My Fellow Citizens,
On the 26th day of January in 1986, the NRA now UPDF ushered in a new dispensation of stability and peace for our country. While announcing the takeover of government and assuming the presidency, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, speaking at the steps of Parliament building, famously stated that: “No one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard: it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country”.
My Fellow Citizens, the anniversary of this day provides us all with an opportunity to mark the progress that has been achieved even while taking account of some challenges that we still face as a country and to steady ourselves for further advancement in the various spheres of governance and development.
Since the start of the new era in Uganda politics in 1986, the overarching Vision of the NRM government has been centered on addressing the needs of the people, fostering national security, unity and development and regional integration through the East African Community social-economic transformation of our people.
As part of this national programme, the creation of the Docket of Veterans Affairs under the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs (MoDVA) was intended to address the compensation and socio-economic challenges facing Military Veterans and enable them to effectively resettle and reintegrate into productive civilian life upon retirement.
Accordingly, the Veterans Affairs docket envisions a vibrant and productive Military Veterans community that contributes to National Security and Development.
You may wish to note that a number of our military veterans were part of the followers of His Excellency into the bush in his quest to overthrow the forces of tyranny from this country. Liberation day, therefore, is of added significance to this patriotic group of our population whose service and sacrifices were pivotal to the achieving the peace and security we all currently enjoy throughout the country.
The reflections of Liberation Day should, therefore, fill us with pride for the heroism of those who served and died as well as those who are still living and for us to seize the opportunities of service to them as part of the gratitude that we owe to them as a country.
In this respect, therefore, I wish to share with you some of the progress that we have achieved and point to the roadmap for addressing some of the remaining challenges in the Mission of providing services to our military veterans that are commensurate with their patriotic sacrifices on behalf of our country.
Since the establishment of the Veterans Affairs docket, the following are some of the key achievements of the Ministry:
1. The Defence Policy, 2003 has been updated to bring on board issues of military veterans. The UPDF (Amendment Bill) 2022, approved by Cabinet will, among others, establish an enabling legal framework for management of military veterans in the country including providing for better retirement benefits for them and their families and ultimately enhance their welfare and socio-economic wellbeing.
2. The pensions case backlog has reduced growing the monthly military pensions to UGX 5,215,007,742 as of December 2022.
3. Veterans are now organized in SACCOs and Associations in 114 districts as a gateway to their engagement in national wealth creation programs and easy direct contact. Their participation in the Presidential Initiative on Wealth and Job Creation (Emyooga Fund), the Parish Development Model (PDM) and the on-going Government Strategy on Food and Animal Feed Security attests to this. A number (68) of the SACCOs were skilled and granted each modest seed capital which has led to start of micro projects Apiary, Ghee, shoe making, tailoring, weaving, and crafts making, among others to enhance veterans productivity and improve their livelihoods.
4. Developed a framework for the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Military Veterans and provision of psychosocial support to address their social economic and resettlement needs including reskilling.
5. A Legal Aid Clinic has been established to promote access to justice for military veterans through provision of a range of legal services. For example, the clinic has mitigated the protracted, costly and technical challenges faced in acquiring letters of administration and probate for widows and orphans to get their benefits. Since its inception in 2021, the clinic has dealt conclusively with 828 cases and the demand is increasing.
6. Institutionalized a home-based outreach program to identify vulnerable, sickly, and indigent veterans for rehabilitation and medical support enabling critical cases being identified, treated and living meaningful and self-sustaining lives.
7. Public Information campaigns and outreach to military veterans have been intensified. This is complemented with a weekly interactive radio talk show on Star FM 87.5 which runs every Saturday from 1:00PM to 2:00PM geared at ensuring effective engagement with veterans community.
8. A project has commenced at Mubende Rehabilitation Centre to consolidate provision of physical and psycho-social services and reskilling. This project will help to facilitate the rehabilitation and retirement of war-injured service personnel back into their home communities.
My Fellow Citizens, among the challenges we are currently facing, it is noteworthy that the number of military veterans has been growing steadily partly as a result of the political history of the country without the corresponding funding for the effective management of their welfare and resettlement needs. It is for this reason that the policy and legal frameworks are being reviewed to clearly address the existing gaps and provide for enhanced transformation of the defence and veterans sector leading to sustainable peace and security in the country.
Additionally, military veterans have peculiarities of all other vulnerable groups including age, gender and disability and having been a transient community during their military service with limited ability to transfer military skills to their new civilian contexts and inadequate connectivity to the culture of their home communities, upon exit from service, many military veterans remain a vulnerable population by all standards.
This situation demands remedies such as affirmative action and other related interventions aimed at creating better opportunities for the veterans. It is, therefore, important for them to be considered a special interest group in all national development programmes if their needs are to be addressed at the scale they deserve to enable them better find new livelihoods and support themselves and their families in their post service life.
I now take this opportunity to call upon my fellow citizens and all stakeholders that can support the possible solutions to the identified challenges facing military veterans in Uganda to work as one team to achieve these outcomes. This is as we all appreciate the contribution of our military veterans led by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda to the liberation of our country and their contribution to the peace and security that we all enjoy today.
Finally, I thank all military veterans for their service and to recognize and pay tribute to the many sacrifices they have made in the course of duty to our country.
For God and My Country.