One of the enduring misconceptions about soldiers who join politics is the claim of active participation in the 1981-86 Bush War that brought President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to power.
The latest to join the long-list of soldiers-cum-politicians is Lt. Gen Henry Tumukunde, who is running for the Presidency under the name of pressure group ‘Kisoboka’.
Tumukunde, after the bush war worked in different capacities, as 4th Division Commander, Director General of ISO and Minister of Security until March 2018 when he was relieved of his duties acrimoniously.
He then began mobilising under a pretext of running for Kampala Lord Mayoral seat, until 2020 when he unequivocally announced his bid for Presidency.
From the time he launched his bid, Lt. Gen Tumukunde has made it a habit of claiming to have actively contributed to the fighting that took place in the jungles of the Luweero Triangle between 1981-86, a claim that is not backed up by any verifiable evidence, based on wide-ranging review of literature about the Bush War.
He had an opportunity to be part of the battalion A- Company, commanded by a fierce fighter Gen. Salim Saleh Akandwanaho.
Tumukunde, got injured at Kikubanimba- Bulemezi.
Fellow officers attribute the injury to his argumentative nature, defying the senior command, excessive ambition and refusing to take orders.
What should be made clear from the onset is that there were two groups of disillusioned Ugandans that were at the forefront of the 1981-86 Bush War; the “intellectuals” and the “fighters”.
The “intellectuals” were named so because they were mainly former students of Makerere University who had either cut short their studies to participate in the Bush War or joined after completion of their courses. Lt. Gen Tumukunde belongs to the group that joined the war after completing university.
While pursuing his Law degree at Makerere University, Lt. Gen Tumukunde was often hounded by President Milton Obote’s National Security Agency (NSA) operatives because of his political leanings at the University.
With the hounding escalating after he had completed University, Lt.Gen Tumukunde was left with no option but to flee for his life and seek sanctuary in Luweero Triangle, which was largely under the control of the National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels.
When Lt Gen Tumukunde joined the Bush War, because of his oratory skills and knowledge of the law, he was designated to the department of Political Commiserate, a section that was not charged with fighting but rather with winning the hearts and minds of the population in the fighting areas.
He worked closely with the late Maj Gen Benon Biraro.These were rarely on the frontline.
Lt Gen Tumukunde and his “intellectuals” were assigned the responsibility of spreading propaganda in the Luweero Triangle, with the fighting left to hardened “fighters”, most of whom had not been to the comforts of universities.
Real fighting was left to the likes of Salim Saleh who commanded the Mobile Brigade,Matayo Kyaligonza who commanded the Black Bombers, Fred Rwigyema’s Western Axis, Pecos Kutesa (1st Battalion ), Patrick Lumumba (3rd Battalion), Steven Kashaka (5th Battalion) and Chefe Ali (11th). Maj. Frank Kaka was the force behind the success of the 1984 invasion of Masindi Artillery Regiment.
Other notable fighters are David Tinyefuza, Julius Chihande, Samson Mande, Steven Kashaka, Pecos Kutesa, Hannington Mugabi, Stanley Muhangi, Joram Mugume and Ahmed Kashilingi.
Such was Lt Gen Tumukunde’s inexperience on the battlefront that when he participated in a major operation on the Kampala-Gulu Highway on October 9 1983, he was badly injured by enemy fire, which left him nearly crippled.
After sustaining those injuries, Tumukunde became a member of what came to be referred as “sitting officers”, based at the NRA Headquarters. Gen David Tinyefuza was another prominent member of the “sitting officers” after sustaining injuries at the Battle of Bukalabi.
Therefore, contrary to what he often claims, Lt Gen Tumukunde’s motivation of joining the Bush War was not to fight for the liberation of Uganda but he was rather fleeing to save his life from Obote’s agents who wanted him dead.
Even during the decisive battles that culminated into the fall of Kampala in 1986, Lt. Gen Tumukunde was abroad in London getting treatment for injuries he had suffered on his legs.
After capturing power, Gen. Museveni appointed Tumukunde in different capacities including Chief of Military Intelligence, however, he hardly held the positions for long because of his excessive ambition and shady character.
In 1998, Tumukunde was appointed the Commander 4th Division Gulu. This was a top-notch and life changing assignment.
This was the time when LRA leader Joseph Kony was ravaging Northern Uganda, and therefore Tumukunde ought to have exhibited the skills he obtained from the Military trainings offered to him from abroad.
Instead he lobbied for funds, dispatched troops to Northern Uganda, abandoned them at the forefront and flew to USA chop the money.
A crestfallen Museveni would later assign Aronda Nyakairima who executed the mission with precision and later appointed Army Commander.
Tumukunde, after that incident, was appointed Director General of ISO until 2003 when he challenged the removal of term limits, he was charged by the Army and in 2005 arrested until 2013, when the Court Martial resolved his matter.
In 2015, he asked for forgiveness from President Museveni that he had repented. He was promoted to Lt. Gen, and retired from the forces.
He was assigned to head Museveni’s Presidential campaigns given logistical support including colossal sums of money and an aircraft.
Instead he channelled the logistics into building his own structures which he is now attempting to use to mobilise in his campaigns.