Uganda People's Defence Force

Uganda People's Defence Force
Military of Uganda
Flag of Uganda.svg
Flag of Uganda
Service branches Land forces, Air Wing (plus paramilitary forces)
Headquarters Kampala, Uganda[1]
President Yoweri Museveni
Defence Minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga
Chief of Defence Forces General Aronda Nyakairima[1]
Military age 13 years of age
Available for
military service
4,952,945, age 15–49 (2000 est.)
Fit for
military service
2,687,924, age 15–49 (2000 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
unknown (2000 est.)
Active personnel 40-45,000 (IISS 2007)
Budget $95 million (FY98/99)
Percent of GDP 1.9% (FY98/99)
Related articles
History Operation Entebbe
Uganda–Tanzania War
Ugandan Bush War
Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
First Congo War
Second Congo War
War in Somalia (2006–2009)

The Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF), previously the National Resistance Army, is the armed forces of Uganda. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates the UPDF has a total strength of 40–45,000, and consists of land forces and an Air Wing.[2]

The IISS Military Balance 2007 says there are 1,800 paramilitary personnel also, which include the Marines—Uganda's naval force—with 400 personnel, and eight riverine patrol craft, all of less than 100 tonnes. There is also a 800-strong Uganda Police Force Air Wing with one Bell JetRanger, and a 600-strong Border Defence Unit equipped only with small arms.



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. On 9 October 1962 Uganda became independent from the United Kingdom, with 4th Battalion, King's African Rifles becoming the Uganda Rifles.[3] On 23 January 1964 1st Battalion, Uganda Rifles, plus the embryonic 2nd Battalion mutinied, seizing its British officers. Following an invitation from President Milton Obote, British forces from Kenya (elements of the 24th Infantry Brigade) intervened later the same day, and two days later brought the mutiny to an end.

In 1970, the International Institute for Strategic Studies 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.[4]

In 1979, before the Uganda-Tanzania War, the Ugandan armed forces were reported, by the 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.[5] 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.

Soldier in an internally displaced persons camp in northern Uganda

The Uganda National Liberation Front ruled Uganda from the overthrow of Amin in April 1979 until the disputed national elections in December 1980. During that period the Front's military wing, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) acted as Uganda's national armed forces.

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 Rwigema 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,[6] while Adam Wasswa was the Commander of the 316th Brigade at Moroto in northern Uganda, Steven Ndugutse was commander of the 79th Battalion, and Sam Kaka was Military Police Commander.[citation needed] 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.[6]

The National Resistance Army was renamed the Uganda People's Defence Force following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. UPDF's primary focus was the conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group operating in the country's North which has been condemned by the UN and was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2001. Since March 2002 UPDF has been granted permission to carry out operating against LRA bases across the border in the Sudan, and 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. However the LRA was totally defeated and pushed deep into the jungles of The Central Africa Republic and Congo.

The UPDF has also been the subject of controversy for having a minimum age for service of 13. 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.[7] As of 2003 at least, there was a severe problem of 'ghost' soldiers within the UPDF.[8] As of 2008, these personnel problems has been exacerbated by the surge of UPDF troops resigning to go to work with the Coalition Forces in Iraq.[9] 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 as a result of Uganda's incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (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.

Artist's rendition of a Ugandan T-55 tank, serving in AMISOM, Somalia

After several interventions in the Congo, the UPDF was involved in a further incursion there from December 2008, stretching into February 2009, against the Lord's Resistance Army in the Garamba area. UPDF special forces and artillery, supported by aircraft, were joined by the Congolese FARDC and elements of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Called 'Operation Lightning Thunder' by the UPDF, it was commanded by Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, commander of 3rd Division.[10]

The UPDF has up to 5,000 soldiers serving with AMISOM in Somalia as of 2011. The commander there, Major General Nathan Mugisha, was wounded in a car bomb attack on 17 September 2009 which left nine soldiers dead.[11]

Land forces

Commander of Land Forces is Lieutenant General Edward Katumba Wamala.[12] Lieutenant General Wamala was among military cadets sent to Monduli Military Academy in Tanzania in 1979 (now the TPDF's Tanzania Military Academy, which Ugandan cadets still attend) and served as Inspector General of Police until 2005.

The IISS Military Balance 2007 estimates that the land forces include five divisions (each with up to five brigades), one armoured and one artillery brigade. The divisions are the 1st at Kakiri in Wakiso District, the 2nd, HQ at Mbarara, the 3rd (HQ Mbale),[13] the 4th with its headquarters at Gulu,[14] and the 5th at Pader. The armoured brigade appears to be at Masaka.[15]

The 2nd Division, according to, includes the divisional headquarters at Mbarara, the 17th, 69th, 73rd, and 77th Battalions, the Rwenzori Mountain Alpine Brigade, possibly another Alpine brigade, and the 3rd Tank Battalion, and has been heavily involved with border operations since the Congo Civil War began in the 1990s.

UPDF Air Wing

Ugandan people defence Air Force
Country Uganda
Major General Owesigire
Aircraft flown
Attack MiG-23 Flogger, Su-30MK2,
Fighter MiG-21 Fishbed, Su-30MK2,
Trainer Aero L-39 Albatros, FFA AS-202 Bravo
Transport Gulfstream III, Mil-17 Hip-H

There are conflicting reports on what aircraft the Air Wing has in service.

Current air force equipment

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Notes
MiG-23 Flogger
 Soviet Union Multi role fighter status unknown
Sukhoi Su-30MK2  Russia Multi role fighter 6 delivered July 2011 for $740 million (Shs1.8 trillion)
MiG-21 Fishbed
Multi role fighter 6 6 MiG-21 Bis\U Delivered. Upgraded by IAI (MIG-21-2000)
Aero L-39 Albatros  Czech Light attack/ trainer 4
Aermacchi SF-260  Italy Light attack-trainer 2 delivered
Mil Mi-24 Hind  Soviet Union heavy attack helicopter 1 with five further 'Hinds' unserviceable of a total of 12 Mi-24 delivered
Agusta-Bell AB-206 JetRanger  USA Utility helicopter  ? status unknown of a total of 10 delivered
AB.212  Italy Light transport helicopter 8 A total of 10 delivered.
FFA AS-202 Bravo  Italy basic trainer 2 status unknown
Bell 412  USA Light helicopter  ? status unknown. A total of 9 delivered.
Gulfstream III  USA VIP Transport 1
Mil-17 Hip-H  Russia Medium transport helicopter 7 status unknown. A total of 5 Mil Mi-8 and 8 Mil Mi-17 delivered.
Agusta A-109  Italy utility helicopter 2 status unknown
Lockheed Martin
C-130-20 Hercules
 United States
Transport aircraft

1 status unknown

UDPF Water Wing

The UDPF Water Wing has 400 personnel, and eight riverine patrol craft, all of less than 100 tonnes. Its main mission is to patrol Lake Victoria and the Nile River.


A UPDF escort for a World Food Programme convoy in northern Uganda.

Small Arms

Fighting Vehicles and Artillery

Air Defense

Anti Tank

Mine Detection

Out of service equipment


  1. ^ a b <World Defence Almanac 2008, 355
  2. ^ IISS Military Balance 2007, p.297
  3. ^, East African mutinies, accessed December 2007
  4. ^ IISS Military Balance 1970-71, p.53
  5. ^ IISS Military Balance 1979-80, p.55
  6. ^ a b Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-691-10280-5, pp. 172-173
  7. ^ Uganda: Child soldiers at centre of mounting humanitarian crisis
  8. ^ The Weekly Observer, Committee wants death penalty for ghost creators, 2005
  9. ^ Iraq Ugandan Guards Face Abuse, accessed December 2008
  10. ^ Monitor (Kampala), UPDF commanders behind Operation Lightening Thunder, Dec. 20, 2008, and Bantariza moved in new UPDF reshuffle, February 2009
  11. ^, [1], September 2009
  12. ^ World Defence Almanac 2008, 355
  13. ^ 3rd Division Mbale - Uganda
  14. ^ The Official Website: State House, Republic of Uganda
  15. ^ The Republic Of Uganda Ministry Of Defence Official Website
  16. ^ UPDF peace Keepers return from Somalia. NTV. 19 June, 2010. "We went [to Somalia] with Mambas, now we have graduated to Casspirs, Lt. Gen. Katumba Wamala - Ugandan Commander, Land Forces" 


  • "World Defence Almanac". Military Technology (Bonn, Germany: Monch Publishing Group) XXXII (1): 335. 2008. ISSN 0722-3226. 

Further reading

  • 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)

External links

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