Commentary & Letters

Why Gen. Henry Tumukunde’s Presidential Bid is not an Ordinary One

In the history of Uganda, General Tumukunde has not been only one of the finest spy chiefs but also a key and central player in the politics of the country. It should also be noted that he has acted both an active politician and a kingmaker when it comes to who becomes a leader at all political levels in Uganda.  This has since earned him working and collaborative relationships with quite a good number of leaders and mobilizers countrywide. 

To start with, Tumukunde an accomplished lawyer and now a retired army officer served in different and sensitive positions in the government of Uganda since 1986 when NRA overthrew Obote’s government and captured power.  He first came into the political limelight when he offered himself to represent the people of Rubabo constituency in the constituent assembly (CA). Despite joining the race a bit late, Tumukunde managed to defeat all his running mates including the then minister and senior government figure a one Professor Mondo Kagonyera.  This did not leave Tumukunde an ordinary army officer but a member of parliament that was tasked to draw Uganda’s constitution.  It this parliament that formulated 1995 constitution, which up to today remains the country’s governance tool.  This constitution contained very critical safeguards, which included presidential term limits, and age limits that have since been removed against Tumukunde’s personal will.  

Immediately after the Constitutional Assembly elections, the then NRA core and top leadership picked more interest in Tumukunde citing the mobilization skills he demonstrated during the campaigns.  While appearing on the capital gang, a famous local political program on capital FM, Tumukunde revealed that there were efforts to curtail him from standing for the CA seat. The efforts fell on a deaf ear after realizing that Tumukunde was determined to represent the people of Rubabo at that time and he had put in place whatever was needed to stand amidst president Museveni’s call and efforts to stop him.  This clearly reveals how General Tumukunde resolves to offer leadership to his country is not something of recent but stems from way back unlike the narrative of some elements that want to portray that his bid to offer leadership was developed after he was dropped from the ministerial position.  

As an army officer, Tumukunde later rose through ranks until 2015 when he retired at a rank of a Lieutenant General.  During his tenure as an army officer, General Henry Tumukunde served in different capacities including Ugandan Military attaché in the United Kingdom, Head of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Chief of Personnel and Administration in the army, Commander of 4th military division, Director General of the Internal security organization (ISO) and Army representative in parliament where he demonstrated a high level of both unmatched administrative and tactical skills. It is on record that he was able to contain the terrorist activities in Kampala and metropolitan and assisted in the rehabilitation of the Muslim community that had been declared the key collaborator of the terrorists and enemy of the state.  This earned him a very good and long relationship ship with the Muslims across the country and the East African region.  As the commander of the 4th military division, Tumukunde was very instrumental in the fight against Ebola that had ravaged the northern part of Uganda. Tumukunde and the team successfully defeated this deadly disease and restored life and health in the region.  This is a clear indication that the General is methodical and thorough in his operations and whoever takes him for granted does that at his or her own peril.  

In 2005 during the heated debate of removal of term limits, the appointing authority found out that Tumukunde was against the proposal to scrap off term limits from the constitution. This did not appease his then-boss (President Museveni), which eventually landed him in jail.  He was incarcerated for close to five years in military detention. Tumukunde was later charged with spreading harmful propaganda and tried in a court-martial for more than eight years and subsequently sentenced to severe reprimand in the same court. In 2016, he was later retired from the army and deployed to demobilize Hon Amaama Mbabazi who had stood for the presidency and had established a well-coordinated campaign structure across the country. The entire NRM party was in shock and tremble including the party’s chairman (Gen Museveni) after the announcement of Mbabazi who had previously occupied the party’s secretary-general position.   The coming of Tumukunde into play left Mbabazi miserable and hanging after all his efforts were thoroughly demobilized and shuttered down.  It is believed that at some point, Mbabazi considered pulling out of the race citing the tactical and skillful efforts of General Tumukunde in demobilizing him.  If he can deliver to such an extent for someone else, what about when he is working on something for himself?  I want to believe that General Tumukunde is not any ordinary in the coming presidential elections and his candidature is a big determinant in the outcomes of the 2021 presidential election unlike before. 

Kurama Ismail

The writer is an independent thinker and former youth leader.

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