Maj Gen Birungi: The artillery guru guarding Museveni’s life

Thursday June 13 2019

Promoted. The new commander of Special Forces

Promoted. The new commander of Special Forces Command, Maj Gen James Birungi (centre), is decorated by his wife (right) and Lt Gen James Mugira (left) at the pipping ceremony at the army headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala, early this year. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By RISDEL KASASIRA

The new head of President Museveni’s security, Maj Gen James Birungi, is a trained tank armour officer and is no stranger to the Special Forces Command (SFC), a specialised presidential guard unit.
He previously served in SFC before he was moved to the Air Force as Chief of Staff in 2013 until Tuesday night when he was redeployed.
As the Air Force Chief of Staff, he was responsible for the control and administration of the air forces based in Entebbe.
Maj Gen Birungi replaces Maj Gen Don Nabasa, whom they share history of military service first under the Presidential Guard Brigade now SFC. Gen Nabaasa is heading to the National Defence College in China.
“There is change of command at SFC headquarters, from Maj Gen Don Nabasa to Maj Gen James Birungi. Gen Nabasa is to attend a strategic course at the National Defence College as part of the UPDF professionalisation through training and adding more knowledge. Congrats to the two generals,” Brig Richard Karemire, the army spokesperson tweeted yesterday.
Born in 1973 in Ngoma in current Nakaseke District, Maj Gen Birungi went to Ibanda Secondary School for Ordinary Level education and later to Nyakasura School for Advanced Level before joining Makerere Business School Nakawa for a degree in Business Administration.
He told Daily Monitor yesterday that he was happy about his appointment. “ As a trained and hardened General, I appreciate the trust by the Commander-In Chief and I am willing to serve my country in whatever capacity and pledge to always do my best,” he said.
In 1996, he was among the 11 young men who joined the army and did one year basic military training at Kasenyi in Entebbe. He later went to India for a cadet course where he spent a year and passed out as a Second Lieutenant.
Upon his return from India, Maj Gen Birungi’s first deployment was under Armoured Brigade, a specialised unit of the UPDF Land Forces with its headquarters at Kasijjagirwa Barracks in Masaka District.
At that time, Gen Aronda Nyakairima (deceased) was the commander of the Brigade, which has several tank battalions and also has a maintenance unit at Armoured Warfare Training School in Karama, Mubende District.
According to sources close to Maj Gen Birungi, he later undertook different tank courses at Karama and was deployed in Kitgum District in 2002.
He was commanding tanks and Amoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to escort supplies for soldiers in the Forward Operating Bases.
He was then moved to Karamoja to fight cattle rustling. From Karamoja, Maj Gen Birungi was sent to Karama at the rank of Major as the Commandant of the training school.
“From Karama, he joined the Presidential Guard Brigade, now SFC in 2008,” the source said.
This was after attending Junior Staff courses at Gaddafi Barracks (Kimaka) in Jinja.
He was in 2013 promoted to Colonel and appointed acting Chief of Staff of the Air Force until Tuesday when he was taken back to SFC as the commander.
But after his promotion to Colonel and appointed acting Air Force Chief of Staff, a number of Opposition MPs went to the East African Court of Justice, accusing President Museveni of bypassing the UPDF Commissions Board in the appointment process.
The petitioners were Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kiira Municipality), Hassan Kaps Fungaroo (Obongi), Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East) and former FDC national vice chairman Patrick Baguma Ateenyi. Maj Gen Birungi was among the top officers whom the petitioners wanted stripped of their ranks. Other targeted officers were Gen Katumba Wamala, Lt Gen Wilson Mbadi, Gen Kale Kayihura, Lt Gen Charles Angina and seven others.

Courses attended

1. Cadet course in India
2. Anti-Tank Course in Masaka
3. Motorised infantry Commanders Course
4. Tank Crew Course in Karama
5. Platoon Commanders course in Karama
6. Company Commanders Course in Karama
7. Battalion Commanders Course[tank] in Karama
8. Juniour Commanders course in Jinja
9. Seniour Command and Staff College Kimaka

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