The Inside story: What the Military reshuffle Means for Uganda
By Mike Ssegawa
What can one read out of the reshuffle that saw Gen Katumba Wamala and deputy Charles Angina replaced by David Muhoozi and Wilson Mbadi respectively?
The reshuffle in the military was long overdue, just like in the police force. Gen Katumba joins the list of army commanders who have led UPDF for the shortest period of time. The list has the first commanders including Gen Salim Saleh and Gen Elly Tumwine as well as Gen Jeje Odong.
It is only three years since he was appointed Chief of Defence Forces(was appointed in 2013) in the aftermath of Gen David Sejusa’s letter warning of the “Muhoozi project” targeting senior government and security officials opposed to the project, such as Amama Mbabazi, the late Aronda Nyakairima and himself.
Gen Wamala, a good and likeable man, unfortunately found himself not in full command of the military which has several centres of power, culminating in the shameful admission that he didn’t know about Brig Peter Elwelu’s operation in Kasese which led to the death of over 100 people including police and army officers.
It doesn’t surprise anyone that Elwelu who’s at the centre of massacre in Kasese has been promoted to Maj General and given the Lands forces docket. In so doing, President Yoweri Museveni is sending a message about decisiveness of his soldiers when handling security operations.
In last night’s shake up, Museveni has achieved three or four objectives.
One, this is a political as well as a military maneuver by the president. Politically, Museveni has given Gen Wamala a ministry (works) to a disciplined soldier with a clear track record of delivering. Wamala has delivered several assignments including the successful intervention in Somalia when he was the Lands forces commander.
President Museveni according to our sources is bothered by the slowness and corruption in Works ministry which together with UNRA, where he recently appointed Allen Kagina, are responsible for visible signs of the performance of his regime. The president has also always wanted soldiers to handle big infrastructure projects including the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), roads, ferries and ports, because he believes they are more disciplined and focused than civil servants, but had not got his way around it.
Many critics are looking at Works as a demotion for the former CDF, but that’s far from the truth.
It was the same mistake people thought when Gen Aronda was appointed to Internal Affairs though in a senior capacity, but went ahead to do wonders at the ministry.
Mr Museveni could be looking at Gen Wamala repeating what Gen Aronda did with the ID project. And to make things easier for Gen Wamala, Mr Museveni has appointed a corruption free Brig Charles Bakahumura, the outgoing chief of military intelligence to head the military’s Logistics and Engineering.
With little resources, Museveni can depend on the two reliable and disciplined soldiers to achieve his objectives. Bakahumura was responsible for growing Wazalendo into the biggest Sacco in the country and under his stewardship, CMI ceased to make negative headlines like in the past as it was a den of thieves and torture outfit.
General Wamala and Bakahumura are key point men in turning UPDF into a vehicle for national development ahead of 2021 elections. The president also moved his son from visible command structure, making him a special presidential advisor. This is a clever move not to attract attention on his son who he recently appointed Major General.
Muhoozi, by this appointment, becomes the defacto minister for defense, and has been given a ticket to do political mobilization much as he is an soldier.
Like his uncle Gen Salim Saleh, Muhoozi could use his new appointment to build his political clout. In this reshuffle therefore, Museveni has given his son a good cover to build himself into a person he wants to be after Museveni is out of power.
Muhoozi can choose a political or business path again without hindrance while he utilizes his military clout without the weight of accountability and scrutiny. In short, Muhoozi Project is so alive and kicking.
The appointment of David Muhoozi and Mbadi, a former president’s body guard who has risen quickly in ranks and responsibilities over the last couple of years.
The new CDF is said to be a laidback and disciplined commander in the mould of the late Gen Aronda Nyakairima, who is the longest serving CDF. Gen Muhoozi also has respect from fellow commanders and soldiers and unlike Gen Wamala, he’s likely to assert his authority as well as enforce discipline on the force which has suffered bad image in the past with undisciplined officers being cited in corruption not only in Uganda but also in Somalia where they are doing an international duty.
The military reshuffle on the top, has also achieved the purpose of putting the force under young Turks, which has been Museveni’s ambition for some time now. Now, for the first time, the UPDF top brass are a new generation commanders who don’t have much attachment to the Luweero bush war and don’t have expectations of “we sacrificed our lives in the jungles for you” but are focused on professional military assignments of a modern force.