Why did Commander-in-Chief keep many others in, who want out?
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The recent retirement of 14 UPDF Generals; Ivan Koreta, Pecos Kutesa, Jim Owoyesigire, Robert Rusoke, Fred Mugisha and nine others follows a pattern of careful selection.
Some Generals who have clamoured for retirement from the army in vain were locked in again. But others, including Koreta and Kutesa who have long desired retirement but were kept waiting by President Yoweri Museveni, the Commander in Chief, were let free this time.
Museveni who is wary of soldiers retiring from the army en masse appeared in a good mood at State House Entebbe on Aug.7 when the 14 Generals and hundreds of other junior officers were retired. He recounted some events of the Bush War where the likes of Koreta took part.
Among those retired is Fred Mugisha who has been on katebe (demobilisation) for close to ten years. In 2011, he was promoted to Maj. Gen. and appointed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander.
However a year later he was recalled and appointed Head of the yet to be created National Counter Terrorism Centre. It did not materialise and he has not been deployed since.
Therefore Koreta, Owoyesigire, Mugisha represent a crop of high ranking officers that have been un-deployed for ten years and awaiting retirement.
Officially the army has a Commissions and Promotions Board tasked with scheduling retirements of officers but the process of retiring remains cumbersome.
Other prominent names on the list included Maj. Gen; Christopher Kazoora Murema, Moses Wadimba Ssentongo, Innocent George Oula. Brig. Generals; Moses Kigongo, Jacob Asiimwe, Moses Shaban Lukyamuzi, Muhammed Abiriga, John Araali Kasaija, Frank Kanyarutokye.
Kutesa has just ended his term as MP which is believed to have eased his path to retirement. At the last army reshuffle that involved Koreta, a former deputy Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), he was deployed as ambassador to a “yet to be designated position”. It was a euphemism for katebe because Museveni never lacks where to deploy ambassadors.
In 2019, Gen. Joram Mugume, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha, Maj. Gen. Willis Byarugaba were retired in a cluster of Generals and high ranking officers because of their quiet service.
More Generals like Gen. Kale Kayihura, former Inspector General of Police; ex-deputy CDF Gen. Charles Angina; Maj. Gen. Stephen Kashaka have been lined up for retirement. These represent a group that have done their part and want out. These usually end up posted in Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), an agricultural scheme, or end up in other non-military appointments like civil service or as military attaches.
However there is another lot represented by Gen. David Sejusa, the maverick former coordinator of intelligence services that broke ranks with Museveni and fled to exile in 2013. Sejusa said he was being hounded because he was opposed to the ‘Muhoozi project’- a supposed plot by Museveni to have his son Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba succeed him as President.
Other prominent officers who have had tough retirement battles include Col. Kizza Besigye who retired in 2000 after having fallen out with Museveni a year earlier. His retirement was a result of outmaneuvering the army leadership with the help from insiders.
Others include Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde who had a long grueling Court Martial battle before being retired.
In 2005, he was charged with spreading harmful propaganda and for exercising conduct prejudicial to good order. He contested in the 2021 elections as a presidential candidate.
In 2017, Brig. Kashaka was promoted to Maj. Gen and at the pipping ceremony; where 122 other officers were promoted, he spoke candidly about the need for easy retirement for UPDF officers.
Kashaka was not on the 2021 list.
Sejusa’s case ended up at the High Court where he challenged his continued stay in the army saying he had been “constructively” retired from the army because of many years of non-deployment.
In 2016, he was arrested just days to the presidential elections and arraigned at the General Court Martial for insubordination, conduct prejudicial to good order, Absence without official leave and two counts of participating in political activities.
At the army court, Sejusa’s lawyers made the same case; they argued that, their client cannot be subject to a trial where he is being accused of contravening the UPDF Code of Conduct when another court is yet to decide whether he is still a member of the UPDF. Sejusa, whose name is among the UPDF High Command has now retreated from public life but his retirement quest, and that of others, remains hanging in the air.