2020 – 2021 POLITICS I By Odaka Asuman
Tororo – 24, June 2020: On 3rd March 2020, Gen. Henry Tumukunde declared his intention to challenge Gen. Yoweri Musveni in 2021 presidential elections. He attributes his decision to the fact that Mr Museveni is reluctant to discuss a peaceful transition of power.
Who is Gen. Tumukunde? Born on 28 Feb 1959 in Rukungiri district. Mr Tumukunde went to Bishop Stuart Demonstration School for his primary, Kigezi College for his O-level and Kibuli SS for his A-level education. He then joined and graduated from Makerere University with LLB in 1981 and a Diploma in Legal Practice from Law Development Centre (LDC) in 2010. He also holds an Executive Masters in Oil and Gas management from Graduate Institute of Geneva.
His career as a soldier begun in 1981 when he joined the NRA rebel army where he distinguished himself as a machine gunner and eventually became one of the senior officers in the rebel army, indicated by his senior number RA 0111.
In 1985, in one of the ferocious battles with the then government forces in Luwero district, Gen. Tumukunde was shot multiple times in his legs. The wounds were so severe that many thought he was going to die. By God’s mercy, he was smuggled to London through Nairobi where he got operated on.
On capturing power, Tumukunde was promoted to the rank of Major and appointed 1st Secretary/Military Attaché at Uganda Embassy in UK. He was subsequently sent on a Command and Staff Course in Nigeria where he emerged the best students.
On his return, he was appointed the army’s director of planning and charged with setting up of the formal military structures in the UPDF, which had until then been a rebel army.
He also served as a Constituent Assembly (CA) delegate for Rubaabo, where he was known to be an astute contributor to the sessions and debates that preceded the formation of the Constitution. He later served as an army MP, chief of personnel and administration, chief of military intelligence and security, commander of the UPDF Fourth Division, director general of the ISO, minister for security, among others.
Gen. Tumukunde fallout with the Museveni regime, his rise to the echelons of both the political and military positions marked him out as a well-known figures and ultimately, this, alongside his very strong mindedness and unrelenting commitment to his country, brought him into the sights of the very institutions he constructed.
In 2003, Tumukunde, in the presence of a feared Museveni at the retreat to plan on how to scrap the term limit, in a style the left both Museveni and his cabinet frozen stated “… what you have brought here for discussion is of a direct contravention of the rights that we fought to establish and therefore, I am not willing to take part in what is obviously a gross unconstitutional behaviour…”
In April, 30th 2005 while on CBS radio, Gen. Tumukunde was again categorical, “…..… I want to retire from the army but they are not releasing me……I did quite a lot for the army. For politics, I am not NRM-O. That one is very clear. No! No!”
As a result, Tumukunde was arrested and forced to resign his seat as army MP, court marshalled and incarcerated until 18th April 2013.
On 6th June 2016, he was appointed minister for security until 4 March 2018. On 12th March 2020, Gen. Tumukunde was again arrested on allegations of treason and got his partial freedom after close to four months in Luzira maximum prison.
This is the person some opposition leaders are doing everything to isolate from critical discussion of transition and or claiming they don’t trust him
I consider this strategy stale, stupid and motivated by individualistic, selfish and egoistic despotic ambition not very different from the very mentality we are shading blood to dislodge—a true dictator!
Other than the Paul Ssemogerere walk of NRM government to contest for the 1996 presidential elections, the major crossover from NRM to opposition was Dr. Kizza Besigye in 1999.
Dr. Besigye’s entrance into the opposition morale boosted and forever changed the face of the opposition and style of contesting for power in our politics. To date, most of the democratic gains many political pundits want to attribute it to that occurrence.
Since then, however, some propaganda has been created amongst the opposition ranks, file and membership that everyone who comes to the opposition is a spy for Museveni and a mole in the opposition.
I want to ask today, what big secret is in this opposition that we think Mr Museveni doesn’t know or can’t get if he wanted to get on real-time? I have been in the opposition all my political life and many times what we see and or hear we simply tell the mouth not to speak them in order not to embarrass some people.
In 2005, we had one of the most significant crossovers in the name of Eriya Kategeya (RA0002). How we failed to exploit the capital in him is a matter that still baffles me. We, at that time, laughingly made him an envoy in the office of a party president. He felt and appeared irrelevant, very frustrated and not appreciated until he finally was convinced back to the NRM.
Many others followed and tested the same mistreatment in the hands of the people who are supposed to welcome them with open hands and hearts.
After 2011, Gen. David Sejjusa fell out with the regime and attempted to reach out to opposition figures and parties on many occasions. I was utterly shocked when opposition leaders called for a meeting and a press conference to distance themselves from Gen. Sejjusa.
Legalistic arguments about resignation of a four-star general without minding about the political capital that comes with associating with a four-star General of Sejjusa’s calibre especially, made my leaders appear either purely politically shabby, immature; it opens doors for agents of Mr Museveni. For example, how could they even figure out that those elaborative difficult processes of retirement were meant to imprison people Mr Museveni fears to retire from the army?
Even in the developed democracies like the USA, political parties pride greatly in the endorsement of Generals. What about the 10 General seating in Parliament, voting and seating with NRM, when then not associate with one who has decided to associate with you?
Eventually, they pushed Sejjusa into the claws of the “enemy”. He was arrested and subdued.
They called Sejjusa all kinds of names including Museveni’ spy, mole in the opposition, etc.
In 2016, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi came. It was actually the opposition members that Museveni used to deflate JPAM while on the other hand using their well-built network of propaganda to discredit the man. The man was pushed to a point of no allies yet down in Mr Museveni’s heart. He knows the value of these men.
Having been rejected by the people he thought were genuine change seekers, the evidence now shows that he is back with Museveni and the opposition has lost his extra hand on the back.
If Gen Mugisha Muntu wasn’t the principled soldier he is, the sustained verbal assault and pushbacks he got would either have made him fall back in the hands of the dictator or sent him into early retirement. The number of people frustrated by us, the opposition leaders and supporters are, limitless.
In genuine change seeking democracy, Gen. Henry Tumukunde would now be one of the hottest political cakes around and across our political divide. I feel very pained and disappointed when big names in the democracy seeking group are meeting and Tumukunde is absent.
Truth be told, the only new items in the run up to 2021 polls are Hon. Kyagulanyi and General Tumukunde. These two have added a unique but different ingredient in our political struggle. Leaving any of them out means we are going to speak the same language we have been speaking since 1996; we shall do it the same way and will get the same result and like some philosopher said, “We shall only be like fools do.”
This is not to disregard Dr. Besigye. Dr. Besigye is a wonderful political commander in the field. But a war doesn’t only need one commander, single tactics, single strategy because there will always be knowledge and predictable outcome.
For now, it must be unity not of words but of actions.
For God and my Country
The writer is an aspiring MP, Tororo Municipality
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