Ugandans watched in amazement as Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde recently appeared on a television show after declaring his intentions to challenge his former commander-in-chief in 2021.
Some people wondered why Gen Tumukunde could even dream of standing against President Museveni.
For his campaign to be successful, there would have to be a trade off by Tumukunde against a government that he has been a part of for the last 30 years. Why would the retired UPDF officer (RA 0111) and former minister for Security suddenly declare presidential interests?
From the beginning, it seemed the decorated general would find it difficult to gain complete public trust since he has been in the corridors of power for long and is said to be well connected in the NRM government.
As I watched the interview, I wondered what Tumukunde’s game plan could be. If he was serious about a presidential bid, then his target audience should have been President Museveni’s strong political base in the countryside and certainly not the urban dwellers.
Shortly before his announcement, Tumukunde admitted that his military guards had been withdrawn. I wonder if this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed him to run for president.
During the interview, Tumukunde would make reference to NSSF money, NRM campaigns and debate on previous elections.
I was intrigued by the NSSF conversation and decided to research if Tumukunde’s innuendos about NRM and workers’ money could be true.
Since NSSF collects tens of billions of shillings every month and it is audited by the Auditor General, Tumukunde’s insinuations may not be entirely correct. After more research, more holes appeared. In 2012, according to a local newspaper, Teddy Sseezi Cheeye (RIP), a writer of the Uganda Confidential and also former director of Economic Monitoring in the Office of the President, criticised then senior intelligence officer Brig Tumukunde’s leadership at the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).
The organisation was under probe after funds were allegedly diverted. Since the issues were not investigated, it is unclear how the allegations were not resolved.
If only Tumukunde maintained silence and refrained from explosive public utterances after retirement, he could have been safe.
It is, therefore, possible that Tumukunde may have misread the dynamics, and has since faced arrest, collapse in detention, was hospitalised and is now on remand at Luzira prison.
It seems some rules, although unwritten, must be obeyed. Challenging your former commander-in-chief for presidency is seen as indiscipline with detrimental consequences.
For some people, the common Ugandan saying “leave issues of generals to the generals” seems appropriate to descried events that befell Gen Tumukunde last week.
According to police spokesperson Fred Enanga, Gen Tumukunde was arrested on allegations of treason by a joint security taskforce led by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation at his home in Kololo, an upscale Kampala suburb.
Tumukunde seen by some people as living a free and comfortable life surrounded by life’s luxuries, is now in Luzira prison.
But we wait and see how his story will end since many suspect he is “well connected.”
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.