One of the heroes of the 1986 Luweero bush war that brought the current NRM government to power, Gen Elly Tumwine has died at the age of 68.
Tumwine died from Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was airlifted recently as he battled cancer -related complications.
However, details are still scanty about the matter.
Tumwine is one of the 42 people armed with 27 guns who attacked Kabamba barracks to launch the NRA protracted war that five years later in 1986 would usher the current government to power.
Having left his teaching career in 1978, Tumwine joined the FRONASA forces led by Museveni.
In 1981, when then rebel leader Yoweri Museveni went to the bush to form the National Resistance Army (NRA) after disputing the outcome of the 1980 elections, Tumwine went with him.
“We had earlier got in touch and discussed with Museveni who had taught me in primary school that if the 1980 elections were rigged, we could go to the bush as the only way out,”Tumwine told the Nile Post in an interview in 2018.
Tumwine is credited for having fired the first bullet that lunched the five year war of the National Resistance Army.
He has spoken elaborately about firing the first bullet during the operation that launched the Luweero bush war.
By January 1986, he was one of the six original members of the NRA High Command which later metamorphosed into the current UPDF High Command.
Loved and hated in equal measures
Whereas he is loved by many, Tumwine has also made remarks in the public that have seen him hated .
For example in 2020, while still the Security Minister, Gen Tumwine rattled the public when he said the state has powers to shoot to kill protesters.
Speaking in regards the November 14 riots after the arrest of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, Tumwine told journalists said that he had no apologies for anybody who was killed while attacking security forces as they tried to put down protests.
Tumwine said that government will not look on as political actors supported by unnamed foreign forces are disrupting the peace. He said that although they commiserate with families that lost loved ones in the two days of running battles between the security forces and supporters of National Unity Platform, Robert Kyagulanyi, violence normally leads to deaths and destruction.
The statement didn’t augur well with members of the public, many of whom attacked him.
“It is unfortunate when you hear a top government official saying police can shoot and kill. It is not founded under any law. The duty of police is to protect, safeguard and guarantee order, not to kill the very civilians they are mandated to protect,” Fredrick Ssemwanga, the Secretary General of the Uganda Catholic Lawyers’ Society said in response to Tumwine’s remarks.
With many accusing him of holding a sense of entitlement, Tumwine has on several occasions clashed with politicians, especially from the opposition but on other occasions, he has responded them through his songs.
He has always made his role in liberating Uganda known by everyone and on several occasions, whenever he was attacked, he would remind the public of this.
Tumwine clashed with parliament in 2018 when was ordered to vacate the Nommo Gallery in Nakasero that he had occupied and put his art pieces but never paid rent said to have accumulated up to shs1 billion.
However, despite being ordered to vacate, Gen Tumwine didn’t heed to the directive.
Joining the army in 1978 , Tumwine later joined then rebel leader Yoweri Museveni to the bush to form the National Resistance Army (NRA).
In 1984, he was named commander of the army, a post he held for three years until 1987, when he was succeeded by General Salim Saleh.
In September 2005, he was promoted to the rank of general in the UPDF and chairperson of the UPDF General Court Martial in Makindye where among the persons arraigned before him was opposition strongman, Dr.Kizza Besigye and charged with treason.
The case was later transferred to the civilian court.
During his career, Gen Tumwine also served as Minister of State for Defence in 1989, Director General of the External Security Organization (ESO) from 1994 until 1996, presidential adviser on security from 1996 until 1998, chairman of the High Command Appeals Committee from 1986 until 1999.
Tumwine has also previously represented the UPDF in the Parliament.