Gen. Moses Ali’s promotion: How did he earn the four stars?

Tuesday July 31 2012

By Gawaya Tegulle

Straight from the heart; and straight to the point: firstly, I heartily congratulate Afande Moses Ali on his promotion to the rank of general, meaning that he now belongs to the exclusive league of the four star soldier boys at the apex of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).

As a journalist who has followed Moses Ali’s military career over the years with interest, I can suggest who the happiest chap in Uganda is just now; for Moses Ali had demanded to be raised to the rank of general more than 10 years ago – never mind that at the time, even his own Commander-in-Chief, President Yoweri Museveni was still a Lieutenant General. The oddity of having the Commander-in-Chief promote his junior to a rank above his own self was not impressed upon Moses Ali at that time.

But 11 years later (for it was in 2001 that he made the most agitation to be promoted to general), Moses Ali’s wish has been granted. This, therefore, for the old man is a dream come true, a desire satiated, a destiny finally secured and firmly in his ‘five’.

As a soldier, this is a shot in the arm; a strong value addition to the old man. His car will now have four stars instead of three (just in case you hadn’t noticed, most of Uganda’s Generals wear their stars, not only their uniforms, but also on their cars – one star for a Brigadier, two for a Major General, three for a Lieutenant General and four stars for a General).

Were he an active soldier, Gen. Moses Ali’s salary would have promptly escalated; but since he isn’t, we can only guarantee that his retirement package, whichever time it comes, will be all the better off, thanks to this promotion. This means that as a taxpayer, I will have to dig deeper into my pocket to finance the army, since it is a General richer.
Now to the other pertinent questions.

What value this will add to the UPDF? For the record, if you tell the strength of an army by the number of Generals it has, then in theory, one would want to suggest that perhaps the army is getting stronger. If that criterion is irrelevant, then one is hard-pressed to see the usefulness of a no-longer-active three-star General, getting a fourth star.

Finally, it would be really appropriate for the appointing authority to tell Uganda what Moses Ali did to merit promotion to the rank of General.
By statute, a soldier who wants to join politics must first unclothe himself of anything military; so Moses Ali is no longer an active soldier. How then did he accumulate merit to rise to a four-star General?

To be fair, I am not a soldier; so I may not know some other considerations – beside merit – that may (lawfully and professionally) cause a soldier to be promoted. And to be fair still, I am not a member of the intelligence services, so there are things I may not be privy to that Moses Ali may have done to merit a promotion to the rank of general. Is it possible that he had a backlog of meritorious acts that had never been duly recognised and rewarded?

Soldier and spy though I be not, I do follow trails of Generals in most of the major world militaries and I am very much informed about how things are done in civilised places, especially model militaries as those in the United States, Britain and Israel. You do not become a General in any of these places just like that. As matter of fact, you can easily tell how each general earned his stars. The Israelis possibly have the best tales – each general has a great story behind him. None of them was cosseted or mollycoddled all the way to their stars.

Generals are the pride, not only of the army, but also of the nation; they are in many ways, a large part of its memoirs. Because of that, (financial implications aside) the rank of General should not be watered down, by having eyebrows raised as to the merit of the award.

Mr Tegulle comments on social and political issues.