On 30th Aug 2022, the UPDF family was all smiles when President Yoweri Museveni, the Commander In Chief of the armed forces retired 49 generals of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces at a ceremony held at State House Entebbe.
General Elly Tumwine, who died last week and was buried on Tuesday 1st Sept was the 49th of the retiring generals.
267 senior officers at the rank of Major to Colonel, who were part of batch 12, were seen off Tuesday. 11 batches have been seen off since 2014, making 9026 officers who have been retired since then.
An army that begun from scratch has since evolved into a very strong army not only in East Africa but also in Africa in general. Most of these retirees joined the army at very young age some escaped from school, others had just finished university or colleges. The armies before NRA/UPDF were bad armies with a stretch of evils and crimes on their names. These young lads had no examples to look upto. Even within the region, apart from Kenya, the rest of the countries were struggling. Tanzania was just here and the Ugandans did not have good memories about bakombozi. Most Ugandans especially from west lost lots of wealth in form of cows, goats, buildings, houses, lives in the war between Amin and Tanzanians.
Therefore, the young boys simply chose death before life by joining Museveni in the struggle against bad leadership of that time.
The bush times
The 27 men grew slowly into 1000s of men and women. This group had no uniforms, guns, bullets, food, medication, cellular phones, clothing’s etc. The only things with them were revolutionary songs, strategic leader/s, mission possible and some civilians’ supporters.
The mission from on set was mission possible, and these young chaps engaged government forces with both zeal, courage and every effort available. This is was the biggest asset available.
The morale was 100% present. Within 5 years, the war was over. Thanks to team effort with fantastic leadership of Gen Museveni. The bush war stories are hard to comprehend, hunger, rain, diseases, uncertainties, wild animals, snakes, ambushes, no weapons, etc was the order of the day. A few things though kept the teams together namely discipline, agenda, resolute to secure Uganda of bad politics and of course superb leadership.
The Museveni factor
The Museveni factor was the deal cutter. It was evident that from Museveni school days, he progressively said no to bad politics. He carried along his beliefs wherever he went. He discussed his ideology to every individual and group around him. He convinced his age mates, the elderly, and the young of the Uganda he wanted. He engaged power brokers of the time like President Julius Nyerere to believe in his ideal democracy. He risked his life, family and the little assets he had to save Uganda.
In his book Sowing the mastered seed, Museveni on one early morning I think 25th January 1971 as he left his house in Kireka to Kampala town center, he passed by a house where Sir Richard Kaijuka stayed, from a distance, Kaijuka asked Museveni in Runyankore “Iwe Nozahi” meaning you, where are you going? A day before, Amin had attacked Lubiri and thrown out Obote government which Museveni didn’t know. Without any delay, Mzee through proxies begun his journey that took him to Tanzania the rest is history. The bigger story out of this is that Museveni and revolution are detachable. Subsequent meetings between Nyerere and other leaders breed to the 1981 bush war that ended in 1986.
Amin overthrowing Obotes government was just a trigger. From 1971 onwards, the Museveni factor was a huge agenda. He exhibited a number of strong qualities like mobilization, leadership, engagements, risk taking, risk mitigations, ability to rally behind tired militants. Museveni grew small unequipped, not well trained militants into big numbers.
Through president Museveni leadership, the retired Generals grow through ranks to become generals. These officers commanded or fought without formal ranks. The ranks were regularized much later I think in 1987 or so. This means, clearly the boss/subject relationship was non-existent. What was witnessed and practiced was comradeship. In fact, after the war, militants and officers used to address themselves as comrades’. These were purely Mzees tactics. To him it is the results not the titles, the age, the tribe, the color, the ethnicity but the objective.
To me this has been the most accolade on Mzees head. The ability to pull his team together and make them believe. The ability to groom the young officers through adulthood to retirement age is not a simple victory. Whereas some died either on battlefield or sickness, accident like Comrade Aine Julius, the retirees have left when still held Mzee in high esteem. This is a plus for Mzee.
The retired Generals
Both the retired and still the serving but aged Generals resurrected Uganda from the dead, no doubt between 1971 to mid 1980 Uganda was a country literally in ICU in every sector. These retired generals even after the bush war continued with fighting rebels in every axis of this country. Be it Lakwena, ADF, LRA, urban terrorism, cattle wrestling name it. These officers moved from front to the other with both success sometimes drawbacks but the other rhythm of no retreat no surrender was the backbone.
They fought, won, celebrated but largely remained disciplined. certainly some of the readers will disagree with me, well, you and me have either witnessed or heard about other generals who have not only committed crimes but have commissioned them under their file and ranks. Even those Ugandan Generals that have fallen shot in some instances, its been on individual basis. The retired Generals, thank you for the sacrifice, the effort, dedication and the millage covered for bettering Uganda. Your wounds, blood, pain, time was not in vain.
The still serving young Generals and senior officers.
The mantle has been passed to you, the ball is in your court, and the task to carryon progress has been handed over to you. It’s very possible to shine even better than them because, you have resources, examples to look at.
Ugandans will share your scorecard and it’s up to you to break the pot on the door step. Gen Nalweyiso, Gen Kashaka, and team will seat back and watch, give them a last smile as they crawl to their final resting places. Don’t remind them of Kabamba, Katonga, Masulita, Lubiri battles. Its very possible to hurt their scars. Comorade Angina, Leopold Kyanda, Gen MK, CDF and the rest, find time and check on these afandes in their retirement for consultations but also for a cup of tea and a shot of whisky so that you tap on blessings.
You never know why they are still alive. Don’t throw this country back to Dogs. Don’t allow politicians to misbehave. Engage them offline to ensure that harmony prevails between politicians and the army. Resist confrontational engagements because at the end of the day, it’s a peasant of Ayivu, Kalangala, Kisoro, Kasese, Kazo, Kyanamukaka that will suffer. The young Generals listen to Mzee, seek appointment with him, because he is the master card in this game. The young Generals run away from grabbing land, accumulating wealth at the expense of mwanaichi because this will cause friction within the communities. On 8th Sep1944, Mao Zedong said “ serve the people” it’s still Chinese communist party motto. Young generals, please serve the people. You turn will come when you will retire on the contry side.
To Gen Museveni, you did your part, to the retired Generals, you scored above the average, to the serving young Generals the public eyes are on you either to harness the achievements or crucify Ugandans on the cross. The choice is yours. When you leave office in the evening as you being driven home, play two or three revolutionary songs to remind you of the bloodshed of kazimoto, Fred Gisa Rwigyema, black, suicide and the rest. When not satisfied with the songs, drive to luwero and look at those mass graves maybe, you will be reminded that Uganda deserves better generals than those that retired.
Aluta continua-the struggle continues.
Safety and security consultant.
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