The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: What Tumukunde Said in 2005

On April 30, 2005 Brig Henry Tumukunde appeared on CBS radio's Palamenti Yammwe, a Luganda talk-show, where he made some strong statements against President Museveni's leadership.

The show was hosted by Medi Nsereko. On May 5, 2005 The Observer published an English translation of excerpts of the radio show. Tumukunde was arrested shortly thereafter and charged, albeit over statements he made on Radio One. Here we reproduce the Observer report of May 5, 2005.

Medi: When did you join the military?

Tumukunde: In March 1981, with many friends such as Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu. Some have died, like Lt. Col. Sserwanga Lwanga ... I have done a lot of training. I did a staff command course in Nigeria in 1992; the one many UPDF officers including lieutenant generals Salim Saleh, Elly Tumwine and David Tinyefuza are doing in Jinja. I did so many others that the wananchi will not understand.

Where did Gen Museveni train?

I don't think President Museveni is so much a military person in the sense of career. President Museveni is a revolutionary fighter and strategist. He has never done any career programmes.

Exiled [Col Kizza] Besigye last Saturday said President Museveni should at least train with a local defence unit!

Ask the President himself ... I don't think it was his [Museveni's] plan to be in the military, just like was the case with many, including myself. I never joined the army in search of a career. We simply joined it for the revolution.

After the revolution everybody was assigned military duties. What is going on now - when professionalism is so much emphasized above our otherwise important political mission, is a political move. It cannot be a matter to strengthen or make the army more professional.

Are you in the Movement or NRM Organisation?

... I want to retire from the army but they are not releasing me, so I am still there. Our biggest mission when we were going to the bush was political. In the army, we are just cushioning the revolution. But, of course, I have enjoyed my stay in the army. I did quite a lot for the army. For politics, I am not NRM-O. That one is very clear. No! No!

The rest, I have personal political views. As a soldier, I wouldn't like to go into details. But when I retire, I have applied and I am pressing harder, I do not think I will join NRM. I will look for a party that has brilliant ideas. There are new parties coming up. The old ones still have internal problems; we shall watch and see how they sort them out ... Where I see a lot of light is a party, although it has not captured public attention, called People's Alliance Party (PAP).

They say it is mine. It is not mine; but the most important thing is that it has many good ideas. I have not retired from the army, when I retire. I will show my political views. I would like the army to retire me. If [UPC leader and ex-president Milton] Obote allowed Museveni to stand and form Uganda Patriotic Movement (in 1980), why don't they let us go? It is not fair.

That army is another area of labour. When you are offering labour, you must give it freely and when you choose not to offer the labour, people must consider these as your views and they allow you to leave.

But you represent the Army in Parliament ...

Which makes me proud...

Are the views you express yours or those of the army - like your opposition to the lifting of presidential term limits?

I have not said that [on] lifting of term limits. I will speak more about the amendment of the Constitution. Changing the Constitution has a terrible history in Uganda. Obote changed it and you saw the outcome. It started the chain for so many problems in this country. When we came here, people worked so hard to restore constitutionalism.

There was the Odoki Commission; there was the Constituent Assembly (CA). We worked so hard. I was a member of the legal and drafting committee, we had people like Justice George Kanyeihamba, Ben Wacha ...

We worked day and night to make sure that we produce a good Constitution. Now within very few years, 60 percent of the Constitution is about to be changed!

The changes proposed now were even proposed during the CA (1994). The people were still independent and they rejected then. There is nothing new they are bringing.

What I am raising doesn't concern only the president of Uganda, but other leaders elsewhere. When you serve in a leadership position for 25 years, you must find reasons to justify your continued stay. You must look for people who will defend you because you yourself have lost the energy to do so. In the case of President Museveni, you know he has worked so hard. He puts in 18 hours. This time, 25 years, is a lot of time...

Remember the days of Kamuzu Banda of Malawi. There came a time when Kadzamira (Cecilia) and the brother Tembo (John) were the ones ruling. [Kadzamira was Banda's official hostess while Tembo was her uncle).

Even myself, where I have worked, I feel tired and when you get tired, other people come in. So in the next few days, you will find that the one who was leading, is no longer in charge. Other people will be ruling in his name. That is what I see with overstaying. I have given you the example of Kadzamira and Tembo.

May be one point I should raise here is that the leaders fear that when they are out of power, they will not be safe. This depends mostly on what they have done while in power. You hear Obote fears to come back. I think Ugandans must find a solution to this. First, to make sure that a leader doesn't fear what will happen to him when he is out of power. That is very important.

There is no way you will not make mistakes when you are in leadership. Secondly, there are privileges that you give leaders; 30 vehicles, slashing their compound and doing everything for him. When you come and simply tell him to go on street, there is a bit of a problem. When a leader is out of power, he should be sure of a living without depending on the support of others. In UK, they are made members of the House of Lords.

Thirdly, the vengeance. They ask me when I appear on radio that since Museveni has harassed you what will you do to him. You must kill vengeance. Politicians must not be vindictive, viciousness. It is very bad.

People know that your relationship with Museveni soured but he used to be yours truly. What went wrong?

It is like saying that since your father liked you so much, you should never have married or won more degrees than him. What I want to assure Ugandans is that I will not carry out vengeance. I will not be vindictive when I am wronged, and I have been wronged very very much.

But I will not carry that forward because when you choose to go into public life, you don't do that. Actually whoever behaves like that is not fit to be voted into office; they will cause us problems.

Why are you not being promoted?

Promotions in the army should not be on [someone's] political whims or a favour from the big man. If a country is doing it, it is a very big mistake ... In the army, ranks are based on performance. The armies we would have liked to copy, apart from performance, consider promotional exams. You are not promoted because it will please the big man or the army commander. No! No! May be medals, but even those are given to those with exemplary performance.

For me, brigadier is enough. I have no panic. I don't want to lobby that they give me this, those who want ranks can get them even tomorrow. Maj. [Fidel] Castro [of Cuba] is still there. Don't you think he should already have promoted himself to a general?

He is still a major. It is us here who still have pressures of being general. This is still a small army ... I don't think a very small army should be with 100 brigadiers, so many lieutenant generals. Those who want to run the army in a professional way should apply the deep theories. You do not promote to balance politics. It is not fair at all.

We are transiting to multiparty, how should the army behave?

The army should not have a side. Once the army gets a side, then we would be repeating earlier mistakes. That puts the soldiers themselves in danger. Many of Amin's soldiers have suffered, they have formed rebel groups but it has not worked. When their boss was overthrown, they were separated from their families.

By the time some of them came back, their wives had been married, their children dropped out of school. That is why; West Nile is volatile; it has a lot of people with no chance to live a normal life. The mistakes they committed were passed onto their children and they are suffering.

I wouldn't want our army to be like that. That is why I want to retire, for us we were politically motivated. Let us leave the professionals to be in charge. Recently in Kenya, you saw how the army behaved [during presidential elections in 2002 that the ruling party lost].

There was no fear of the army intervening. In Tanzania, the army was asked to quit the CCM (ruling partly) and Parliament. Most important, that ensures continuity. When there is a regime change, it saves us from starting afresh, training soldiers.

Is Museveni the problem for Uganda or Movement?

I wouldn't want to go personal. Ugandans, you have the power to vote.

But there is rigging of elections?

That should not worry you ... There will always be electoral fraud but even if there is, you think in Kenya they did not attempt to rig? But they changed government.

The problem with the movement is the use of state resources. You thought that Obote was a dictator, yes but he allowed people to argue their political views, practice their ideology and form parties. If President Museveni didn't form UPM which gave birth to NRM where would Uganda be?

You said you are a prisoner?

Yes I'm [prisoner] of conscience is too bad. I am in that situation. I would have been patient but the problem of having no alternative ... You find that you must be like Besigye [exiled former presidential candidate and UPDF officer].

When you want to stay in power that shouldn't stop others from ... What surprised me is that the big person [Museveni] got soldiers I have worked with - some I am more senior to them - nabooza (rehabilitated them), gave them promotions and retired them in honour.

It is surprising, the Baganda say 'Gwowonya eggere' - the person you save - for me it is graver. Gwowonya eggere yalikusa! I find it very very unfair. I was very hard-working. ... I worked so hard but my returns are in negative. It is something I find very unfair ... I'm worried about poverty. Leadership is like sickness. You prescribe for a particular drug, when it fails, you make a fresh prescription. Our poverty prescriptions have failed. I want Ugandans to vote out poverty.

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