The Promota Magazine

Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu A new twist to Uganda’s politics

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Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, 54, finally made it to the apex of opposition politics after winning a closely fought election to become president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), replacing the inspirational Dr Kizza Besigye who has been at the helm of the party since it was founded in 2005.

Over the years, FDC has taken the fight to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). The party has led demonstrations against NRM’s excesses, which have earned the party’s long-serving leader, Besigye, a badge of honour as President Museveni’s most ferocious opponent in the 26 years of the latter’s rule.

In fact, some people have suggested that with Muntu at the helm of the FDC, people who were long disenchanted by the militant antics of our local politics might be lured back into the fold. Muntu, however, has his work cut out for him. The campaigns for the party leadership have left the party fractured. He needs to heal the rifts, mend fences and unite all the party’s disparate supporters. Then he has to rejuvenate the party ahead of the 2016 elections.

Interestingly, Muntu never showed a particular liking for politics whilst in high school, though he grew up in a political family that supported the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).

It was at Makerere University, which he joined in 1978, where his political consciousness was awakened. At the university, he joined Major General Jim Muhwezi, Brigadier Henry Tumukunde and Besigye to mobilise against the murderous regime of Idi Amin. He later served as Vice Guild President.
Muntu also shares a lot in common with Rwanda President Paul Kagame, with whom he served in the Directorate of Military Intelligence soon after the NRA took power in Rwanda. Like Kagame, he is so principled and rigid that he seldom changes his position, however unpopular it might be.

Joining the NRA is a case in point. Coming from a prominent UPC family, it was embarrassing when Muntu decided to join the NRA.

In 1989, at the relatively young age of 31, Muntu became an army commander. His appointment shocked but did not surprise many who had fought alongside him in the bush. He immediately encountered two significant challenges. First, there were no structures in the army, and as such, were catalysts for indiscipline. Secondly, some officers saw him as too young to lead.

To his credit, Muntu managed to establish some structures to check the excesses of some senior officers. One of his ‘victims’ was Col Drago Nyanzi whom he arrested several times for engaging in robbery. Muntu also engineered the demotion of the late Reuben Ikondere from Lt Col to Major and later detained him at Makindye Military Barracks for insubordination.

His relationship with President Museveni as army commander was like that of father and son, according to an FDC official now retired from the army. “Museveni constantly listened to him and appreciated his view points but never really ceded control of the army to him,” he said.

Today’s victory offers him another type of challenge. It will not be easy, but as one person put it, Muntu is like Kahinda Otafiire and Ruhakana Rugunda rolled into one. He can get tough if things are not moving the way he wants, but he can also employ the smooth talking skills of a diplomat when the situation demands it.

By James Mukasa

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