There has been widespread talk about different political camps possessing militias. Chris Kiwawulo explores what militias are, and whether they really exist in Uganda.
First, it was Maj. Roland Kakooza Mutale who in August this year was quoted saying he was training National Resistance Movement (NRM) cadres in Luweero to crash anyone who would stand in the way as they escort President Yoweri Museveni to State House.
Mutale had in the previous elections trained cadres under Kalangala Action Plan (KAP) before his group was disbanded over alleged violence.
When Mutale announced recruitment of cadres ahead of the 2016 presidential campaigns, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and Kawempe Mayor Mubarak Munyagwa responded by mobilising youth as well.
They vowed to counter Mutale's 'militia' through the 'Solida group' of Lukwago and Munyagwa's 'red top brigade'.
When Uganda Police started recruiting crime preventers, several opposition politicians branded them as ‘militias’ are trained to mete out violence during elections.
But the Police have vehemently dismissed the allegations as unfounded.
Some politicians have since hired youthful muscle men to guard their convoys.
The army, Police, Electoral Commission and civil society have come out to condemn politicians planning to create militias, saying they could breed chaos.
The Police and the army have warned of stern action against such groups.
kakooza Mutale Presidential advisor Kakooza Mutale stresses a point to members of the Kalangala Action Plan during a retreat at Matembe,Luwero in March 2003.(Archive picture)
But are these militia groups
Aggrey Awori, a socio-political analyst says there is no militias in Uganda, adding that the only group that was close to a militia was Mutale's disbanded KAP.
He also dismissed reports that crime preventers were militias, arguing that they were civilians being trained to assist the Police in executing its work.
According to the former Samia Bugwe North MP and ex- ICT minister, "A militia is a paramilitary group organised by people within the system, but outside the law.
For instance, if senior policemen or soldiers train people and give them guns to terrorise people; that qualifies to be a militia. KAP was close to that."
In reference to the fight between Amama Mbabazi and President Museveni's supporters in Ntungamo district recently, Awori says those fighting during campaigns were hooligans being instigated by candidates, and urged police to deal with them viciously.
Simon Mulongo, a security expert and socio-political analyst, also believes there are no militias in Uganda.
He says opposition politicians claim that militias exist to discredit and intimidate government.
"No Force can be formed in this country unless under the law."
The Bubulo East MP notes that government is under the law allowed to put up auxiliary forces like Arrow Boys and Crime Preventers in addition to the armed forces.
"Crime preventers support the Police in its work and they operate within the law. We have a Police force of about 40,000 officers policing 35 million people, yet we should have around 75,000 officers; meaning we have a deficit of 35,000 officers.
Crime preventers fill that gap," says Mulongo.
Mulongo defines a militia as an irregular force, adding that the youth who fought in Ntungamo were mere enthusiastic supporters.
But Prof. Mwambusya Ndebesa, a Makerere University political history don says militias exist in Uganda and are created for political intimidation.
He defines a militia as an illegal group of people trained in weapon use and having a command structure; noting that there are both state and civil militias.
"The real militias are not moving with politicians (on campaign trails).
Those moving with politicians are just body guards," says Ndebesa, adding that KAP, Kiboko squad and crime preventers were state militias while the Red top brigade, Solida group and poor youth were civil militias.
He cites Rwanda's Interahamwe, Burundi's Imbonerakure and Kenya's Mungiki as best examples of militias.
Godber Tumushabe, a public policy analyst also believes Uganda has militias, citing crime preventers and KAP which he brands 'state-owned'.
Tumushabe also classifies the Solida group and Red top brigade as militias.
According to Tumushabe, a militia is any organised formation that is given military training with no law governing how its members are recruited, trained, commanded and deployed.
TJ Erias Lukwago with members of TJ Solida Crew.
Security organs' responses
Attempts to get a comment from police spokesperson Fred Enanga, and his deputy Polly Namaye were futile. Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda also did not pick our calls.
But the Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Katumba Wamala recently warned against creation of militia groups that he said would jeopardise elections, specifically citing Mutale.
Police chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura, in September 2010 acknowledged the existence of militias in the country and condemned them. Kayihura said militias had invaded Uganda's politics in the name of providing security during elections, but said they would deal with them.
In the previous elections there were widespread concerns related to a possibility of election violence by vigilante groups recruited allegedly to protect the party's vote.
Brigades and vigilante groups which were active in the 2011 elections , included Kikankane, Blue Cobra, Red Brigade, Black Mamba, Bamboo youth Brigade , Kiboko squad , 3K Brigade , Mwoyo Gwagwanga and Black Brigade.
TJ solida crew
Web definition of militias.
According to the online dictionary, a militia is a group of private citizens who train for military duty in order to be ready to defend their state or country in times of emergency; and it is distinct from regular military forces that are units of professional soldiers.
According to Webster dictionary, the term 'militia' refers to "a military force that is raised from a civil population to supplement a regular army in any emergency; a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activity, typically in opposition to the regular military ."
According to Mbabazi his support group TDA (U) - Go Forward does not subscribe to any such organization.