Death of Tumwine; the story of the brutal bush war is surely coming to an end

Gen Elly Tumwine succumbed to cancer-related complications (PHOTO /Courtesy)

When the News announcing the demise of Gen Elly Tumwine first broke out, many thought it was the usual joke until the same was confirmed by Museveni on his tweeter handle.

According to President Museveni, the four-star General died of lung cancer in a hospital in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

There could have been some other serious considerations that hindered him from going beyond Kenya for specialized treatment; some have said it was due to the American sanctions.

To the shock of many, some Ugandans in and out of Uganda went into jubilation, an act considered taboo in Uganda and indeed the whole of Africa.

Dr Stella Nyanzi went a little bit overboard when she called the late Tumwine “the one-eyed wizard” to vent out her anger.

I think Ugandans were sending the right message to the powers that be using the wrong forum warning them to trade carefully, at the end of the day, it all ends in death and this reminded me about what my late grandmum said in a proverb; “When you’re invited, eat heartily, because if they like you they’ll laugh, and if they don’t like you they’ll feel the pangs of death,”.

Many people would urge that that notwithstanding, celebrating another’s death is going beyond the acceptable limits, it is non-African but African proverbs also say, “A sheep does not lament the death of a goat’s kid,” if this is true then the celebration is African also.

GenTumwine [Late] was one of the 27 NRA fighters who proudly called themselves liberators upon taking over government in 1986; Ugandans are yet to make sense of these liberators.

He served at least three years after the take-over as the army commander of NRA, which was later renamed Uganda People’s Defence Forces, he also served as the director general of the External Security Organisation and later chairman of the UPDF General Court Martial and representative the UPDF in parliament.

According to President Museveni his commander in Chief, he is said to have played a pivotal role in the National Resistance Council, the Constituent Assembly, and as Member of the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th parliaments.

The trigger-happy Tumwine is credited for having fired the first bullet kicking off a 5-year guerilla war in the jungle of Luwero triangle that brought Museveni and his NRA Government into power and many still ask if that first shot was called for.

Ugandans need to be reminded that there was no civil unrest in 1981 until the NRA went to the bush and in fact was Tumwine’s bullet that led to retaliation of government forces in defence.

To celebrate his first shot is to celebrate the destruction of property and killing of thousands of the people of the Luwero triangle and I want to state it clearly in a proverb that; Force of arms is useless against death.

He is lucky to have lived all those years having survived injuries to his face that saw the loss of one of his eyes and this explains why he was always clad in dark glasses.

And without a doubt, the demise of Gen Elly Tumwine is only seven persons away from coming to an end. Whether Ugandans grieve or celebrate Tumwine’s death, truth be told, he was a hero cum villain, he deserves our collective forgiveness.

Tumwine is also remembered for having excelled at so many things and in equal measure stepped on so many toes intentionally and accidentally, a trait that is only human.

Just a few months before the 2021 elections, Tumwine is quoted to have said the police had the power to shoot and kill anyone violating the law, this was during a press briefing to shade more light on the killings of people during simultaneous protests triggered by the arrest of Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi.

The arrogance with which Tumwine spoke is that of a man who had developed a sense of “we did it, this country is ours and we can determine its destiny, you cannot play around with it, and that the army cannot allow Kyagulanyi to be its commander in chief”

From a historical perspective, a story is told of how 27 men including Tumwine woke up someday and went to the jungle to fight what they termed as dictatorship and bad governance, and one of the reasons they advanced for their decision was the rigging of the 1980 elections where none of them was a candidate.

At that time, the rebels argued that they wanted to restore democracy and the rule of law in the country so as to save Uganda from bad leaders. Whether or not these bush war comrades have lived to those aspirations is a topic for another day.

Forget about the other “twatera embundu” comrades who have since departed, only 7 out of the 27 rebels as they were then called are still alive. The 8th is Rwanda\s Paul Kagame who is yet to answer questions about why he was participating in a war to overthrow a foreign government.

Fortunately, after the war, he went back to his country and later became its President and apparently stands out as the only person in the world who has successfully fought for supremacy in two countries.

The other remaining survivors include Brig Andrew Lutaaya, Brig Fred Mwesigye, Brig Julius Kihandae, Col Charles Rutarago Tusiime, Col Jack Mucunguzi, and Col George Mwesigwa.

I have been asked numerously to comment on why the other survivors have remained low ranking while those who joined much later are already Lieutenant, Major, or full generals, and to be honest, I don’t have an answer; the readers may need to approach the survivors for a full story.

You cannot talk about the original 27 NRA rebel fighters who attacked Kabamba Military Training School in February 1981 without talking about RO2 Elly Tumwine whose number comes after Museveni. It is this background that made him feel so important.

And it is said that in early 2002 in a fracas involving the then Army commander Major Gen James Kazini, Tumwine reportedly asked him to look at the list of the original 27 and see if his name was there.

This was because Late Gen Tumwine [RIP] was part of the first 27; he developed a sense of entitlement just because he fought to “liberate” Uganda and could not see the role others played.

It is that sense of entitlements that informed these bush war comrades to push for the enactment of laws in recognition of their contribution, but it is self-defeating to enact a law intended to serve the interests of specific people and even go ahead to name them as if they were intended to live forever.

The third schedule to the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Act, 2005 lists six individuals who, by virtue of having been members of the original NRA High Command in January 1986, sit on the UPDF High Command in perpetuity and these individuals are listed to include Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Salim Saleh Akandwanaho, David Tinyefuza a.k.a Sejusa, Elly Tumwine, Eriya Kategaya, and Matayo Kyaligonza.

And out of the names listed in the law, only Kaguta Museveni, Salim Saleh Akandwanaho, and Matayo Kyaligonza are alive to sit on the High Command having technically kicked out Sejusa for insubordination.

This appears nobody anticipated death, insanity, or expulsion of a member while this Act was being passed into law, and those who tend to undermine the person of Elly Tumwine need to be reminded that his name is written in the law books of Uganda and maybe this explains why on many occasions he behaved like the law itself.

Similarly, Section 15 of the same Act was set aside to establish the High Command of the Defence Forces headed by President Museveni and under Section 15 (C), there is an automatic membership to the High Command for those individuals who call themselves freedom fighters.

I want to advise Parliament to quickly move a motion to amend the UPDF Act to remove such provisions that glorify individuals who have permanently baptized themselves, as national heroes.

There are some people who have done so many bad things to humanity to the extent that wishing them hell is not good enough; the angels in heaven need to, first of all, turn them into firewood so that they can be used to burn inmates of hell.

And I want to state that as we cry for or celebrate the death of Gen Tumwine, he is gone forever, and as the heavenly father takes these freedom fighters or rather takes these bush war comrades one by one, the UPDF Act and the UPDF as an army need to be given a national face, otherwise the UPDF may be mistaken for a personal army.

And for those who are celebrating the death of Gen Tumwine, know that all of us will go just because we were born whether good or bad “Birth is the messenger of death” the traditional Bugisu proverb says.

For the Bush fighters who are still living, you need to get lessons from this saying from my late grand mum “Looking is one thing, seeing is another. Some only see with their eyes while others see with their minds also. However, inability to see with the mind is the worst kind of blindness.”


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