Tumukunde: A man with tarnished pride, an ego to nurse; whose triumphs are overshadowed with controversy is now into our face

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By Henry K. Otafiire

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Gen Henry Tumukunde, his presidential ambitions and the yoke of NRA bush men that has stuck around us like common cold.
So, it turns out that Gen Henry Tumukunde is a brilliant and eloquent politician. Perhaps, in retrospect, this should have been no surprise. The bush NRA league had a fair sprinkling of intellectuals who in their idealism for a better country and pursuit of their wildest ambitions attracted their generation’s finest and brightest like him.

The very qualities that endeared them to people from all walks of life in the protracted liberation struggle that ushered them into power in 1986.
Watching Gen Tumukunde appearance on TV, you’re struck by two things. First, the sheer magnetism of his oratory. He may not be to everyone’s taste as a late comer in the struggle, but he’s a genuinely gifted speaker: the articulation, the diagnosis of the political questions and the way he disarmed his host Simon Kagwa Kagwanjala with his off- head statistics was impeccable.

After the 2016 elections, it seemed Tumukunde’s role was beginning to wear thin as his ministerial position in the security docket had ended in a familiar blend typical of Museveni’s henchmen who have outlived their usefulness. Tactically, the appointment was meant to contain and arrest the perceived ambitions.
Asked why he is challenging President Museveni: The man he served for many years He interjects cutting short his host’s question: “let’s redirect the debate”; “Why do you always make President Museveni the centre of discussion? He bellowed with a condescending sneer.

The spy master and intelligence guru grasps politics at a level so far beyond our own that it actually gives him authority to dissect for us the inner workings of the government he has served that has been in power for three decades.
While many are speculating for his abrupt expression of presidential ambitions, he could not avoid express his bitterness with what he called as a one man’s reshuffle that saw him lose the security docket he had occupied for just only 1 year and 8 months. Standing for President is seen as rehabilitating himself from the “katebe” that has been sealed with eventual withdrawal of his body guards.

With tarnished pride and an ego to nurse and hubris to protect, he has declared his intention to run as President in the coming 2021 elections breaking ranks with NRM- the party he helped build from a rag tag guerrilla outfit to a popular political party it is today.
Politicians with military background have always been a catnip to Ugandan politics appealing to a large section of our society. Our politics have always had a curious obsession with its bush war army men. Doubtless it is part of the reason why, despite presiding over a career beset by controversy in the army, Tumukunde is now receiving more airtime on prime-time TV shows and dominating our social media debates.

We seem uniquely programed and convinced that the power and appeal of politics ultimately resides not in the civilian politicians who seem to be far from the establishment, but in the accomplished decorated generals with a military career spanning decades.
From Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Gen Mugisha Muntu, Late General Biraro, Gen David Sejusa and now Gen Tumukunde, a narrative has been created that we need a commander-in-Chief with military background.
As Gen Tumukunde sat on TV to articulate his grand vision for Uganda, I saw a man who upon transcending the upper echelons of UPDF by serving under President Museveni is now desperately trying to shoehorn his career achievements and triumphs overshadowed with controversy into our face.

Gen Tumukunde is a man who has spent much of his career cultivating an image of himself as a military officer who doesn’t mind bloodying a few noses – or poking a few eyes – in order to get things done.
Of course, we’ve seen it before. Nearly all former Museveni comrades have begun their divorce with such abundant optimism and allure: attracting embrace across the political divide, colourful rants conducted in full glare of cameras against the ruling party, dramatic press conferences and TV Shows, pulling king-sized crowds only their infant political careers to suffer a still birth, clashing to a grinding halt and eventually sinking into oblivion.

After a year or two, things tend to head south, failing to attract highly touted and purported political clout, deafening silence culminating in an extremely costly reunion back to the master. Virtually everyone knows how the cycle works, and it would be fairly safe to assume this is Museveni’s political game plan in the grand scheme of things.

Tumukunde appears to be a disgruntled and bitter gentleman. His demeanour point to a fact that he is unsure of his place in Uganda’s body politic and is now seeking relevance. He seems to carry an inexhaustible reservoir of arrogance with him whenever he is reminded of his chequered record in government he is now bashing.
As Journalists pin him down, he increasingly resembles what he is: a middle-aged man who has been eating off the room service menu for decades and now he feels entitled to condemn the very cabal he helped to build.

Like all cunning politicians, he is promising to revive the economy, fix youth unemployment, purge corruption and launch Uganda on the road to become an Asian tiger of sorts.
His first press appearances were greeted in many sections of the population with euphoria. But such is the paradox of Museveni’s overstay in power.

In times like these, the lure of the saviour, the temptation for a transformative leader who has been within precincts of power, to discuss the transition and post-Museveni era feels stronger than ever. Deep down, even when we know things are rarely so simple and straightforward. But there’s always somebody who wants to hawk and sell that hope and Gen Tumukunde is one of them.

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