By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Former Security Minister Gen Elly Tumwine, has died aged 68.
The bush-war general has been fighting for his life at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was airlifted two weeks ago.
Gen Tumwine’s health had been a subject of public speculation for a while, even when he was still a Cabinet minister.
The National Resistance Army (NRA) historical had been away from the public eye ever since he was dropped from Cabinet in June 2021.
Relatives and associates reported that the bush war general collapsed at the marriage ceremony of a prominent female journalist last month, and was later booked at Nakasero Hospital in Kampala.
His condition, however, worsened prompting referral to Nairobi for more specialised medical care.
The ailment hasn’t been publicly disclosed, but the general in the past received treatment at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago Hospital.
While handing over office to his successor, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, last year, Gen Tumwine said he would advise President Museveni to prepare for a smooth transition of power for a long-term stability of the country.
The controversial general also came under fire when he publically argued that security forces were justified to kill civilians during the November 2020 riots, sparked by the arrest of then presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine in Luuka District, which left more than 50 Ugandans dead.
In 2020, a section of legislators attempted to censure him on accusations that he had blocked the work of Parliament when the Committee on Human Rights was probing illegal detention centres or safe houses in the country, where many Ugandans have allegedly been tortured.
This was after then Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, commissioned the committee to investigate the alleged torture by Internal Security Organisation (ISO) that was running safe houses to torture people in Kalangala District and Kyengera in Wakiso District.
Gen Tumwine, while appearing before the Committee later admitted that government was running safe houses for intelligence purposes but not torturing civilians.
Tumwine was born on April 12, 1954, in Burunga, Mbarara District. He attended Burunga Primary School, Mbarara High School and St. Henry’s College Kitovu, before joining Makerere University, where he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art in 1977.
He subsequently graduated from the Cadet Officers Course at the Tanzania Military Academy at Monduli. He also attended the Senior Command Course at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College at Kimaka, in Jinja. Tumwine also held further military qualifications from the military academy in Vystry in the Soviet Union.
A fine artist by profession, Gen Tumwine joined the military struggle in 1978 under Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), the precursor to NRA.
After the 1980 General Election, Tumwine banded with Mr Museveni, who had lost in the presidential elections, and was to gain post-victory fame for firing the first bullet that started the five-year National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrilla war.
Gen Tumwine was the one who shot the first bullet that ignited the five-year Bush War and was the NRA’s first army commander, having taken charge after the demise of commander Ahmed Sseguya. NRA toppled the Tito Okello Lutwa government in January 1986.
He also worked with Mr Museveni for such a very long time that he perhaps understood him a lot more.
The four-star military general previously served as the Commander of the NRA until 1987, a year after they had taken over power, when he was dropped from that position. Two years later, the President named him the State Minister of Defence.
Gen Tumwine was also the longest-serving army representative in Parliament from 1996 to 2021. He served in several capacities in the NRM government with his last assignment being Security Minister from 2018 to 2021. He was a senior presidential adviser at the time of his death.