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UPDF Doctrine

Last updated May 18, 2015

Meaning of Doctrine

Doctrine is a “set of beliefs that are held to be true by a given body” – Gen YK Museveni. It is what is believed to be the best way to do things. Military doctrine provides the framework within which the planning and execution of decisions and actions about military operations is conducted. It provides guidance for the training and preparations of the forces; their positioning and employment in the battlefield; and to the understanding of what is to be achieved, why and how. It is descriptive but not prescriptive, and the detailed application is left to the field commanders. Military doctrine is a guide to action which provides a common framework for reference across the military. It serves as a concise expression of how the military forces contribute to campaigns, battles and engagements

 Doctrine in the UPDF

After the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, the National Resistance Army (NRA) became UPDF. Article 208 of this constitution establishes the Forces while Article 209 spells out its functions as Preserving and defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda; cooperating with civilian authority in emergency situations and in case of natural disasters; fostering harmony and understanding between the defence forces and civilians; and engaging in productive activities for the development of Uganda.

In 2001, in order to further the consolidation and transformation of the UPDF from a guerrilla army into a modern, accountable, efficient and professional Defence Force, a Defence Review was undertaken, and amongst others, it recommended the development and formalization of a doctrine for the force as one of the modernization themes. It was recognized that doctrine would be influenced by support and direction from the political authority; and the successful experiences of the force, while guiding the type, size, and character of the force structure; and the nature, quality, discipline, and morale required of its personnel.

The implementation of the unit was effected in 2005 with a desk under the office of the Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF). Preliminary work began and after two years, the Doctrine desk was upgraded into a Directorate. In 2009, the C-I-C renamed the directorate the Centre for Doctrine Synthesization and Development that is currently at Strategic Level.


Whereas Uganda has existed since 1894 as a nation state with some military formations of sorts up to 1980, there has not been any documented doctrine for Uganda’s military. What guided the military, then, were the values and aspirations of the colonial powers. This is signified by the fact that the military supported the anti-people and exploitative ideologies of the colonialists.

In the past 50 years, Uganda has been independent, the UPDF (formerly NRA) has fought more wars than any former military establishment. Even in the Eastern Africa and Great Lakes region, UPDF has fought more wars than any other force. The UPDF is now part of the regional and continental mechanisms for prevention, resolution and management of crisis in an effective and efficient manner. UPDF’s doctrine, therefore, will help to standardize operations and facilitate readiness by establishing common ways of achieving ends within available means.

Following the recommendations of the Uganda Defence Review, the UPDF became Bi-service force; with a higher headquarter providing strategic guidance to a Land Force Component and the Air Force. Furthermore, the force now operates in a multinational environment in order to meet various international obligations. It is fair, therefore, to assume that future operations will be Joint, and that many will be combined. Technological advancements will also not only offer new weapon systems but also demand new capabilities, which should drive UPDF’s organizations, structures and training. This increased complexity will require improvements in procedures, planning and execution of operations guided by strategic thought written in the form of a doctrine.

 Levels of Doctrine in the UPDF

Doctrine in the UPDF is written at various levels that are mutually supportive:

The Strategic Doctrine

This is the apex of military doctrine in Uganda. It provides the strategic conceptual framework for making strategic military decisions. It establishes the rationale, articulates the philosophy and general principles that guide military activity within the UPDF; conveys understanding but not instructions, based directly on government policy and designed specifically for the UPDF. It functions to establish the framework of understanding of the approach to warfare in order to provide the foundation for its practical application.

Service Doctrines

They exist at the second level and are written to guide the services operating in different theatres. They are sponsored by particular theatre or service commanders, deriving authority from the strategic doctrine. Their purpose is to give guidance to formations and units, and to inform the execution of campaigns, operations and tactical maneuvers.They may be classified to a large extent.

Tactical doctrines

These are the third part of the hierarchy that provides the main body of instructions of the force.  They arise from both strategic and Operational Doctrines, providing a common foundation on which all tactical commanders base their plans.

The various Field Manuals and standing operating procedures provide the core of this doctrine.