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Gen. Elly Tumwine, NRA historical and ex-minister of security, dies at 68

Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | RO/00023 Gen. Elly Tumwine who succumbed to cancer on Aug. 25 served the country in many capacities. Tumwine was taken ill in Nairobi weeks ago after his condition deteriorated.

A loyal cadre to the National Resistance Army (NRA) and even more loyal to the Commander in Chief and NRA founder, President Yoweri Museveni, Tumwine was one of the army’s most well-known officers and one of its most controversial.

In his long career with the NRA-turned Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), he held the roles of Army commander, minister of state for defence, presidential advisor, director of External Security Organisation (ESO), Chairman of the General Court Martial, head of committee for presidential medals etc.

In 2018, President Museveni elevated Tumwine and appointed him security minister after years on the sidelines. Tumwine replaced Henry Tumukunde who was fired alongside Gen. Kale Kayihura in a mini reshuffle of the security docket. Tumwine was then in charge of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) a key intelligence agency.

Among the senior members of the High Command and NRA historical who took part in the Luwero guerilla war, Gen. Tumwine was one of the few who had never had a public fallout with Museveni. His contemporaries like Gen. Tumukunde, Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza,  Col. Dr Kizza Besigye, Brig. Jim Muhwezi had all had runs in with the president over his long stay in power, corruption and the way the army was run among others.

Tumwine was known for speaking out on corruption but he also got entangled in the abuse of public resources when he was said to be occupying Nommo Gallery illegally. He was accused of defaulting on rent arrears for a period of twenty years for the premises located not far from State House Nakasero.

The accusation pitted him in a public clash with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development which is responsible for the gallery in what was a familiar scenario under the NRM government; UPDF Generals facing off with civilians.

Tumwine was the chair of the court martial when Dr Kizza Besigye faced charges of illegal possession of firearms in 2005. Tumwine was also a long serving army MP. While still active, he said he served thirty three years in parliament.

In his stint as security minister, he was cautioned by then Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for contempt of parliament.

Born in 1954 in Burunga, Mbarara district, Tumwine attended Burunga Primary School, Mbarara High School, St Henry’s College Kitovu and enrolled for a degree in fine art at Makerere University. In 1977, he graduated from university and in 1979 joined the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), Museveni’s first liberation movement that he founded in 1971.

Before Tumwine joined FRONASA, he had met Museveni in 1967 when the future president taught him as a young teacher. The two met years later again and became comrades in the resistance against the government of Milton Obote.

On February 6, 1981, the NRA launched its guerilla war when Tumwine fired the first shot at a government barracks in Kabamba. He was part of the first batch that remained at the core of the NRA to this day.

“Since that time (1979), Gen. Tumwiine has been part of the leadership of the NRA- UPDF as well as serving the government in various capacities. Those capacities included being Army- Commander, member of the High Command, Director-General of Intelligence, Minister of Security, etc.” Museveni said of Tumwine. He described him as a dedicated and hardworking cadre.

Tumukunde whom Tumwine replaced as security minister, wrote “Every one of us especially those who fought alongside him in Luwero remember his resolve and deep commitment to the struggle.”

Security minister Jim Muhwezi said “Hon. Gen. Elly Tumwine spoke the truth even where the truth hurts. He was a disciplinarian whose values were never compromised.”

His last posting as Minister of Security from 2018-2021 brought him to the fore in many ways Ugandans had not seen.

His comments saying “Police has a right to shoot and kill you…” after the deadly protests in November 2020 is what lingered in the minds of many Ugandans when he was pronounced dead.



  1. Death is unpredictable , whether people wishes you or they don’t . we shall always die when that time comes. The late talked of Police shooting people , he might have said that time so as to scare the people from staging violent demonstration , some time its not good to pass judgement against someone very first. We need to forgive one another always and that is what God wants from us.


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