NRM Must Credit Jeema Over National Service Policy

By Jeema Uganda

We commend NRM for introduction of the national service policy. It’s coming after a long clarion call by the Justice Forum (JEEMA) in respect of the 1995 Constitutional article 17 (2). By this clause, every able-bodied Ugandan has to undergo military training. Skills thereof empower citizens to defend the Constitution and the territorial boundaries of their nation against any possible aggression.

In retrospect, therefore, we expect NRM to exercise civility and credit the JEEMA party for its consistence in highlighting this concern in our policy documents including the party manifesto for 2016. Short of that amounts to professional plagiarism.

For over twenty years since promulgation of the 1995 Constitution, it remained a critical challenge for Uganda to adequately operationalize article 17.

As can be drawn from media reports, the new plan by government is quite elaborative and distinct from the chaka-mchaka drills of early NRM days. Beneficiaries then were mainly introduced to revolutionary ideologies and practices. This time they are, in addition to military skills, to be exposed to entrepreneurial and innovative skills and critical thinking. In the new program there is a call for moral resurgence—which is a good approach to involving citizens in fighting and considerably reduce corruption.

With support from international partners, the Netherlands Institute for Multi-party Democracy (NIMD), JEEMA, like other parliamentary parties, last year engaged in a research process in regards to Uganda’s defense and security sector. From that effort, JEEMA emerged the only party with a recommendation for introduction of mandatory military training for all citizens. We officially pioneered a national narrative to this effect on March 12, 2015 in a public debate at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala. NRM’s paper was presented by Simon Mulongo and was wholly salient about this issue.

Again on January 7, 2016 JEEMA repeated this mandatory call while launching our manifesto for 2016 in Bugiri district—with this particular issue prominently featuring on pages 45-46. None of the other parties, including NRM had it feature in their manifestos.

On that basis, therefore—in the spirit of promoting national interests, JEEMA wishes to offer some input into the implementation process of this new policy. This so because, we recall that in 1996 as a political pressure group, we were foremost in pledging free universal education to Ugandans in that presidential election that had Muhammad Kibirige Mayanja as our presidential candidate. Mayanja had been working as the director of planning at Makerere University thus well-grounded in educational issues. Along the way, the free education idea was ‘hijacked’ by government, first, by pledging free education per 4 pupils in every homestead. Realizing the feasibility of the JEEMA approach for all school-age children, the government adopted the same in subsequent academic calendars up to this day.

However, since, as the original source of the free education idea we were sidelined in the implementation process, good as they are, UPE and USE have largely gone astray in terms of end-products.

With the national service policy, JEEMA concurs with government to start the process as early as primary level. But for military skills it has to be before joining tertiary institution. It has to be a prerequisite for admission to a tertiary institution—whether public or private, thus after high school. This offers a wider-catchment area than making it a post graduate certificate as per government suggestion. The problem with making it post graduate is that special talents even before graduation might be retained during internship; thereby making their national service certificates weak or irrelevant.

JEEMA further calls for introduction of a military-based-public university—from where after attaining the national service certificate, interested candidates would pursue further their military careers. Military science being a bastion of research and development, it’s obvious that a number of young Ugandans will opt for that university—to turn into a mass of national innovationists.

Lastly, with this new policy, it then becomes irrelevant for the continued representation of the military in parliament. Every citizen, including all legislators, will eventually be military women or men—and members of a huge national reserve force even though not in the standing army. They, all, will be competent of articulating military-related issues.