The history of World War II veterans in Uganda, 1939-2009: The case of ex-servicemen from Ankole in Western Uganda
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The purpose of this study was to write the history of World War II (WWII) Veterans in Uganda. The Veterans were recruited from different parts of Uganda to serve in sectors and theatres of war.The veterans that were selected from Ankole in western Uganda, constituted the focus of study. From the regional perspective, these veterans’ experience gave a new outlook of the world to the region. The study was based on Lugard’s theory of Dual Mandate and was guided by four objectives: to discuss the recruitment procedures of the King’s African Rifles, to analyze the performance of KAR in both the internal and external service during WWII, to find out how the Ugandan fighters were remunerated during and after the war, and to analyze the social, economic and political impact of WWII Veterans in Ankole in western Uganda. The study used exploratory research design in which qualitative techniques of data collection were employed. The study population included the WWII veterans, the selected extended family members of the deceased veterans, the elderly and community leaders, and other potential informants outside Ankole. Other than the veterans on whom the researcher used interview guides especially on those that could not write, research administered questionnaires were used in soliciting data. The study revealed that most of the combatants from Ankole joined the military out of their own volition and a few of them were conscripted. They were mobilised by local chiefs, and screened by British officers and trained before they were deployed. The study also established that after training, KAR soldiers from East Africa were deployed to various destinations. Some were transported to Mombasa, others shipped to Somalia, Egypt, Madagascar, the North East Frontier of India, and Burma, yet others to Ethiopia to support Haile Selassie. On the aspect of operational performance, merit determined promotion. The study revealed that, the monthly payments and other benefits extended to the African soldiers in form of reward varied depending on their rank or responsibility. It also changed from time to time. Most of the Veterans interviewed felt that they earned good money during the operation, compared to their financial stand before joining the service. Only a few complained that their gratuities and pension were not paid to them by the time of this study. The study established that the WWII veterans’ experience of the Banyankole had mixed social-economic and political consequences on the communities from where they came. Some families benefited while others did not. The study further revealed that veterans are living a dissatisfied life because they think the Uganda government owes them money in terms of gratuity and pensions from the British government and the government is not clear in addressing this issue. The study recommends that the Ugandan government should be clear on the issue of the WWII Veterans and if it is responsible, should, through the Uganda Ex-Servicemen Association, improve the welfare of these military veterans, give them their well-deserved benefits. It should also put in place systematic ways of obtaining information from them before all of them expire, for future reference and preserve their valuable information for the country’s history. In fact, the ministry of defence should include the ex-servicemen under the Uganda Veterans Association Board (UVAB) like other Army in Uganda. The Government of Uganda should also give support to the orphans and widows of the deceased veterans, as is done in other African countries, such as Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya.