Gen Elly Tumwine (right) interacts with another UPDF soldier in 1999. He posted the picture on his official Twitter handle on July 1, 2021. PHOTO | FILE

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Old soldiers never die, they just fade away - Dr Besigye

What you need to know:

  • Like most people who live long public lives in troubled times, Gen Tumwiine’s life of 68 years, understandably, attracted both accolades and condemnation- in life and in death.

Heartfelt condolences to the family, relatives and friends of Gen Elly Tumwine, who completed his earthly journey.

Since the end of the National Resistance Army (NRA) bush war,  Gen Elly Tumwine is the most senior officer to die. 

He was the first commander of NRA in government; served as army representative in Parliament for 35 years and held several other senior government appointments. He has, therefore, lived a long, high profile, public life.

Apart from Gen Tumwine’s public life, he also had a private life - a family, relatives, friends, private endeavours, and associations etc.

Like most people who live long public lives in troubled times, Gen Tumwiine’s life of 68 years, understandably, attracted both accolades and condemnation- in life and in death.

I met and got to know Gen Tumwine during the NRA bush war. At the time of my joining the war (1982), Gen Tumwine was Deputy Commander to the late Commander Sam Magara.

Left to Right: Col Kizza Besigye, Maj Amanya Mushega, Maj Kaka, Maj Tom Butime, and other bush war comrades. PHOTO | FILE

Having personally witnessed the militarised electoral fraud of the 1980 General Election (the first since 1962 Independence); having been a direct victim of the gross abuse of Human Rights during and after the 1980 election; and having been aware of the grave governance challenges since “independence”; I am convinced that the People’s protracted (armed) struggle to reclaim people’s sovereignty and democratic government was legitimate.

I, therefore, consider that those who participated in the struggle, alive or deceased, made a patriotic contribution. Therefore, I salute the deceased General for his role in that struggle.

This has, of course, become highly contentious because of what those who undertook that struggle have done after taking over government.

There’s no doubt, whatsoever, that the 36 years of the NRM/M7 junta has been characterised by militarised electoral fraud; gross abuse of Human Rights and socioeconomic and political injustices that surpass anything our country had witnessed since “Independence”.

It’s, therefore, understandable and, in many cases, justified to see the leaders of NRA/NRM as horrible traitors. 

They betrayed the very causes for which millions of people made immense sacrifices; they betrayed the patriots that sacrificed in the struggle- combatants and non-combatants; they betrayed the country that had endured immense pain and humiliation; and they betrayed the African people, by perpetuating the stereotypical image of Africa’s sit tight, brutal dictatorships.

They even betrayed themselves; the reason they ran to Kenya for medical care, when Mulago medical school (built under colonial rule), which is by far the oldest medical school in the region has produced some of the best healthcare workers on the globe. 

Having been involved in the 1980-86 struggle and having, presently, been involved in the struggle to end the NRA/NRM/M7 State capture for more than 20 years, I am more understanding of the dynamics that have led the NRA/NRM leaders to betray the country the way they did.

That’s why we’ve been emphatically advocating a different liberation strategy. 

An armed struggle, like the one of NRA/M, can only lead to a “mere change of the guards”; it cannot engender the desired change of power from armed control to popular control.

War weakens families, communities and the civil society, while empowering the armed groups. When the war ends, therefore, there’s far less capacity in the population to demand accountability and direct the post war political processes.

Moreover, in the aftermath of war, whatever State institutions that still survive, are also very weak and ineffective to provide the needed checks and balances. 

Of course, if the leaders of the armed struggle are true revolutionaries, they can, on their own volition, set out to re-empower the population and manage a transition to a democratic dispensation.  More often than not, however, leaders of an armed struggle, take advantage of the weakened population to entrench themselves in power; amass wealth at the expense of everyone else; and create patrimonial regime.

It’s noteworthy that many of the leaders (and fighters) in the armed struggle didn’t have any ideological grounding before joining the war; national consciousness (having a shared sense of national identity and common good) was low; and most had, until the war, lived in severe socioeconomic deprivation.

Under such circumstances, it’s understandable that after the NRA/M armed struggle, corruption became the system of government; with nepotism and cronyism taking centre stage.

The exclusion and deprivation that most citizens face on account of such a corruption cabal gradually generate anger, hatred and demand for radical change. This is where Uganda is today.

The main point here is that any group of people that takes power in a situation where there are weak checks and balances, is likely to be as problematic as the NRA bush war leaders.

Like Alex Mukulu’s portrayed in his “30 years of Bananas”, Uganda’s post-independence leaders, prominently, lost their ears and had no capacity to hear the cries of the population. Therefore, it’s not possible for them to provide a way out of the crises they create.

The lasting solution lies in a non-violent struggle undertaken by a critical mass of the population. 

Awakening and empowering the population with relevant information and organisational and struggle skills is a slow and painstaking process. This is what we’ve been focusing on since 2011.

Once the people regain power from the armed cabal, then they’ll have the best chance to organise a successful TRANSITIONAL process.

In the meantime, those holding the Uganda captive, must expect more anger, bitterness and radical actions from the population.            

Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye is a former soldier and politician

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