Ugandan military swaps arms for paint brushes, brooms

KAMPALA – At exactly 9:30am on Thursday, a Ugandan army truck drove to Buganda Road Primary School with about 50 soldiers on board.

As they disembarked, Captain Arthur King Timbaganya, the Military Police spokesperson, led three other warrant officers to the school headmaster's office to announce their arrival.

Outside, four members of the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF)'s Engineering Brigade – carrying two tins of paint, one yellow one white – got into business.

They mixed the two tins and started painting the now faded Zebra crossing adjacent to the school.

Inside the school compound, Warrant Officer Richard Emeru briefed the soldiers, now standing in three lines of ten each, before they were split into three groups to go clean various corners of the compound.

As they smartly marched with their brooms, spades and dirt sacks, one officer moved round handing over gloves for the cleaning to start.

The first to find its way into the sack was a huge rat.

Back to the road with a continuous traffic flow, the members of the Engineering Brigade had completed the paint mix and asked the three traffic officers stationed in front of the school gate to block traffic.

As a morale booster, the soldiers then broke into some patriotic and war songs as their fellow soldiers inside continued cleaning.

"This is a special army week where we come out and tell the public that we are with you, we live with you and we are part of you," Timbaganya told The Anadolu Agency.

"We also mind about our image," he said. "We want the public to know that they can trust us."

"One of our roles is to foster harmony within the community and it is through such activities that we can do that," Timbaganya added.

The army has engaged in similar activities in different parts of the country throughout the week.

The activities will climax with the 34th Tarehe Sita celebrations in Moroto District in northern Uganda on Friday which will be led by UPDF Commander-in-Chief President Yoweri Museveni.

The celebration marks the birth of the National Resistance Army (NRA) that later became the UPDF.

On Feb. 6 of 1981, 27 armed men attacked Kabamba barracks starting a five-year guerrilla war that brought the NRM to power.

David Ssengendo, the school headmaster, said they appreciate what the army is doing.

He asserted that the painting of the zebra crossing was long overdue.

"Look at how faded it looked like, but now a person driving fast can see it from a distance," Ssengendo told AA.

"I have over 2,000 students and their safety is paramount for us," he said.

The headmaster recalled that before the NRA/UPDF came to power, seeing the army in a public area was a sign of trouble.

"We never heard this kind of relation with the army," he said. "For them to come out meant someone was dying, but now we live in harmony."

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