The post-Independence story of Uganda cannot be told without mention of the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) that fought a five-year war against soldiers of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) culminating into the ascendency to power of Yoweri Museveni, hitherto Uganda’s longest-serving president. During the war otherwise referred to as the Bush War, Mr Museveni was commanding some youthful men and women, some of who are currently holding high profile positions in the Army.In a four-part series Eagleonline retraces some of them, both living and those who have since passed on, writes Steven F Mandu.
General Yoweri Museveni (RO0001)
To many he probably needs no introduction. But General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is the President of Uganda and Commander-in-Chief of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) for the last 29 years since 1986.Before that, between 1981 and 1986, RO0001 Museveni commanded the Peoples Resistance Army (PRA)/National Resistance Army (NRA) troops in the jungles of Luwero and in parts of western Uganda.
Museveni studied at the University of Dar es Salaam, where he studied Economics and Political Science, graduating in1969. A political activist during his varsity days, after graduation he joined the President’s Office in Uganda as a Research Assistant in 1970, but his first official job was cut short by the 1971 coup carried out by then Army Commander Major General Idi Amin Dada. In 1973 Museveni founded the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), a quasi military-politico organization that participated in the ouster of Amin in April 1979. In the same year he was appointed Minister of Defence by then President Professor Yusuf Kironde Lule. When Prof Lule was deposed after only 69 days in power, Museveni continued serving in the same position under new president Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, but was suddenly appointed Minister of Labour. But shortly after that Binaisa was also toppled in May 1980 and Museveni emerged in the new administration called the Military Commission, deputizing Paulo Muwanga, who was the Chairman. It was during this time that he vowed to go to the bush if the scheduled elections of December1980 were rigged.Indeed, the elections were held and Obote announced winner, prompting Museveni and 27 armed fighters to launch the Bush War on February 6, 1981, with an attack on Kabamba Military Barracks.And, on January 26 1986 a triumphant Museveni and the NRA captured power, after which he was sworn in as president by then Chief Justice Peter Allen on January 29, 1986. In 1987, Museveni was officially decorated as a Lieutenant General of the National Resistance Army (NRA), the highest ranking officer then.
Family: Museveni was born in September 1944 to Amos Kaguta and Esteri Kokundeka, both now deceased. He is married to Janet Kataha Kainembabazi Museveni and together they have four children, a son Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba and three married daughters: Natasha Karugire, Patience Rwabwogo and Diana Kamuntu.
Brigadier (Honorary) Eriya Kategaya (RO0002)
Born on July 4, 1945, Honorary Brigadier Eriya Tukahirwa Kategaya was a lawyer who graduated from Dar es Salaam University. He was a close associate of President Museveni and the two were Fronasa operatives, fighting the Idi Amin regime. In 1980, Kategaya was a founding member of the Uganda Patriotic Movement headed by Museveni to contest in the elections of December that year.
When Museveni launched the guerrilla struggle against the Milton Obote regime in 1981 Kategaya fled to exile in Nairobi, where he served in the External Wing of the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A). RO0002 Kategaya served in various capacities, notably as the NRM National Political Commissar (NPC) and First Deputy Prime Minister, but was to fall out with Museveni in 2003, over the contentious issue of term limits. He then went into private law practice but returned to the fold as First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs after the 2006 elections.
He served in that capacity till he passed on in 2013 aged 67.He is survived by a widow, Joan Kategaya and children.
General Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh (RO00016)
In 1976, aged just16, Salim Saleh left Kako Secondary School in Masaka to join the Front for National Salvation to fight against the regime of Idi Amin.
RO00016 General (rtd) Saleh trained in Mozambique with Samora Machel’s FRELIMO fighters and was part of the FRONASA forces under his elder brother Yoweri Museveni that helped topple Amin’s regime in 1979. At the time Museveni went to the bush, Saleh was serving as Platoon Commander under the UNLA in Moroto. However, in 1982 he managed to join the NRA, where he became one of the most accomplished fighters, commanding several successful armed missions against forces of his former employer, the UNLA, culminating in the fall of the Tito Okello regime on January 26, 1986.
On entry in Kampala the Senior Officer Saleh was the Commander of the NRA Mobile Brigade, which laid the final assault on the city. In between he also served as the Chief of Combat Operations (CCO) and, in February 1987 Saleh was decorated with the rank of Major General alongside Elly Tumwine and Fred Rwigyema, and later appointed Army Commander, a post Gen Saleh held till 1989. He was later appointed Senior Presidential Advisor on Defence and Security from 1996 to 1998 and the Commander of the Reserve Force between 1990 and 2001. In 2006, General Saleh was appointed Minister of State for Microfinance but was dropped in a 2006 cabinet reshuffle. He is currently a Senior Presidential Advisor on Defence and Security and also takes time off to farm.
Gen Saleh is married to Jovia Saleh Akandwanaho and the two have children.
Major General Fred Gisa Rwigyema (RO00015)
After completing high school in 1976, Fred Gisa Rwigyema joined the Fronasa and later trained with Frelimo in Mozambique. A good friend of Gen Saleh, Rwigyema was one of the fighters involved in the overthrow of Amin, and served in the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), before teaming up with Museveni in the NRA in 1981.
On capturing Kampala in 1986, RO00015 Rwigyema was a Senior Officer, and commanded several operations in Northern Uganda. In 1987, Rwigyema, a son of Rwandan Tutsi refugee parents, was decorated Major General by then Rwandan President Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, considered a strong proponent of Hutu extremism. The decoration raised eyebrows, with many Rwandan refugees in Uganda then ‘predicting’ that Rwigyema would at one time replace Habyarimana as president as president of Rwanda. Anyhow, rwigyema went on to become Minister of State for Defence in Uganda, before he led a group of his countrymen under the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) to launch an armed struggle against Habyarimana’s government on October 1, 1990. He was killed on the first day of battle and was later to be replaced by then Major Paul Kagame, who was recalled from the United States of America (USA) where he was pursuing a military course at Fort Leavenworth Military Academy.
Today, Major General (rtd) Paul Kagame is the President of Rwanda, while Major General Rwigyema is one of Rwanda’s national heroes whose remains are interred at the Heroes Cemetery in Kigali.
Maj Gen Rwigyema is survived by a widow and children.
General Elly Tumwine (RO00023)
A teacher by profession, Elly Tumwine Tuhirirwe is a graduate of Fine Art from Makerere University. However, in 1978 he joined Fronasa and was one of the armed men who participated in the overthrow of Amin in 1979. He then went for a cadet course at Monduli in Tanzania, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1980.
On February 6, 1981 Tumwine was one of the 27 armed men who attacked Kabamba Military Barracks, and he fired the first shot of the nascent guerilla force, losing an eye in the ensuing battle. RO00023 Tumwine was appointed NRA Commander in 1984 and on capturing state power in 1986 he still served in that post for over a year before being replaced by Salim Saleh.
In 1987 Tumwine was decorated Major General and has served in various capacities including Minister of State for Defence in 1989; Director General of External Security (ESO) from 1994 to 1996 and Senior Presidential Advisor from 1996 to 1998.
General Tumwine is a Member of Parliament representing the UPDF and in September 2005 he was decorated a four-star General and named Chairman of the UPDF General Court Martial. Currently, he is the Chairman of the National Medal Awards Committee.
Major General Mugisha Muntu
Born in 1958 Mugisha Muntu is a graduate of Political Science from Makerere University, who joined the National Resistance Army (NRA) on the day he completed his exams. By 1986, the youthful Muntu had risen to the rank of Senior Officer and was head of the Military Intelligence, where he was deputized by Paul Kagame. In 1987 Muntu was a Major, quickly rising to Colonel and commanding the NRA Division 4 in Gulu after he returned from a military course in the then Soviet Union. He was then promoted to Major General and appointed Army Commander, serving in that post from 1989 to 1998, the longest serving officer to hold that office. Between 1994 and 1995 Muntu was a member of the Constituent Assembly, but later fell out with the NRM over term limits. It is said that Muntu at one time turned down a ministerial appointment by Museveni and decided to join the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and, in 2001 he was named as one of Uganda’s nine representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
In 2012 Gen Muntu was elected FDC party president and isd today challenging his predecessor Colonel Dr Kizza Besigye for the position of party flag bearer for the 2016 general elections.
Muntu is married to Julia Kakonge Muntu, and the two are blessed with a son and daughter.
General Aronda Nyakairima
Born in 1959, Robert Aronda Nyakarima joined the National Resistance Army in 1981, soon after leaving Makerere, where he studied Political Science. In 1986, after the fall of Kampala Aronda, then a Junior Officer One (JO1) worked as an Intelligence Officer based at the Central Police Station in Kampala.
He served in various high-profile positions in the UPDF before he was appointed Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) in 2003. He has also represented the UPDF in Parliament since 1996 and was named Minister for Internal Affairs in 2013, triggering debate about the military and politics.
General David Sejusa (RO00031)
Born in 1954, David Munungu Sejusa, formerly David Tinyefuza, is a lawyer, politician and military officer who joined the NRA in 1981 after serving in the Uganda Police, where he held the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). By the time of capturing power in 1986, Sejusa was a senior officer and by 1987 he was one of the four officers decorated Brigadier alongside Matayo Kyaligonza, Tadeo Kanyankole and Honorary Brigadier Eriya Kategaya.
In the UPDF he has held several administrative and command positions including 4 Division Commander, Chief of Combat Operations (CCO), Director General of External Security (ESO), Minister of State for Defence (MSOD) and UPDF Member of Parliament, Senior Presidential Advisor and, until recently the Coordinator of Intelligence Services. Famed for his intransigent character, in the 1990s RO00031 Sejusa challenged a decision not to honour his request to retire from the army. His case went up to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him, meaning he remained a serving officer. In 2005 he was appointed Coordinator of Intelligence Services, holding that post up to 2013, when he again disagreed with the CIC, forcing him to flee to exile in London, where he formed a pressure group, the Freedom and Unity Front (FUF).Early this year Sejusa returned from exile but he has continued to rivet the authorities.
Major General Pecos Kutesa (RO00026)
Pecos Kutesa joined the Fronasa in 1976 and was part of the group that participated in the overthrow of Amin in 1979. He received cadet training in Monduli in Tanzania and joined the ‘bush war’ in 1981.At the capture of state power in 1986 Kutesa was a Senior Officer and in 1987 he was decorated Colonel alongside Joram Mugume Kanyaruhara and Julius Chihanda.
The author of a book ‘The way I saw it’ Kutesa has also served in various positions in the NRA and UPDF and, in the diplomatic service as Uganda’s Military Attaché to India. Currently a Major General, Kutesa is the head of Doctrine in the UPDF.
Maj Gen Kutesa is married to Dora Kutesa, a former NRA officer and diplomat, just like her husband.