By Haggai Matsiko
Museveni removes the last of bush war heroes, courts Buganda, north
When on May.23 President Yoweri Museveni announced a reshuffle in the army, it was a move to tighten his grip on the force following allegations of dissent over the rapid promotion of his son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
Museveni put in charge of UPDF administration four of his most loyal officers and removed two of the force’s longest serving officers that represented the last of his 1980s bush war comrades.
The Force’s former Chief of Defence Forces, Aronda Nyakairima, who moved to head the Internal Affairs Ministry and his deputy, Ivan Koreta, appointed ambassador to a yet to be named station, were the last of the 1980s bush war heroes still in the UPDF.
Gen. Koreta was the last of the crop that started fighting in the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) that ousted former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and is among the first group of soldiers that trained with Museveni in the 1970s in Mozambique and in Tanzania to launch FRONASA.
Aronda joined the NRA bush war in 1982 after completing his Bachelors in Political Sciences.
Their departure clears the way for a younger generation of officers led by Museveni’s son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the commander of Special Forces, to take over the leadership of the UPDF.
Brig. Muhoozi is known to be influential among a young crop of very loyal officers who have been deployed in critical units of the force in the reshuffle.
Among them is his namesake, newly promoted Maj. Gen. David Muhoozi, who takes charge of the UPDF’s biggest command, the Land Forces. Others are Brig. Leopold Kyanda who is the new Chief of Staff of the Land Forces, newly promoted Maj Gen. Samuel Turyagyenda who is new commander of the Air Defence Division, and Col. Emmanuel Kanyesigye who becomes commander of the 4th Division located in Gulu. He has been Fifth Division Operations Officer.
Brig. Muhoozi’s influence and grip on the UPDF is likely to soar because the closure of the generation gap and the purging of the war heroes who have often acted with a sense of entitlement because of, they say, the `sacrifice’ they made to put Museveni in power.
Gen. Katumba Wamala, the former Commander Land Forces who takes over from Nyakairima as CDF and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Charles Angina, who was formerly the Chief of Staff Land Forces, joined Museveni’s army after he captured power.
Gen. Katumba’s former post, as Commander Land Forces which is the UPDF biggest unit, is under Maj. Gen. David Muhoozi, the former Commander of the Air Defence Unit.
The President also made his former trusted aide and bodyguard, Maj. Gen. Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the UPDF’s new Joint Chief of Staff (JCOS).
Katumba, Angina and Mbadi cannot brag of fighting in the bush and know that their greatest forte is their allegiance to Museveni.
Katumba, for instance, joined the Museveni army much later. He had been in the army that Museveni’s forces defeated, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). His biggest posting in the Museveni government was when he served as police chief. In the UPDF, Katumba has climbed the ranks because he religiously obeys the powers that be and is said to be disciplined.
His deputy Angina is also a post 1985 war soldier. Angina’s biggest postings in the UPDF are military attaché at the Ugandan Embassy in Washington, Chairman of the General Court Martial, and Chief of Staff Land Forces.
Mbadi on the other hand was not known outside army circles until he became Museveni’s body guard. His promotion to head the Fourth Division in Gulu in 2012 surprised many as his ascension to JCOS has no doubt shocked many.
Mbadi replaced Fred Mugisha, who boasted of the 1985 war credentials, having followed his brother, Jack Mucunguzi in the bush in his teens. Mugisha who will now head a yet to be formed, National Counter Terrorism Centre.
While Mbadi, Katumba and Angina will be handling the administrative work of the army, these young officers, led by Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, will be in charge of running the operations of the fighting force.
The changes in the army leadership came as security operatives continued a siege at two closed media houses, the tabloid Red Pepper and Uganda’s leading independent newspaper, the Daily Monitor, and its sister FM radio stations, KFM and Dembe.
The media houses are being punished for publishing a letter alleging a conspiracy to assassinate those against plans to have Brig. Muhoozi succeed his father. The letter was reportedly authored by Gen. David Sejusa, an advisor on Security to President Museveni and Coordinator of Intelligence Services who has since fled to Europe.
The letter’s contents, Ugandan authorities, claimed threatened national security by seeking to cause dissent in the UPDF.
Gen. Nyakairima was among those who, according to The Monitor report, Gen. Sejusa named among government officials to be targeted for opposing Museveni’s alleged plan to have his son, Muhoozi, succeed him.
With the promotions, according to analysts, Museveni has scored three hits with a single shot; he has dealt with internal opposition within the army and government, rewarded loyal cadres, and strategically deployed to ensure success at the 2016 polls.
By naming Gen. Katumba Wamala, a member of the largest and most influential tribe in Uganda – the Buganda, to the top of the army leadership and Gen. Angina, an officer from eastern Uganda, President Museveni has sought to appease regions outside of western Uganda.
The concentration of top positions in the army and the government in the hands of people from western Uganda has become a major rallying point for Museveni’s opponents.