ELLY TUMWINE, UPDF RETIRING GENERALS; AND THE NRM LONG MARCH
President Yoweri Museveni this week eulogized departed Gen. Elly Tuhirirwe Tumwine as a pillar in the “NRM-NRA-UPDF,” which some critics in the media found that linkage odd apparently because they don’t know the history of the ongoing revolution stretching five decades back. The NRM political party, and UPDF as we know them today are mutations with deep roots in the University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF) in Dar es Salaam University 1967-70 led by Museveni, and comprising James Wapakhabulo, Eriya Kategaya, Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemogerere, and John Kawanga among others.
When Idi Amin Dada toppled President Apollo Milton Obote on 25 January 1971, this group mutated into the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a military-cum-political armed outfit with operational presence in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and a military training base in Mozambique. Following Amin’s defeat in April 1979, part of this group formed a political party, Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) led by Museveni which contested in the disputed 1980 general elections.
Having been dissatisfied with election process and outcome, part of FRONASA-UPM launched a guerrilla war by attacking Kabamba military training school, Mubende district on 06 February 1981, sparking the five-year “Protracted Peoples war,” and captured state power on 26 January 1986, with Museveni sworn-in as president. Tumwine joined FRONASA in 1978 and one of its strongest torch-bearers until his demise last week.
When attacking Kabamba, this group called itself, Popular Resistance Army (PRA) which in June 1981 merged with Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF) led by Prof. Yusuf Kironde Lule (RIP), a former post-Amin president, to form the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M). The struggle being predominantly military, NRA became the principal force, with NRM as its political wing for mobilization in the liberation efforts.
Today, many people still find it difficult to appreciate that the NRM party, formed in 2003, has its deep roots in the USSM, FRONASA, UPM and NRA. Many, especially the older members of the UPDF, are only delinked technically by the constitution and law dispensation because the army and other state organs are now supposed to non-partisan under the multiparty dispensation. Otherwise, many of them above fifty years of age didn’t the army as career calling but rather activists with a political cause dissatisfied with governance. It’s the reason many still soldiers in spite the ongoing professionalization, still find it difficult to stand aloof and completely be none political or even partisan which explains why many join active politics upon retirement from military service.
In early 1980s, young men and women, some well educated, and others semi or completely illiterate took to the jungles of what became, the Luwero Triangle to seek their own identity as revolutionaries to save Uganda from the throes of political decay, brutal and primitive militarism, economic collapse, and a failed pariah state. Today many can look back and forward to see the fulfilling journey travelled, and evident challenges ahead, with measured satisfaction that Uganda is on a steady path to national recovery by comparison to other African countries, even with those that were not as unfortunate to experience wars, social and economic upheavals.
So, the retirement this week of forty-eight senior officers comprising Brigadiers, Major Generals and Four-Star Generals from the gallant NRA Bush-war era who had served over four decades is testimony to a successful revolution. Regardless of what mendacious people spread on social media, Elly Tumwine accomplished an enduring legacy that his newfound critics with raw hate and ignorance may themselves not accomplish. Adieu Afande ETT RO 0023, you have been loyal to the revolution, recruited and mentored hundreds of thousands to continue the journey.
The UPDF, formerly, NRA, a rebel outfit-turned liberation army, has been a revolution in itself when matched against history since 1894 when Uganda was colonized through a British private business company before turning it over to the British Empire under Queen Victoria in 1900. Previously soldiers and Generals were killed, and if lucky, disappear into remote villages or exile. The retirement starting with 1993 when Reduction in Force (RIF) was conducted to reduce defence spending on human resources in preference for professionalization through sustained training of personnel, and purchase of modern equipment has seen UPDF scaling heights and consolidating its gains.
After a long while, NRA/UPDF founder Gen. Museveni, and other luminaries of the bush-era among them Gen Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a. Salim Saleh Rufu, Joram Mugume, Matayo Kyaligonza, Kahinda Otafire, Jim Muhwezi, Mugisha Muntu, Elijah Mwine (Chefe Ali), Tadeo Kanyankole, Ivan Koreta, Pecos Kutesa, and Geoffrey (Taban) Kyabihende) among others retired. And there’s the long list of the dead who never even enjoyed the fruits.
This week’s batch of 260 senior officers with 34 Brigadiers, 10 Major Generals, three Lt. Gen. John Mugume Chaaga, Proscovia Nalweyiso, Andrew Guti, alongside Gen. Elly Tumwine (posthumously), and David Tinyefuza a.k.a. Sejusa, adds to a remarkable stage of transition to a younger generation. On the political side, within the NRM and opposition the trend is similar with most MPs and ministers under fifty years of age paving way to a serene democratic transition.