Security Sector Reform

Uganda Defence Review: Learning From Experience

Editor: Dylan Hendrickson
Printed in the UK by Russell Press Limited, Nottingham
© King’s College London, 2007
First published September 2007

Pages: 74
Electronic size: 2.56 MB
Download full version in pdf format here.

Between 2002 and 2004 the Ugandan Government carried out a defence review with the assistance of the UK Government. What lessons from this experience can be applied to similar reviews around the world? This report, produced by the Conflict, Security and Development Group at King’s College London in partnership with Makerere University, examines the experience of the Uganda Defence Review (UDR) and highlights achievements and challenges that may help others to navigate security reviews, particularly where external assistance is involved. The report emphasises the importance of national ownership of security reviews and that methodology employed may affect whether political decision-makers accept a review’s findings.

The UDR aimed to lay the ground for a significant change in how Uganda formulates and delivers its defence policy. It did this by assessing the requirements of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and its relationship with other security actors. It was conducted by Uganda’s Defence Reform Secretariat (DRS) situated in the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The UK’s Security Sector Development Advisory Team, an adviser from King’s College London and a number of national consultants helped develop the methodology and assisted the Review process.

This report argues that in an externally supported security review, such as the UDR, national ownership is key to ensuring local actors’ commitment to the process. Further conclusions include:

  • The methodology of a security review has implications not only for the quality of the analysis and its relevance to a country’s needs, but also for whether political decision-makers accept the findings.
  • A security review is a technically complex and politically sensitive exercise that needs to be carefully managed to secure the right outcome.
  • Technical assistance from external and local sources has mixed benefits. For example, in Uganda it enabled the review to be completed more quickly than might otherwise have been the case, but may also have made it more difficult for the Ugandans involved in the review to ‘learn by doing’.
  • Wide stakeholder involvement in a security review is generally seen as desirable to ensure legitimacy and to enrich the analysis. In Uganda, government participation was significantly higher than that of non-governmental actors.

From these conclusions, the report offers the following lessons for other countries considering conducting a security review:

  • To broaden and deepen national ownership of a security review, an open debate may be as important as producing a technically sound White Paper. A country should bear in mind that external assistance may provide ideas, finance and technical inputs, but may also have negative implications for ownership.
  • Security review methodology should be informed by holistic principles that span the overall security machinery.
  • External observers should permit a degree of pragmatism in response to local difficulties and dilemmas.
  • Investment in national project management capacity may be required before a review commences. Cross-governmental management structures can help align security reviews with government-wide planning and budget processes.
  • Technical assistance for a security review should complement national efforts, yet should stop short of carrying out tasks that national actors can fulfil themselves. Striking the balance may be difficult when national capacity is low and there is pressure to complete a review quickly.
  • Strategies may be required to broaden stakeholder involvement. Unrealistic expectations among stakeholders relating to a security review should be managed through dialogue and effective publicity.

Download full version in pdf format here.