Local Defence Units (Uganda)

Country: Uganda
Details of Formation: In 1987 government officials revealed at rallies that the government intends to form local defence units to maintain peace and security in every part of the country. Elders from villages would be asked to select trusted and honest boys who would be trained by the government to guard their home areas (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 1987).
Details of Termination: In 2010, the army created a new unit, the Uganda People's Defence Reserve Forces (UPDRF), to complement the existing armed forces. The LDUs and other auxiliary forces ceased to exist as they fell under the new force (BBC Monitoring Africa 2010).
Purpose: The LDUs supported local councils in the mobilisation of the population against opposition supporters and acted as a back-up force for the military. They collected intelligence for the NRA and security organisations and ensured law and order. Their role was to protect residents and their homes by countering insurgents. They supplemented the military inexpensively and complemented the official forces (police and military) in operations. When the NRA was involved in national combat, the LDUs would support them in capturing deserters or recruit for the NRA as well as prohibit illegal recruitment of rebel groups from villages. The purpose they served differed according to the situation in their territory (Rukooko 2005: 215-17).
Organisation: Officially, the LDUs operated under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, yet receive their orders from the UPDF (Rukooko 2005: 224).
Weapons and Training: The LDUs were given training by the UPDF. They had no standard uniform and sometimes some of them carried their AK47s while wearing civilian clothes (Africa News 2001).
Size: One source reports about 7,000 LDU members.
Reason for Membership: Some of the recruits are children. Rather than going to school, they are encouraged to join the militia (Rukooko 2005: 224). Although participation in the LDUs was formally voluntary, many adolescents still faced either political or economic pressures to join, including accusations of rebel affiliation if they declined (Tapscott 2016).
Treatment of Civilians: Some members of this group misused their arms in order to settle grudges among themselves, shooting at others and extorting contribution, robbing civilians and committing rape. However, the army does not accept responsibility for the activities of LDU members (Rukooko 2005: 224).
Other Information: They may have been legalised in 1998. LDUs operate in all party of the country - within their districts. They are intended to ensure district security (e.g. prevent cattle rustling) but reports suggest they have been used to fight alongside the UPDF in Sudan.
References: Rukooko, A. Byaruhanga. 2005. Protracted Civil War, Civil Militias and Political Transition in Uganda since 1986. In David J. Francis (ed.) Civil Militia: Africa’s intractable security menace? Aldershot: Ashgate, 213-230.

Tapscott, Rebecca. 2016. "Where the wild things are not: crime preventers and the 2016 Ugandan elections." Journal of Eastern African Studies 10 (4): 693-712.