Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | President Yoweri Museveni has appointed Maj Gen James Birungi, as the new commander of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). He replaces Maj Gen Abel Kandiho, who was last year sanctioned by the United States government over human rights abuses.
The UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu could not be reached for a comment, but the news was confirmed by Land Forces Commander, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
“I congratulate both Maj General Abel Kandiho and Maj General James Birungi on their new appointments,” Lt Gen Kainerugaba tweeted.
Gen Kandiho replacement first emerged mid-last week. But it was later established that the changes had occurred in the Special Forces Command (SFC) where Brig Peter Chandia handed over to Brig Felix Busizoori.
It is reported that Maj Kandiho who was in December last year pinned by the US for being personally involved in the abduction and torture of government critics, has been sent to South Sudan where Maj Gen Birungi has been monitoring on behalf of the guarantors, the assembling, screening, demobilization, and integration of the armed forces.
Before being sent to South Sudan in 2019, Maj Gen Birungi was the commander of the SFC. He had replaced Brig-Gen Don Nabasa. The CMI under the command of Maj Gen Kandiho has been in the spotlight for abducting suspects and detaining them without trial for several months.
The US specifically indicated that Maj Gen Kandiho participated in numerous human rights violations and as a result, he was banned from traveling or conducting business in the US. The two-star General and his subordinates have been arresting, detaining, and physically abusing persons in Uganda. The US government added that people were being targeted due to their nationality, political views, or critique of the Ugandan government.
“During these incarcerations, victims were kept in solitary confinement and unable to contact friends, family, or legal support. In some cases, Kandiho was personally involved, leading interrogations of detained individuals,” the statement by US Office of Foreign Assets Control-OFAC read in part.
To date, many people arrested by CMI have never appeared in courts of law while others, their whereabouts are not known. These include Mike Semudu who was grabbed from Masanafu in Lubaga and John Damulira, who was picked from Kisekka market.
Maj Gen Birungi served as SFC commander from 2019 to 2020, when he replaced Maj Gen Don Nabasa. Between 2016 and 2019, he served as Chief of Uganda People’s Defence Air Force (UPDAF) when he replaced Col Emmanuel Kwihangana. Birungi was promoted to his current rank in 2019 in February, when Museveni promoted over 2,000 men and women of UPDF.
Birungi attended among other military courses, Basic military training in Kasenyi-Entebbe, Cadet course in India, Anti-Tank course in Masaka, Motorised infantry commanders course, tank crew course in Karama, Platoon commanders course in Karama, Company commanders course in Karama, Juinor commanders course in Jinja and Senior command and staff course at USCSC, Kimaka.