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Lt. Gen Pecos Kutesa, NRA War veteran, dies at 65

Many hailed the fallen General as a patriot and great warrior

OBITUARY | IAN KATUSIIME | Army MP, military doctrine chief and author of one of the most definitive books of the National Resistance Army (NRA) war, Lt. Gen. Pecos Kutesa was a Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) man to the core. Kutesa who died on Aug. 17 at a hospital in India was always described as a gallant soldier and a patriot.

His passing-on, barely two weeks after he was retired from the army, almost implied that he could not be separated from the UPDF. On the contrary, Kutesa had applied for retirement much earlier after years of disenchantment with an institution he deeply loved.

Tributes poured in from across the political divide, civil society and the general public of a man they described as a gentleman, kind, intellectual and one whose name is etched in the annals of Uganda’s history.

“A soldier par excellence, a bookman and a, generally, straightforward officer retires.” Col. (Rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye said of Kutesa with whom they fought together in the five year NRA war.

Maj. Gen. Moses Rwakitarate, Uganda’s Defence Attaché to Belgium, France and Netherlands, said the fallen General was a great warrior and an intellectual soldier. Gen. Pecos Kutesa was perhaps best known for his memoirs; Uganda’s Revolution 1979-1986 How I Saw It. It is a riveting account of the war that brought the NRA to power with Yoweri Museveni as leader.

Written with so much humour and candour, the book earned rave reviews from the time it was published in 2005 and it is widely recommended for anyone who wants to understand one of Uganda’s most important historical events.

Kutesa joined the army in 1979 when he was recruited by Museveni to join the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA). The government of Idi Amin was in collapse and the young Kutesa felt the urge to be part of something bigger than himself. He and other recruits were taken for military training at the National Leadership Academy in Monduli, Tanzania. Kutesa said the Tanzanian military instructors laid the ground for his determination to take part in a liberation war in Uganda because of the grueling conditions under which they trained.

In the early phases of the war, Kutesa was an ADC to guerrilla leader Museveni and earlier, he served in a similar role during the short reign of Prof. Yusuf Lule after Amin was overthrown

As a young officer, Kutesa distinguished himself in battles at Kakiri and in general combat and warfare. Kutesa was commander of the 1st battalion during NRA offensives on Kabamba, Masindi and Hoima as they took on the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) in the second Obote government. This was 1983 and the NRA was making major strides against the government forces.

After the triumph of the NRA guerillas in 1986, Kutesa was deployed as first Fourth Division Commander based in Gulu. He was just 30. This was the last major operational assignment for Kutesa and he enjoyed his time as a guerilla more than as a professional soldier even by his own admission. “At the personal level, my participation in the post-1986 events has not been as spectacular as any role in the armed struggle from 1979 to 1986,” he writes in his book.

Kutesa was born in 1956 in Kabula, Lyantonde district. He did his O and A Levels at Masaka Secondary School between 1971 and 1975. He immediately joined the anti-Amin struggle after school and in 1979, he had first military training at Monduli. After the nine month training, he was posted to Nakasongola Military Training School under the UNLA as a regimental instructor. However he deserted the UNLA and joined the NRA in 1981.

After the war, the NRA embarked on a transition from a guerilla army to a professional one. Kutesa was sent to do a training course in Ghana at the Armed Forces Staff College in 1990.

Ever politically conscious, Kutesa sought leave of the army and was elected as a Constituent Assembly delegate for Kabula County in 1994 to take part in the constitution making process. Disappointed with the intrigue of politics, he reported back to the army in 1996 and was assigned as Chief of Recruitment and Training. From 1998 to 2001, he studied psychology at Makerere University which he described as “intellectually rewarding and refreshing” from the military world of receiving and carrying out orders.

In his last posting before retirement, Kutesa was the Chief of Doctrine Synthesisation and Development. He also served as army MP for ten years. He is survived by a wife Dorah, and children.



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