Scout Car 100[101] --
SAMIL South Africa Utility Vehicle 450[110]
Chubby South Africa Mine Detection Vehicle 1[103]
D-30 Soviet Union Howitzer 9[101]
M-30 Soviet Union Howitzer 18[101] -- Sourced from Libya.[101]
M-46 Soviet Union Field Gun 8[101] Sourced from Bulgaria.[101]
Cardom Israel Heavy Mortar 18[101]
ATMOS 2000 Israel Self-propelled Howitzer 6[101]
BM-21 Grad Soviet Union Multiple Rocket Launcher 20[101]
RM-70 Czechoslovakia Multiple Rocket Launcher 6[101] Purchased 2001-2002.[101]

Ugandan People's Defence Air Force

Roundels of Ugandan People's Defence Air Force
Fin flash

There are conflicting reports on what aircraft the Air Force has in service. Lieutenant General Charles Lwanga Lutaaya, is the commander.[111]

In 2011, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the central bank governor, caused large volatility in the Ugandan shilling when he told the Financial Times that President Museveni had ignored technical advice against using Uganda's small foreign exchange reserves to buy new Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft.[112]

Air force inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-21bis Soviet Union fighter 5[113]
Sukhoi Su-30 Russia multirole Su-30MK2 8 4 on order[113]
Cessna 208 United States utility /surveillance 2[114] donated by the U.S.[115]
Bell 206 United States utility 7[113]
Huey II United States multirole 5[116] donated by the US[116]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility 10[113]
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-35 6[117]
Trainer Aircraft
Aero L-39 Czech Republic jet trainer 6[113]
SF.260 Italy trainer 4[113]
Ugandan Bell 206 helicopter


  1. Haggai Matsiko, Muhoozi Archived 28 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Independent, 2013
  2. "World Development Indicators - Google Public Data Explorer". 7 October 2016. Archived from the original on 9 January 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  3. "World Development Indicators - Military expenditure (current LCU)". The World Bank. Archived from the original on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  4. "World Development Indicators - Military expenditure (% of GDP)". The World Bank. Archived from the original on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  5. IISS Military Balance 2007, 297; IISS Military Balance 2011, 447.
  6. J.M. Lee, 1969, 40.
  7. Library of Congress Country Studies: Uganda
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  • "World Defence Almanac". Military Technology. Bonn, Germany: Monch Publishing Group. XXXII (1): 335. ISSN 0722-3226.
  • Library of Congress Uganda Country Study (significant sections copied under U.S. copyright law.)
  •  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress document: Thomas P. Ofcansky (December 1990). Rita M. Byrnes (ed.). Uganda: A country study. Federal Research Division. The First Obote Regime: The Growth of the Military.
  • Abbott, P. & Ruggeri, R., Modern African Wars (4): The Congo 1960–2002, Men-at-Arms Series 492, Osprey Publishing, London, 2014.
  • Amii Omara-Otunnu, Politics and the Military in Uganda 1890-1985, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1987.
  • Cooper, Tom, Africa@War Volume 14: Great Lakes Conflagration – The Second Congo War, 1998–2003, Helion & Co Ltd, England, and Thirty Degrees South Publishers Pty Ltd, Johannesburg, 2013.
  • Cooper, Tom & Fontanellaz, Adrien, Africa@War Volume 23: Wars and Insurgencies of Uganda, 1971–1994, Helion & Co Ltd, England, and Thirty Degrees South Publishers Pty Ltd, Johannesburg, 2015.ISBN 978-1-78200-076-1
  • Oloya, Opiyo, Black Hawks Rising: The Story of AMISOM's Successful War Against Somali Insurgents 2007-2014, Helion & Co Ltd, Solihull, England, 2016. ISBN 978-1-910777-69-5
  • Prunier, Gérard, Africa’s World War: Congo, The Rwandan Genocide and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, Oxford University Press, London, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-975420-5

Further reading

  • One way street, Africa Confidential, Volume 41 No 9. Deep rivalries in the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces have been the main reason for the UPDF’s failure to defeat the LRA since the late 1980s.
  • Max Delany, and Jeremy Binnie, 'Triple helicopter crash is major blow for Uganda, AMISOM,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 22 August 2013, 10.
  • Rune Hjalmar Espeland, and Stina Petersen (2010). The Ugandan army and its war in the North. Forum for Development Studies. 37(2): 193- 215
  • Lee, J. M. (1969), African Armies and Civil Order, International Institute for Strategic Studies/Chatto and Windus, 1969, 77, 105.
  • Ngoga, Pascal. "Uganda: The National Resistance Army." African guerrillas (1998): 91-106.
  • Gerard Prunier, From Genocide to Continental War: the 'Congolese' Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa, Hurst & Co., London, 2009, ISBN 978-1-85065-523-7 (p. 88, 186, 197)
  • "U.S. relies on contractors in Somalia conflict," New York Times, 10 August 2011
  • Rocky Williams, "National defence reform and the African Union." SIPRI Yearbook 2004: 231-249.

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