By Godwin Agaba
You have probably heard of the relapse in relations between Uganda and her South Western neighbor, Rwanda, where in dealings are at an all-time low with rumours of a potential full scale war on the horizon. While for the general public the downturn was a surprising development that they only started to understand with the border closure, behind-the-scenes a few figures have long stood in the way of Rwanda’s advances on her bigger Northern neighbor with whom they have a similar liberation history.
Nobody can talk of relations between Rwanda and Uganda without speaking about the men who have reigned in rogue elements from across and prevented them fully taking charge of its affairs or annexing it for resources and geo-political interests of the Tutsi empire.
One man who has been a thorn in Rwanda’s anti-Uganda plans for long is Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, now retired and who was Minister for Security until last year when he was “dismissed” together with the then police chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura, by their Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Yoweri Museveni. At the time, there were conflicting reports as to why Tumukunde was dismissed so hastily, less than two years after being rehabilitated and redeployed following a decade under detention for making statements considered harmful and prejudicial to the establishment at the time of radical constitutional amendments in 2005.
It is at the time he was under incarceration that alleged Rwandan agents made Uganda their rat path and playing ground, finding a fertile ground and wanton collusion by the Kayihura regime which took President Museveni’s trust as a weakness. Kayihura, for reasons best known to him, chose to serve Rwandan interests and begun sidelining Uganda’s bigger security apparatus by appointing civilians such as Abdul Kitatta to do their work while spending colossal sums of money that had no impact on the security situation. Instead, it is during that time that killings of Muslim sheikhs and women ensued and threatened the nerve of the NRM regime which is hinged on ensuring safety and security of person and property.
The killings were so perplexing and methodical that the hearts of Ugandans were literally in their mouth and the Museveni government was on its toes. Kayihura was seen everywhere, always among the first to reach murder scenes but nothing changed.
Along the way, clues started seeping in that there was collusion at a high level due to the illogicalness of how easily murderers could just work around Wakiso, Entebbe, Kampala and Mukono without being tracked and annihilated by the same security machinery that sent Joseph Kony, Al Shabaab and ADF packing.
By that time, Museveni the super strategist had began to work out the problem and decided to counter the problem himself.
First, he hit the ground, going to the scenes of crime to establish raw clues on how the murders were carried out. Then he upgraded capabilities of ISO, CMI and got Tumukunde to look into matters.
As a former ISO, CMI and Division commander, Tumukunde had an elaborate network which remained intact even when he was away. His profound intellect and ability to work through a maze of circumstances enabled him garner a considerable cache of cables that revealed a security system eating itself from within.
By the 1990s, he had already done good work fighting bomb attacks within Kampala and had the city in the palm of his hand.
It so happened that in 2005 at the time Tumukunde was held in the officer’s mess, across the border in Rwanda, Col. Patrick Karegeya was also held in a military prison in Rwanda in circumstances quite similar to Tumukunde’s. Karegeya had been the head of external security of Rwanda. Both men were known to each other, having studied together at Makerere University where they were roommates.
They were known as spy masters in the two countries and had the uncanny similar trait of seeing things the same way.
“Tumukunde is like me. We are honest and with a free mind, which is a very big challenge to many especially in forces. If you are honest with yourself and honest with the world you will free your mind,” Karegeya told me when l visited him in Kanombe military barracks where he was detained .
Karegeya went on to tell me something that struck my mind. The imprisoned former spy chief ( Continue to Rest In Peace ) revealed that Rwanda lost an opportunity to host the regional Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) office to Uganda after a Rwanda Defence Officer (RDF) tried to rape a CIA operative in his office. The Pentagon was furious and decided to relocate the CIA regional offices to Kampala. This development Rwanda did not take lightly considering the regime’s desire to position itself as a dominant force and partner of the West in the Great Lakes region.
From then on, and additional to other unsolved feuds including lingering bad blood over the Kisangani clashes, there was going to be a turf war whose dimensions nobody could predict. Because of Uganda’s benefactor position and the father figure that Museveni naturally was, having groomed the Rwandan liberators while carrying out his own revolutionary struggles in Uganda, nobody thought that the Southern counterparts would go all out to try and decompose the existing relations.
But it took the whole of a decade and more for the Ugandan establishment to determine the extent to infiltration and undermining of its systems that had been worked out to the extent that almost all government departments had agents serving Rwandan interests; private sector players had been co-opted in order to weave a noose around the Ugandan economy, security, policy, politics and society.
The wide-ranging discovery of Rwanda’s dirty arm in Ugandan affairs meticulously executed by the dread DMI was unfurled by applying sting operations by CMI and ISO, bringing to light a state of affairs that shook the Ugandan public to the core.
In his recent interview on NTV On the spot programme hosted by Patrick Kamara, Tumukunde spoke commandingly on relations between Rwanda and Uganda with conviction. Later in an interview with New Vision, he boasted that “they” had taught Rwanda how to respect Uganda, a statement suggesting that at some point Rwanda was using Uganda as its footstool. His triumphant assertion has since sent deep anger waves in the region.
It is known that the former CMI and ISO chief is deeply loathed by the Rwandans because of the stumbling block that he has always been to their plans aimed destabilizing Uganda. And because he was friendly to Karegeya, it was a just for the latter to die lest he revealed too much through Tumukunde’s network and other contacts including those to whom he had revealed the causes of Rwanda’s hatred for Uganda. Karegeya was murdered in South Africa where he was strangled in circumstances which have been determined to have the hallmarks of Rwandan attacks on dissidents worldwide.
Tumukunde is back in the limelight carrying out consultations to determine if he runs for Kampala Lord Mayorship and has been meeting groups of Kampalans to gauge his chances. He has met women groups, traders, Muslims, and even gone to Comedy Store, a city event where stand up comedians relieve fans of stress with ribald jokes and imitation of celebrities. Some pundits have stated that retired General has what it takes to win the seat while others say he has no chance against the incumbent, Ssalongo Erias Lukwago, musician Jose Chameleone, among others. But the bush war hero is not one to go into something without considering all the angles to it.
Can he work out what Kampalans want and overturn voting patterns? Is he favoured by the establishment and President Museveni as a bulwark against the Rwanda pet project of infiltrating Kampala with its agents and causing havoc?
It is known that Lukwago has no competence in security matters whatsoever. Can Tumukunde ride on his expertise to convince Kampalans that he is the solution to the insecurity to enable them work and live in peace or will they prefer fanfare politics over substance?