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Transition as Bush War generals exit


The UPDF yesterday retired the largest batch of top senior commanders, many of who were President Museveni’s Bush War acolytes, and earned their storied careers in the treacherous fields of Luweero.

The exit of the old guard in the record numbers opens the pathway for the younger and more educated officers to take full charge without the silhouette of the original National Resistance Army (NRA) fighters lurking over them.

On February 6, 1981, Uganda was caught in the throes of a political crisis after Mr Museveni, who lost in the December 1980 presidential vote, drafted 40-plus young men to launch the NRA rebellion in the heart of Buganda.

Amongst those who retired yesterday was Brig Charles Rutarago Tusiime, an officer who drove the pick-up truck that transported the future president and Sam Magara, the first NRA commander. But on the way to attack Kabamba barracks, the pick-up truck suffered a puncture.

With the fading halo of the Luweero Bush War story, the army, which occupies the super-structure of the state, is faced with other adversaries: how to preserve peace in a shaky economy saddled with urban unemployment and youth disillusionment.

Beyond Uganda and in a multi-polar setting, the army continues to play the role as the point man of the West in the volatile Great Lakes area including its deployment in the troubled Horn of Africa and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

UPDF, through pacifying work at home and interventions abroad, has assumed a larger-than-military role, shaping Uganda’s foreign policy agenda and fortunes.

But the Force has weathered political storm. Parliamentarians in the past questioned why most of the highest ranked UPDF officers hailed from largely one part of the country, the west, which the government explained our as result of a historical accident.

Put another way, the initial people that future President Museveni could trust and recruit to start a war, like himself, hailed from western Ugandan and organically rose to become the most senior officers once in power.

Their exit, according to analysts, would then expose the military to tighter scrutiny as to weather, as a new generation, its top command will be nationally representative as dictated by the Constitution.

Each year, the army recruits from all branches, setting secondary education as the minimum academic qualification.

With more graduates enlisting, the UPDF is in many ways different from its predecessor NRA outfit in which yesterday’s retirees cut their teeth.

Its members are more educated and it has three specialised services – airforce, land forces and special forces – which place the Ugandan military on a pedestal to be more versatile.

The modernisation, according to military strategists, is an outcome of the 1995 Defence reform supported by the British government.

Whereas the rank-and-file of UPDF is evolving, its constitutional role and other impugned assignments, including mediating internal political dissent and being a power cog, has not changed to make it neutral.President Museveni talks to Gen Stephen Kashaka and his family at State House Entebbe. Kashaka was one of the generals who retired  from the army on August 31, 2022.

Yesterday’s retirement, therefore, marks a gradual but seismic shift in the UPDF command structure as the old guard’s influence and clout recedes and Young Turks inherit their coveted positions.

The formal exit of the generals, which was delayed by a month, followed doubling or significant enhancement of the pay for members of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) top brass.

Generals (from one to four-star) got their salaries doubled while remuneration for other senior officers from Majors to Colonels went up by 50 percent.

The retirement of officers from the rank of Captain and below, who comprise the junior ranks, has been placed on halt to ensure that their enhancements are catered for in the next financial year.

This big-tent policy may be an attempt to assuage retiring army officers especially those who have spent years without deployment and to deal with emerging cleavages within the army.

Mr Timothy Kalyegira, a researcher and journalist, told Daily Monitor in July that the “announcement of significant salary increments is a culmination of the growing tension and sense of disquiet in the army”.

The officers who retired from the army service yesterday included Lt Gen John Mugume, Lt Prossy Nalweyiso, former Chairman of General Court Martial Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, Maj Gen Stephen Kashaka, Maj Gen Joram Kakari, and former Army Spokesman Maj Gen Phenehas Kaitirima,

Others were Maj Gen Elly Kayanja, Maj Gen Geoffrey Muhesi, Maj Gen Burundi Nyamunywanisa, Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Maj Gen Kyomukama Kasura, Maj Gen Michael Odonga, Maj Gen Gavas Mugyenyi, and Maj Gen Octavius Buturo.

Hardly a master of his own fate, Gen Elly Tumwine, who was meant to retire yesterday, died in Nairobi, Kenya, was buried a day in his ancestral home in Kazo before this ceremony.

Tumwine was the NRA’s first deputy commander during the bush-war and later replaced Sam Magara, killed in 1982 at Ambassador Katente Apuuli’s home in Mengo, a Kampala suburb.

He was later appointed the first NRA commander after the Bush War in 1986 and remained a member of both the UPDF High Command and Army Council, the highest decision-making and policy organs of the military.

As his swansong, he was expected to give the key speech at State House Entebbe as the most senior officer amongst this cohort.

The UPDF brass band changed places and rushed to the distant hills in Kazo District, western Uganda, and there to play dirges and solemn martial music as Gen Tumwine’s body was interred.

Gen David Sejusa, formerly Tinyefuza, who over the years fought a fierce and protracted battle to exit UPDF, took Tumwine’s place as the most senior officer at yesterday’s ceremony.

He has lately been undeployed after his high-flying postings in the army, the last notable being Coordinator of Uganda’s Intelligence Services, stalled with his fall-out with the regime and his short-lived flight to exile in the United Kingdom.

Sejusa, a dyed-in-the-wool advocate of free speech in an institution that tolerates no dissent, spent the last years isolated from former comrades-in-arms.

During the NRA guerrilla war, he was in 1984 detained for going against unwritten rules of his superiors.

In 1996, he asked to retire from the army shortly after he, in a testimony before the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee of the Sixth Parliament, accused the army of incompetence in its prosecution of the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda.

However, the Supreme Court in 1998 — in a majority decision authored by retired Justice, George Kanyeihamba – halted his exit granted by the Constitutional Court.

Tinyefuza later reconciled with his superiors and during the wedding of his daughter, Sharon Nankunda in Mbarara in December 2004, publicly apologised to President Museveni, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, claiming he had been possessed by spirits.

Sejusa explained that his decision to resign from the army and the subsequent lawsuit he filed against government, coupled with his push for the restoration of Omugabeship in Ankole, was premised on a lapse of judgment.

He returned and was deployed as Uganda’s top spymaster. But the stubborn spirit did not relent.

In 2013, he authored a dossier in which he asked then Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Brig Ronnie Balya, to inquire into allegations that he, alongside other top government officials perceived to be opposed to the ‘Muhoozi Project’, were targets for elimination.

Facing the risk of arrest and prosecution, Gen Sejusa fled to London, which saw two media houses that published stories from the dossiers; Monitor Publications Ltd, publisher of Daily Monitor, and Pepper publications, publisher of Red Pepper, closed.

The two publications were later reopened. Gen Sejusa returned to Uganda quietly following a secret negotiation and was received by Brig Balya, who led him to meet President Museveni. During a talk show on our sister Nation Television (NTV) in 2015, Sejusa claimed that the British intelligence operatives thwarted an assassination plot against him while in the UK.

He did not disclose the mastermind and we could not independently corroborate the account.

At yesterday’s event, others top officers left to go home included Lt Gen John Mugume, who was one of the most daring Bush War fighters instrumental in the reconnaissance missions and attacks on Kabamba barracks, Masindi barracks, and the October 13, 1985 battle at Katonga bridge — a death-trap for the Tito Okello junta troops.

Also leaving is Lt Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso, who is the most-decorated female UPDF officer and close confidant of the President, who spent her last assignment at State House as senior presidential advisor on Defence Affairs.

In 1983, she was appointed the commander of a unit of female NRA fighters.

The Retirement Process

Section 28 of the UPDF Act (Cap 307) on terms of service specifies ages for promotion and retirement of officers.

From the rank of Lieutenant to Captain, which are junior ranks, one can apply for early retirement at 40 years, while a Major can leave service at 45. A Lieutenant Colonel in the UPDF can retire at 47, while a Colonel’s retirement age is 51.

From the rank of Lieutenant General to General, an officer can apply for retirement after 14 years of service, while the lower ranks can retire after nine years.

List of first 50 NRA officers and their current status

• RO/0002 (Honorary) Brig Eriya Tukahirwa Kategeya (Deceased)

• RO/0003 Capt. William ‘Black’ Mwesigwa (Deceased)

• RO/0004 Capt. Valeriano Rwaheru (Deceased)

• RO/0005 Capt. Martin Mwesiga (Deceased)

• RO/0006 Lt. Mpima Wukwu “Kazimoto” (Deceased)

• RO/0007 Lt. Malibo Abwooli (Deceased)

• RO/0008 Lt. James Karuhanga (Deceased)

• RO/0009 Capt. James Birihanze (Deceased)

• RO/00010 Capt. Laiti Omongin (Deceased)

• RO/00011 Maj. Ahmed Seguya (Deceased)

• RO/00012 Maj. Fred Nkuranga Rubereza (Deceased)

• RO/00013 Capt Wilson Mwangisi (Deceased)

• RO/00014 Maj. Gen Kahinda Otafiire (RTD)

• RO/00015 Maj. Gen Gisa Fred Rwigyema (Deceased)

• RO/00016 Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a Salim Saleh (Retired)

• RO/00017 Brig. Chef Ali (Deceased)

• RO/00018  Gen Ivan Koreta (RTD)

• RO/00019 Capt. Mulle Muwanga (Deceased)

• RO/00020 Capt. Shaban Kashanku (Deceased)

• RO/00021 Lt. Col. Sam Katabarwa (Deseased)

• RO/00022 Lt. Col. Sam Magara (Deceased)

• RO/00023 Gen. Elly Tumwine (Deceased)

• RO/00024 Brig Julius Chihandae (Retired)

• RO/00025 Maj. Hannington Mugabi (Deceased)

• RO/00026 Lt. Gen. Pecos Kutesa (Deceased)

• RO/00027 Col. Fred Mwesigye (Retired)

• RO/00028 Brig Andrew Lutaya (Retired)

• RO/00029 Lt. Joy Mirembe (Deceased)

• RO/00030 Lt. Col. Frank Guma (Deceased)

• RO/00031 Gen David Sejusa (a.k.a Tinyefuza) (RTD)

• RO/00032 Maj. Gen Jim Muhwezi (Retired)

• RO/00033 Maj. John Tumukunde (Deceased)

• RO/00034 Maj. Gen. Matayo Kyaligonza (Rtd)

• RO/00035 Maj. Emmy Ekyaruhanga (Deceased)

• RO/00036 Brig. Tadeo Kanyankole (Deceased)

• RO/00037 Maj. Gen. Joram Mugume (RTD)

• RO/00038 Brig. Stephen Kashaka (Active)

• RO/00039 Col. Stanley Muhangi (deceased)

• RO/00040 Lt. Col. Ahmed Kashillingi (Retired)

• RO/00041 Lt. Col. Edward Barihona (Deceased)

• RO/00042 Lt. Col. Akanga Byaruhanga (Deceased)

• RO/0043 Maj. Inyansion Bamwanga (Deceased)

• RO/00044 Maj. Julius Aine (Deceased)

• RO/00045 Lt. Col. Napoleon Rutambika (Deceased)

• RO/00046 JOI Patrick Kato (Deceased)

• RO/00047 Col Gyagenda Kibirango (Active)

• RO/00048 Col. Patrick Lumumba (Deceased)

• RO/00049 Maj John Mugisha (Active)

• RO/00050 Katabarwa Namara (Deceased)



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