Great Lakes March 17, 2020
By Esther Wandera
The bid to challenge President Yoweri Museveni for the top seat has been costly for underdogs, but terribly bloody for those within his inner circle. The case, or in fact the fate of retired Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, former minister of security and spy chief before that, bears symptoms of the latter.
When news broke in the evening of last Thursday that Tumukunde had been arrested, by members of Museveni’s dreaded Special Force Command armed to the teeth, and that his office got cordoned off and widely searched, it sent tongues wagging all over the country. Tumukunde would be the last person anyone would expect to be arrested.
It was reported that the general was being investigated on charges of “treason”, “fostering hatred” (on both radio and television) that would “lead to inter-community violence” and “glorifying the violence in general”.
On the charge sheet also, the former boss of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) was accused of “inviting a neighboring country to support him in overthrowing Museveni’s regime”. A police statement said that Tumukunde “is therefore being charged under Sections 23 (2) b and 23 (3) b, of the Penal Code Act, which deals with instigating persons to invade the Republic of Uganda and inciting any persons to make a mutinous assembly”.
Observers say that charges and police statements aside, for Tumukunde to run for presidency and stand against his former boss, the implications are far graver than if it is FDC’s Kiiza Besigye, DP’s Norbert Mao or even General Mugisha Muntu of Alliance for National Transformation.
Readers commented on the current developments with regard to Tumukunde’s presidential ambitions reminded that he has dared Museveni once on the age limit bill, and now the former spy chief seeks to exploit Museveni’s advancing age and weaknesses in the hope that there might lie a path to power.
Currently, President Museveni seems to be at his weakest since taking power almost four decades ago. There are serious background fights on who should take over in the event he is no more, so there are several projects being cooked up – the main one being the so-called Muhoozi Project. Ugandans are vehemently against this project, fiercely protesting that the country is not the property of the Museveni clan!
Tumukunde knows that quite well.
The former spy chief, and several other power players that have not yet made their move also know that all the machinations for “succession” – which it is rumored even someone like Museveni’s son in law Odrek Rwabwogo too is closely involved – seem to have no clear road map to the top seat. That is, notwithstanding the reputedly stronger voice of First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni in determining the next leader.
Another school of thought has it that that Gen. Tumukunde’s ambition in seeking to be the next resident has something to do with tribalism. It is whispered in the corridors of power that Tumukunde, for long a close confidante of Museveni, is one of the more extremist members of the president’s ethnicity. It is said Tumukunde just can’t tolerate the idea that someone of another ethnicity can take power.
He is one of a cohort of the powerful few around Museveni that feel entitled to the seat forever, at the cost of other Ugandans.
Tumukunde’s biggest problem however is in straying away from the script of “the Muhoozi Project”. He was supposed to be on “Team Muhoozi”, but now he is definitely wayward. For that he has committed a “cardinal sin” and must be punished.
Images of a handcuffed, subdued Tumukunde in a lonely room, are doing the social media rounds as of writing this. It is very apparent the punishment already is in gear. On Sunday it was reported the man had collapsed and been taken to hospital. His sons have been arrested on yet to be fully explained charges.
“The cat and mouse game has just started, with Tumukunde in the role of the mouse – where he never expected to be!” humorists have quipped.
For Tumukunde and relatives however, the situation cannot be funny, at all.
They know what happened to the likes of Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Col. Noble Mayombo and others. They had the audacity to question the Muhoozi Project, but without challenging Museveni for power.
Things can only be more bleak for the man that has done both things.