New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Who is Major General James Kazini?

Kampala — HE speaks softly, sports a well kept moustache and maintains a smile most of the time. He smokes Rex Cigarettes and drinks Guinness beer. He loves live band music and is a regular at Club Obligatto in Kampala, where the famous Afrigo Jazz Band plays. He actually owned a brass band called Umoja (unity) at Nateete, a city suburb. He frequently goes out with his wife Phoebe.

In the army circles, the former army commander, Major General James Kazini, is known to be a fearless officer.

It is this bold trait that endeared him to the Commander-in-Chief, who ignored incessant complaints about his limited education to consider his zeal and hardwork to allow him handle situations where Uganda's territorial integrity was threatened.

In March 1998, Kazini was deployed to Western Uganda to command "Operation Mountain Sweep" against the Alliance Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.

Kazini extended the hunt to eastern DR Congo, where under "operation safe haven" he combed the jungles for the rebels. The operation had been okayed as a joint operation with the DRC under the late president Laurent Kabila.

On return to Western Uganda, he continued with "Operation mountain sweep" and oversaw the creation of the Alpine Brigade in the mountain Rwenzori region to fight the terrorist-tagged ADF.

Of significance during his command in the Congo were the infamous 'Kisangani clashes' between Uganda and it's hitherto ally, Rwanda.

He was later sent to South Sudan for 'Operation Iron Fist' to wipe out the LRA, who used bases there to attack the North.

On return from the frontline in Congo, Kazini was accused of plundering resources of the neighbouring country in a UN report.

While government did not accept the UN accusations, Museveni set up a judicial commission of inquiry headed by Justice David Porter to probe the Ugandan officials named in the looting. Among the highlights Porter, accused Kazini of telling repeated lies.

For example, when asked why he had disobeyed President Museveni's orders forbidding him from helping Congolese businesses, Gen. Kazini replied politely: "I did not contradict the President, I was only being flexible your lordship."

In February 2005 the Police closed investigation files after the DPP recommended that there wasn't sufficient evidence to prefer criminal charges against Kazini for the alleged plunder.

On June 8, 2003 Kazini handed over the mantle of UPDF command to the then Maj. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima at an emotional function in Bombo, where he lamented that he had failed to quell the LRA rebellion under his tenure. He had promised to resign if the LRA had not been defeated by December 31, 2002.

Also in 2002, as if dogged by bad omen, the then ethics minister, Miria Matembe, asked Kazini to declare 200 bags of cement and a cow that the Kasese business community had donated to him.

The cement was for construction of a hotel in the district, but also an appreciation for helping rid the district of rebels. The then IGG, Jotham Tumwesigye demanded that Kazini complies as per the Leadership Code.

After three years, in 2005, Kazini delivered two truckloads of the cement to the office of IGG, Justice Faith Mwondha. Mwondha in turn dispatched the cement to the Ministry of Defence in Bombo.

But Kazini's current woes began in 2002, when Museveni directed the then defence minister, Amama Mbabazi to investigate Kazini and Brig. Henry Tumukunde, then ISO director general, over creating ghost soldiers in the army pay-roll.

A High Command committee chaired by the then Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza began investigations and at various intervals allowed Kazini to return to Abuja where he was pursuing a course in military science.

The Tinye committee recommended Kazini's trial by the General Court Martial then chaired by Gen. Elly Tumwine.

He was yesterday convicted for causing financial loss and acquitted of abuse of office, forgery and uttering false documents.

The conviction could mark the anti-climax of a soldiering career of the general that dates from the 1980s and has spanned over a quarter a century. He has been a recruit, private, commissioned officer, commander and head of a national army, all that a person who joins the military aspires for.

We should not forget his stint in the Uganda National Liberation Army.

But before his conviction yesterday, early this month a scandal that could remain a dent on his illustrious career erupted.

Kazini was embroiled in a love triangle when he assaulted a Kampala doctor, Robert Kagoda. Kazini accused the doctor, a neighbour to his mistress, Winnie, of having an affair with her.

That the case was supposed to be settled out of court could be an indicatior that Kazini knew the labourious road court cases take. He opted for a short cut, but the three years in jail isn't.

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