Who is Gen. Salim Saleh?

Tuesday February 9 2010

Gen. Salim Saleh whose real names Caleb Akandwanaho was born on January 14, 1960 is an adviser to President Yoweri Museveni on military matters. Most recently, minister of state for Microfinance. Before that, he was a high ranking officer in the UPDF. Gen.Saleh has featured in controversies regarding corruption, including being implicated by the United Nations Security Council for allegedly plundering natural resources in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Military Career
In 1976, aged 16, he left Kako Secondary School in Masaka to join the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa) based in Tanzania, a rebel group formed and led by his brother to fight against the regime of Idi Amin.

He trained together with his friend Fred Rwigyema and his brother Museveni in Mozambique with Samora Machel’s Frelimo rebels. It was there that he adopted Salim Saleh as his nom de guerre . In 1978, Fronasa merged with other anti-Amin groups in Tanzania and formed the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), who together with Tanzanian forces captured Kampala on April 11, 1979, sending Idi Amin to exile.

Saleh was later made a platoon commander of a UNLA unit in Moroto district. Following the bitterly contested December 1980 elections Museveni declared an armed rebellion against the UNLA and the government of Milton Obote.

Saleh joined his brother’s National Resistance Army (NRA) and the guerilla war known as the “Busy War” that would last until 1986. In January 1986, Salim Saleh commanded NRA’s assault on Kampala which eventually led to the demise of Gen. Tito Okello regime, with Museveni becoming President.

NRA became the national army, with Salim Saleh as commander. Saleh was the first Commander of the new army of Uganda.
Saleh proceeded to command the army against rebel groups that were remnants of the UNLA, including Uganda People’s Defence Army (UPDA), in northern Uganda.


He was instrumental in working out a peace deal with the UPDA. In 1989, following accusations of corruption, he was sacked from the army by his brother. He later became the senior presidential advisor on defence and security (1996 – 1998).


While still in the army, Saleh ventured into private business and philanthropy setting up a string of businesses ranging from real estate to aviation and reportedly becoming one of Uganda’s wealthiest businessmen (a claim he has contested), but also accused of getting involved in several corruption scandals.

Uganda Commercial Bank
In 1998, Saleh resigned from his post as presidential advisor following allegations that Greenland Investments, a company in which he was a major stakeholder, had used the Malaysian company, Westmont Land, to illegally purchase shares in Uganda’s’s largest bank, the now defunct Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB).

His brother, President Museveni, later said he’d sacked Salim Saleh, not for his involvement in the scandal, but for “indiscipline and drunkenness” in the army.

As one of the consequences of the UCB deal Greenland Bank would later be closed by the government under still controversial circumstances.

Before this debacle, Saleh had controversially been involved in the privatisation of Uganda Grain Milling Company in which it was reported that the public interest was not served.

Junk helicopters
In 1998, acting as individual, Saleh helped in the procurement of attack helicopters for the army, for which it is alleged that he received a commission of $800,000. The helicopters turned out to be junk. As the scandal unfolded, Saleh confessed taking the commission to his brother.

A subsequent commission of inquiry on this junk chopper scandal and a Cabinet white paper recommended that all persons involved in this deal be prosecuted. However, in 2005 the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges citing lack of evidence. The middleman in deal, businessman Emma Katto was momentarily charged and held before the matter was quietly settled..

Involvement in Congo (DRC)
Saleh was specifically implicated in a UN Security Council report for being involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources from DR. Congo during the second Congo war.

The government of Uganda dismissed the report, and no punitive actions were taken against those involved. A commission of inquiry set up by the Uganda government and chaired by Justice Porter exonerated him of any wrong doing

Latest developments
In 2005, Saleh, then a Lt. Gen., was one of the pioneer classes to graduate from the new Uganda Senior Command and Staff College at Kimaka in Jinja. Following that course, he was promoted to the rank of General in the UPDF. Prior to the 2006 general elections , Saleh went back to school and obtained an A –level certificate , the minimum requirement to become a member of parliament in Uganda or President of Uganda Following the elections, he was appointed Minister of State for Microfinance and then subsequently Senior President5ial Adviser on Defence a post he holds today.

Saleh, a generally like-able person known to be popular with the common man and the rank and file in the army, left Cabinet in a huff protesting that he was being frustrated by the bureaucracy.

Saleh has also been pivotal in ongoing discussions behind-the-scenes negotiations between the government and Buganda Kingdom in the hope of reaching an understanding over the closed Central Broadcasting Service radio owned by the kingdom.