Rtd Gen. Mugisha Muntu on Monday 30, 2020, yet again exposed his limitless resolve to have change in Uganda by volunteering to stand surety for his former war comrade Lt. Gen.Henry Tumukunde who is being held in Luzira prison on treason charges.
Whereas Salaamu Musumba, another opposition big wig is another person who volunteered alongside Muntu, the leader of ANT’s action has a lot to communicate in relation to his critics who have aver the years failed to understand his personality and methods of operation. Before he left opposition party – FDC, he had witnessed a rocky relationship with many executives of the party who accused him of being so soft and taking an evidently friendly approach to the ruling regime at a time when party godfather Kizza Besigye was advocating for a more radical path. He was frustrated until when he would no longer put up with the party he had helped form in 2005.
Understanding Mugisha Muntu could never be a simple task given the way he unexpectedly executes his duties right from the old days of the NRA bush war. His acceptance to have Tumukunde released from jail, when he has been in the system that has tormented him over the years speaks volumes about the former FDC party chairman. It highlights his forgiving and re-conciliatory character that he is willing to work with whoever is present for the purposes of achieving a universally agreed upon position.
For whoever wishes to get to understand who Gen Muntu is and what why he exactly conducts himself the way he does; At the end of the talk,one will have changed their mind on whether the formal Army Chief is the mole or the angel among the opposition.
At the tender age of 23 years, Muntu left Makerere University after doing his last paper for his political science course to join Museveni’s bush war. He was driven by the urge to restore rule of law and human rights to Uganda that had broken down at the time courtesy of Yoweri Museveni who had created a situation to justify his bush war. Being a son of a prominent UPC leader (Enock Muntuyera) who was a personal friend of the then President Milton Obote, Muntu would have been given a better job in government but his resolute character and urge for the freedom of others took him to the bush. Initially, in the bush he was placed under close watch on suspicion that possibly the UPC government had sent him to spy on guerrillas.
In the bush, Muntu belonged to the category of ‘intellectuals’ whom the senior Commanders majority of whom were non university graduates so much detested and harassed. Because of the greed mentality of these commanders at one time Muntu together with other NCOs led by Enock Mondo planned to escape from the Museveni’s NRA and form their own fighting group. In the bush he was shot in the leg and chest and was smuggled to Kampala for treatment. Upon recovery, he rejoined the bush war. During the same time the remains of his father who had died in exile during Iddi Amin’s regime were brought back and accorded a state funeral that was graced by the then President Milton Obote who used the occasion to call on the young Mugisha Muntu to abandon the bush and return home but to no avail.
In the bush, Muntu rose through the ranks to become the first Director of Civil Intelligence and later Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) – a position he held even after capturing power. As a DMI, Muntu is re-known for living a very simple life while his colleagues rushed for the spoils of war that went with victory. His aides would face difficulty in explaining the source of expensive house items that they would get for him from the army headquarters. His official car was an old blue Land Rover that he would use to carry any junior staff member that he would find on the way to and from work. This vehicle remained a property of DMI/CMI until recently when it was allegedly stolen by a one Charles Tumusiime Rutarago.
In one of the interviews, this is what Muntu had to say about grabs “….as the war progressed, we were sure we could take over power people started talking about what they were planning, where they wanted to live,or saying I will be this, I will live in this neighborhood. It became intense when we took overpower. After taking over our intentions were to all go into the barracks but that was heavily resisted as soon as we arrived here. People started running to live in Kololo, Nakasero and I think that is where we lost it. This started creating the sense of acquisition and that went into business of and the feeling of everyone getting in to get something for himself. It has now gone into what we see today.”
As a senior officer at the time of taking over government, Muntu was made a Lt. Col when formal ranks were introduced. He was moved from DMI and appointed as the the army’s Chief Political Commissar (CPC) before appointing him as the Division Commander of one of the NRA Divisions. Within less than a year Muntu was elevated to the rank of Maj. Gen and assigned to take charge of of the NRA as the Army Commander.
Museveni’s choice of Muntu at the time was reportedly not in good faith but was meant to promote a divide and rule policy. While Muntu was capable of being the Army Commander, there were other more senior officers at the time who would have been elevated to the same position. The likes of Joram Mugume, Chief Ali, Tinyefuza, Kyaligonza, Ivan Koreta, Okecho, Maruru, Nanyumba and a few others would have as well served in that capacity.As a result, there were some senior officers who vowed never to salute Mugisha Muntu as a sign of disapproval.
Through Mugisha Muntu, Museveni embarked and implemented his designs of purging certain army officers. It was during Muntu’s time that the practice of Katebe (rendering redundant) started. As a result, some unsuspecting senior officers petitioned Museveni through Gen. Salim Saleh but to no avail. The cool headed Mugisha Muntu sailed though the rough storm. The army laid a foundation for professionalism, establishment of terms and conditions of service, accounting systems, procurement of equipment etc under Muntu’s patronage.
Its during Muntu’s time that the army faced seven internal rebel groups and three cross border conflicts (Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya) but by the time he left office only one – LRA was thriving with total victory.
Muntu’s tenure of office failed to get a partner in President Museveni – his Commander in Chief to fight abuse of office by senior officers who were all out to grab resources that were meant to improve the welfare of ordinary soldiers. Reports of creation of ghost soldiers and outright theft and diversion of army supplies intensified during Muntu’s tenure.
In the early 1990s, Muntu took the initiative to stamp it out by instituting a team headed by Serwanga Lwanga, Ivan Koreta and Fred Bogere. The team started from the eastern region to physically identify, photograph and document every member of the NRA and auxiliary forces. From the eastern region, the team proceeded to the northern region but half way into the exercise, Museveni called it off according to Muntu himself. Even in the units that had already been covered, Museveni blocked arrests and prosecution of the suspects arguing that it is the same commanders that were fighting the insurgency that were about to be punished. Since then the vice took root and has become a traditional measure of personal loyalty and allegiance to the Museveni administration.
Unknown to Muntu at the time was the fact that thieving by army officers was regime’s weapon of ensuring loyalty.
In an interview this is what Muntu had to stay “….a kind of warlord mentality emerged – that you fight to take over power ; you must be recognised for it. As we moved on President Museveni’s long term plans and the warlord mentality found a meeting point. He found it difficult to deal with or punish those that participated. Eventually he became a key representative of that very mentality. He says he killed his animal…….”
However, the practice of Museveni purging officers whom he suspected of disloyalty flourished under Muntu’s tenure. Rendering officers redundant (Katebe) and arbitrary arrest and detention without trial took its toll. The affected officers unsuspectingly mistook Muntu to be the architect of their woes thus developing personal hatred. At one time during the funeral vigil of the late Col. Kyatuka in Old Kampala where Mugisha Muntu was among the mourners, a number of junior army officers led by Rwashande openly attacked Muntu accusing him of complicity in the death of senior officers by rendering them redundant and dying from deprivation. They openly and publicly insulted him by calling him names like ‘Omwiru’. The incident sent shook waves within the army but no disciplinary action was taken against the said junior officers who are now very Senior officers .
Years after he had retired from the army, during a rally in Kamuli district, Muntu broke down and cried in a mid of a statement.
“When I recall the times I was forced to arrest my friends and relatives……..” Who was forcing him and who were those friends and relatives?
After serving for nine stormy years as army commander, Muntu got the rare opportunity to see from the inside and grasp Museveni’s hidden intents. When Muntu decided to quit the army Museveni reportedly offered him the position of Minister of Defence which the former rejected. Museveni ordered the army to give him fifty million shillings to boost his(Muntu) stone quarry business – the only private economic means he had acquired from his earnings in army. Muntu is the only NRA officer who never stole or illegally acquired any personal wealth by virtue of his position. He is a poor man by all standards. However, it is said that his property on 10 Kyandondo Road houses the NRM headquarters.
When Muntu, the former Army Commander joined the opposition, desperate Ugandans who seemed to have lost all hope of democratic change of government saw a messiah in him. They anticipated an army man who would employ militaristic approach to the sitting military government under Gen. Museveni. At worst they anticipated Gen. Mugisha Muntu to eat into Musevei’s power base – the military and run him down. Instead, Mugisha Muntu embarked on building and strengthening the leading opposition party. Some sections of Ugandans who don’t fully understand Muntu think that he is a Museveni sympathiser. Ugandans should not be fooled that Mugisha Muntu is not fully aware that Museveni can not accept to loose power through democratic means. In the currentbefgorts to effect change in the country, Muntu’s role and method of work should be compared with DP’s Paul Ssemogerere who led his party to form the opposition during the 2nd UPC government. Let us not underrate the role that was played by DP’s Ssemogere to check the excesses of the UPC government which role in turn afforded breathing space and survival of the NRA fighters. There were democratic institutions during the 2nd UPC government unlike the leadership under President Museveni.
The other difference is that Muntu has bullet wounds in his chest and leg. Does he fear to be shot again? For those who doubt Muntu’s capability, ask Museveni and you will be surprised. No amount of money, intimidation, blackmail or offer of top position can buy him off.
Whoever has doubts about Muntu’s intentions for the opposition in Uganda especially if based in his working methods, should think it over more than just a few times and trust me your views on him will have completely shifted to reality.
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