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… And his retirement M7’s gift to many Ugandans

By Richard Kintu

Despite the pains brought upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us can now peacefully get a wink of sleep; well aware that the chaotic political season is finally over.

Granted, our dear ones continue to succumb to the deadly coronavirus but we take heart in knowing that they die due to natural causes and not because some trigger-happy security officer has senselessly shot them down. What is even more painful is the realization — in the aftermath — that your father, mother, sister, brother or child, died due to a wrong tag/classification baptized upon him by the security apparatus.

This is what exactly happened in the recent election period whose most indelible mark remains the November shootings that left over 50 Ugandans dead.

Peace-loving Ugandans were quick to follow the President in commending the gallant security forces for cracking down and defeating the terrorists that upon being incited and organized by the opposition, planned to burn Kampala and cause mayhem to this country.

But as we speak now, it is hard to praise the same security especially after that much-loathed BBC documentary (that got some daily monitor scribes arrested) showed that instead of targeting only trouble makers, the security men went trigger-happy and shot indiscriminately to either scare all and sundry or utterly shoot in the hope that a bullet hits a terrorist hiding somewhere. As rational as he is, the President has since backtracked and admitted that the security forces acted with some unbearable and unforgivable level of negligence. He blamed this incompetence on poor command and briefing from their superiors.

Unfortunately, the President’s remorse came after many, including his international allies, who witnessed his enforcers’ recklessness had already thought him to be a man who doesn’t feel for those he leads. And in honesty, the brutality of November somehow took some glow off his January election victory and actually some observers have already pointed out that it was partly to blame for his dismal show in Buganda where these killings took place. The argument is that those who couldn’t bear the ugly Amin-era sights wanted him out while some of those that voted him could have done so not out of conviction about his leadership but out of fear just to secure their future in case the brutal force like that depicted by Police Truck 17 (No. UP 5564) is deployed again.


Unfortunately, the said regrettable violence and the mistakes by the security men happened while Gen. Elly Tumwine was the minister for security. This means the violence and the consequences it occasioned on the government, the masses and the country lies majorly on his hands. Besides, he was the first to justify all that went wrong with his “the police have a right to kill you” rhetoric.

It is thus safe to say that his report misled the President into justifying mistakes done by people he placed in Tumwine’s command. It was therefore heavenly relief when we learnt that he had dropped the ‘singing general’ who is now more popular for his insensitivity towards fellow Ugandans than for his war effort.

Conversely, it was very surprising when in his handover speech to Gen. Jim Muhwezi, Tumwine sounded dissatisfied that he was being retired from duty yet he has served the least years (only 5) as minister in the 35 years of NRM rule.

You could feel bitterness in the man’s throat and it is not shocking that he called upon the President to retire before things go out of hand.

In my opinion however, I believe the singing general has no moral authority to tell the president to retire since he himself faced the possibility of retirement with so much fear and bitterness.

“I think he knows that I’m not after these positions that people clamour for and perhaps that’s why he would rather take care of his political interests of balancing here and there,” Gen. Tumwine said in what shows that he felt he was better than many that were chosen.

He then added; “…it should be our duty to save him from being ngambanyeka. There’s a proverb that ‘ngambanyeka nateeka amarwa mabi’.” This also shows that Gen. Tumwine believes he has a sort of eternal right to be in cabinet. We should however not forget that this is possibly the first time Gen. Tumwine is living without a very recognizable public office having served as army MP since NRM’s rise to power. But in true honesty, many of us found such seeming self-entitlement in bad taste; especially given how he boastfully justified erroneous killings of Ugandans. This actually shows that the general is/can be a worse ‘ngambanyenka’ than the person he wants to protect from becoming one.

To drive his point home, Gen. Tumwine affirmed the president’s analogy that he followed Jesus in assembling his cabinet of fishermen. The only problem in his affirmation was that he still tried to stress his importance by categorizing himself among the disciples who by implication were Jesus’ true followers. He then categorized the other appointees as the Pauls that converted from Sauls and the Zachaeus who by implication only peep at their master but are far away from him.

Now, while the General’s categorization cannot be disputed, it is also imperative that we remind him that Jesus’ example shows that actually some Pauls and Zachaeus have gone on to work better for Jesus and his interests than the disciples.

A few examples show for instance that as soon as Saul had an encounter with Jesus and turned into Paul, he went on to advance his ministry far better than many disciples. This explains why Paul has more than four books (13) that he contributed to the bible and still guides us in Jesus’ way to date. The same applies to Zacchaeus who went out of his way to dine with Jesus (Luke 19:1-9). Another stranger who can be equated to Zacchaeus is Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross while the disciples he trusted dearly were in hiding (Matthew 27:34). To the contrary Jesus’ most trusted disciple, Peter, denied him in his time of need (Luke 22: 54-62) while Judas actually went ahead to betray him (Matthew 26: 14-16) leading to his death.

Brought in the present context, misleading the president and courting international aggression towards him is not any better than what Judas did. And worst of all, Gen. Tumwine is not the first. Many of Gen. Museveni’s original disciples have robbed from the poor, grabbed their lands and it is why his support has continued to decline with each election. As the president keeps his faith to protect his Peters and Judases, they instead deny and betray him.

Maybe, a shift to the Pauls, Zacchaeuses and fishermen is the breather we want. And to people like Gen. Tumwine, continuity is so important because Uganda didn’t begin with the disciples and won’t end with them. For that matter, least said, soonest mended.

The writer is a journalist and concerned Ugandan

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