Brief History of Special Forces in Uganda
From independence in 1962 to 1986, the history of the various manifestations of the Uganda Army had different Special Forces units. They earned a notorious reputation for brutality and viciousness against the population. These so called ‘Special Forces’ units were essentially paramilitary forces that were behind some of the most heinous extra-judicial killings ever witnessed by the nation. Some estimates put the total number of Ugandans killed in that period of political instability and complete lack of human security at eight hundred thousand.
Uganda’s history was written in blood for a quarter of a century, there was widespread insecurity and severe repression at the hands of the dictatorships. This suffering was finally put to an end when the guerrillas of the National Resistance Army (NRA), led by Yoweri Museveni, captured state power in 1986. The NRA became the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) after the promulgation of the new constitution in 1995.
Special Forces Post-1986 Era
The present Special Forces Command (SFC) metamorphosed out of the High Command Unit (HCU) established in May 1981, at Kyererezi, Kapeeka (in the present day Nakaseeke District). This was in the early days of the war of resistance against the dictatorship of Milton Obote, soon after the launch of the NRA guerrilla war on the February 6, 1981.
The HCU was tasked with guarding the Chairman of the High Command (CHC) as well as carrying out other special missions and operations. The first commander of the HCU (at that time about the size of an infantry platoon) was Commander Robert Kabuura. The late Akanga Byaruhanga soon took command of the HCU during the struggle.When the NRA/NRM captured power in 1986, the HCU was renamed the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU). It had grown to the size of a Battalion (700-800 soldiers). The first commander of the re-named PPU was Lt Col Akanga Byaruhanga (RIP).
After the fall of Kampala, NRA was able to secure the rest of the country by the end of March 1986. In August of 1986, the defeated forces of the dictatorships (supported by some of Uganda’s neighbours) launched a counter-revolution; which continued in different forms for another twenty years. This counter-revolution was mainly based in northern Uganda, where the insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) became the last and most effective of the many counter-revolutionary efforts. Therefore, following the emergence of new challenges involved in fighting the counter-revolutionary forces, the PPU eventually expanded into a Brigade (three battalions or more) with the added responsibility of defending the country and constitutional order.
This responsibility is shared with the rest of the Defense Forces. In this expanded role, PGB participated in counter-insurgency operations in northern and western Uganda on the express orders of the President. The PGB was renamed the Special Forces Group (SFG) in 2010 and two years later, it became the Special Forces Command (SFC).