News and Views

What Nobody Told You About Brig Tumukunde

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He is back in news after famously speaking out, ostensibly on behalf of many other less courageous senior officers, saying: “we want freedom.” We are talking about Brig Henry Tumukunde who about 14 days ago told a gathering in Rukungiri that, despite risking their lives in the NRA bush war, many senior army officers were being gagged and continue not to be free to comment on topical issues in the country.

In this article, we bring you some of the small but very interesting details you probably didn’t know about this 53 year old man from Rukungiri.


He is among the elites who rushed to the bush to join NRA immediately after doing their last paper at Makerere University in March 1980s. He joined with collegues of the same generation such as Lt. Serwanga Lwanga, Maj John Kazoora, Gen Mugisha Muntu, Gen Aronda Nyakayirima and others.

In 2005, he is one of those who felt Museveni had done his part. Tumukunde, who by that time, had already been many things in the system, openly criticized the lifting of term limits to allow Museveni seek a 3rd term as president.

On Saturday April 30, Tumukunde appeared on CBS radio and openly criticized Museveni. Days earlier David Tushabe had hosted him on Spectrum on Radio One where he made similar utterances.

He commented about NRM with great contempt and made it clear it wasn’t one of the parties he would ever join after his retirement from the military.

The country was going into multipartism and one of the new parties Progressive Alliance Party (PAP), which had come up, was increasingly being associated with Tumukunde.

His former ADC Bernard Kibirige was the one running the show as Tumukunde joined other senior officers to push for their retirement. Many were retired but Tumukunde wasn’t certainly because the appointing authority wished to continue gagging him using the army code.

Those who know him say eloquent Tumukunde can be very unpredictable, the very reason Museveni didn’t want to take chances. He had treated the Besigye retirement request leniently and lived to regret.

He certainly didn’t want to create another Besigye scenario. As of 2005, shortly before he was put on the ongoing trial (over ghost soldiers & uttering unfriendly statements on radio), Tumukunde had been many things already in UPDF. He had been army MP, head CMI, Director General ISO and briefly 4th Division Commander in Gulu.


His entry point was in 1996 when Museveni made him Director for Personnel & Administration. This Directorate oversees Human Resource function in UPDF among other things. His policies favored highly educated while alienating poorly educated officers.

His PROMEX system meant all officers had to sit written exams to get promoted. Many resented this, prompting Gen James Kazini to secretly meet Museveni. He incited him against Tumukunde by telling him how the Brigadier was creating an elite force to nourish future political ambitions.

Naturally, this worried Museveni. Tumukunde was moved to CMI as boss in 1998 and while there, he had access to classified dimes which he used to create what was meant in future to serve as his own political network.

In 2001, when Museveni became threatened by the Besigye candidature, an informal task force was created and it comprised of Tumukunde’s network. Shs11bn was dispatched to facilitate this countrywide network. First Lady Janet Museveni, to whom Tumukunde is related through marriage, oversaw its activities.

This network comprised civilian informers Tumukunde had utilized to fight urban in Kampala terrorism in 1998. Uncomfortable with Tumukunde’s future ambitions, Museveni sent Tumukunde abroad for further studies.

In his characteristic defiance, Tumukunde refused to go for the course saying he didn’t need it. Museveni then pushed him to Gulu to head the 4th Division against Kony. Tumukunde took it up but reluctantly. He was often in Kampala, despite being deployed in Gulu.

Museveni then put him at ISO as Director General with Elly Kayanja as his deputy. The two developed bad blood; Tumukunde often despised Kayanja as a modestly learned man.

The two would author reports to Museveni accusing each other. One time Tumukunde had mobilized members of the army council to commence disciplinary proceedings against Kayanja but Museveni defended the General from Kooki saying his “crude methods” notwithstanding, Kayanja was doing a good job.


Sources say that a number of factors worked for Kayanja enabling him to gradually overcome Tumukunde at ISO. One was Tumukunde’s long term ambitions to become Kampala Mayor which had remained unknown for a long time.

Kayanja worked with other Baganda officers like Eric Mukasa to leak this info to Museveni who naturally was very disturbed. Museveni reportedly called Tumukunde and openly protested as to why a serving army officer was quietly recruiting political support in Kampala.

Tumukunde, who hoped to use the Mayorship to mobilize support and capture the presidency in 2006, grumblingly scaled his activities down.  Apparently, he was among those who believed Museveni would bow out in 2006.

Sources reveal that Tumukunde intended to facilitate many friendly delegates into the NRM conference at Namboole where Museveni’s successor was expected to be determined in 2005.

Kayanja also depended on Teddy Seezi Cheye who was ISO economic affairs director but not on good terms with Tumukunde. The two authored several dossiers to Museveni demonizing Tumukunde. Sources say they one time took to Museveni a man from whom Tumukunde had bought land on Entebbe road.

Their contention was that Shs600m had been spent and not Shs1.2bn which Tumukunde’s written accountability had indicated. The land was meant to house ISO permanent headquarters.

The two also successfully used the Shs900m spent on acquiring phone-tapping equipment to discredit Tumukunde before Museveni. Then came the ghost soldier report which showed that Shs600bn had been swindled in 13 years.

Tumukunde was blamed for orchestrating this on the army payroll. He made it worse when he stubbornly refused to appear before this Amama Mbabazi-led committee to defend himself.

This insubordination widened the wedge between him and Museveni. Tumukunde reciprocated the Kayanja-Cheye offensive by reporting to Museveni how Kayanja was crafting criminal Baganda officers into the ISO network.

He listed these as Amin Muwanga, Siraje Lubwama, Capt Migadde, Maj Bisaaso and others. He produced police file numbers to prove to Mzee these are really wanted men. In the end, Tumukunde lost the battle when Museveni fired him and his Deputy Kayanja took over in acting capacity.

Tumukunde, who was to later rattle army leadership by taking controversial positions in parliament, refused to hand over to Kayanja. The threat of the coercive force had to be used to get him out.


At some point, Museveni deployed Eria Kategaya to reconcile him with Tumukunde. Kategaya too failed as Tumukunde snubbed all the meetings the man from Rwampara would organize at State

Lodge Nakasero. Tumukunde, who has never forgiven Museveni for subjecting him to Court Martial, maintains that he doesn’t need any appointment or financial rehabilitation from Museveni who is known to act magnanimously towards repentant foes.

Tumukunde loathed the court martial because it was chaired by Gen Elly Tumwine whose intellectual credentials he greatly despises. “He often despised Gen Tumwine and wouldn’t address him politely all the times he appeared before him as a suspect,” recalled a journalist who covered the beginning part of Tumukunde’s trial in Makindye.

To this day, many in the opposition eagerly wait for the day Tumukunde will be discharged. He is seen as somebody who can pull crowds and take the anti-Museveni struggle to another level. Museveni certainly knows something which the rest of us don’t. Each time the issue of Tumukunde retirement comes up in army council meetings,

Museveni maintains the man is “too indisciplined” to be retired. Otherwise other members feel he should be allowed to go and join politics like all the others who left earlier. His apparent fallout notwithstanding, Tumukunde remains very close to First Lady Janet Museveni and her son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

He is related to her by blood because his wife, Stella Rubarenza (a sister to Moses Byaruhanga’s wife), is a niece to Janet. If he was to rejoin NRM today, Tumukunde would certainly not be among those worshipping Premier Amama Mbabazi.

He passionately hates him and he is a natural member of the anti-Mbabazi camp. That a side, Tumukunde is close friends to FDC diehards such as Maj John Kazoora, Thormas Tayebwa and Gen Mugisha Muntu who remains his surety in his court martial cases.

Asked to comment about Tumukunde’s latest outbursts last weekend during a function at Hormisdallen Primary School in Kirinya, Gen Salim Saleh said: “My friend, don’t set me up. What do you want me to say?”



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