Retired Brigadier Kasirye Gwanga criticises President Museveni over “unprofessional” promotions in the UPDF, warns the president against marginalizing senior officers in favour of young ones and messing with Buganda.
Gwanga also wants people like convicted MP Mike Mukula to be shot. As the UPDF marked the 32nd anniversary of the launch of the NRA bush war on February 6, 2013, Brigadier (Rtd) Kasirye Gwanga was on NBS TV’s Morning Breeze show.
In a defiant interview, Gwanga talked about some taboo subjects like the pathetic life of soldiers, ‘unprofessional’ army promotions and why First Lady Janet Museveni should face the law. Edris Kiguundu transcribed the proceedings, and below are excerpts
What memories do you have of the bush war?
Bad memories. What really pains me are people who fought this war and have not gained anything. Today the roads are very nasty and social life is not that good.
Do you think there was a reason for President Museveni and his 27 colleagues to go to the bush?
I was in prison at the time [when they went to the bush] and it is President Museveni who imprisoned us [during the UNLF government] when they took over after the 1979 liberation war. When they went to the bush they left us there [in prison].
That is why for me I don’t have friends. All my friends died, most of them in prison because of hunger and disease. When they released us, what I saw is not what I left. And you know what, I never wanted to join this struggle but circumstances caused me to join this struggle.
What kind of circumstances?
You know this late [Andrew] Kayiira [head of the rebel Uganda Federal Movement] went and attacked the Lubiri in February 1984. I had an elder brother who was an air force pilot.
He was picked up [by government soldiers] thinking it was me. When they realised he wasn’t, he was beaten to death. When they killed him I went after them.
So it was revenge
Did you attain the revenge?
Thirty two years since the NRA launched the guerilla war do you think we have a professional army?
You never have a professional army. Who are you to professionalize the army? Do you know how soldiers live today? Do you think soldiers today live the way they want to live?
First of all we should not go to the ordinary shops like the way you do. We should go to an army shop where we should not pay tax. Ever seen an army shop here?
How do you compare the UPDF with Idi Amin’s army?
Don’t even compare.
There is nothing to compare
How do you describe the UPDF today?
These are gallant boys. You find them in Somalia, in Central African Republic, DR Congo. They are allover Africa.
You have often come out bitterly on the way promotions are made in the army
No. I don’t talk about African promotions. They are not professional promotions. I just leave them.
Briefly can you tell us how promotions are supposed to be made?
Army spokesperson [Col Felix Kulayigye] recently said that fast tracking is okay for officers who undergo numerous training
That is the spokesperson of the army. He is not Kasirye Gwanga.
But where do you think merit comes in, and who defines it?
Merit comes from what you do in the army. So find out from all those who have been promoted so far, what have they done for the army. It is a simple task. It is not for me to explain.
We see so many disgruntled former army officers. What do you think about them?
Why are they disgruntled? What do you want the army to give you if you fought and won? Take care of yourself.
What about those who fought but have now joined the opposition
I wouldn’t know. Colonel [Kizza] Besigye… when I first met him I was not impressed. First of all he is tribalistic. In the army you are not supposed to be tribalistic. I worked with him so I know.
For Mugisha Muntu he worked as army commander for 10 years. There was a war [in Northern Uganda] and he was taking care of that war… he worked. He is a great guy.
So is he fit to be in the opposition?
That is his business. It is not my business.
Are you happy with the state of the army today?
It is dirty.
Dirty in what sense?
These are young guys. You saw the other guy [Rwakihembo] who shot people [in Luzira].
You also shot a suspected thief in Makindye
A suspected thief
I don’t shoot civilians. Never in my life… but there were some people who were trying to steal my car, I had to kill them. They were stealing my car. I told them ‘I drove my car from home, you want me to go back footing?
What do you have to say about the young Turks who are taking charge of the army?
Young Turks my nose. In fact I am surprised. The other time my daughter came up with all this stuff from facebook, twitter. I had made a comment in Daily Monitor about this coup talk. I told them this is the 21st century don’t talk about coups in the 21st century.
I saw a lot of comments. ‘We old guys are washed out’ [one of the statements noted]. I laughed. Hillary Clinton is old but she is now heading for the presidency of the USA [in 2016]. I am 60 years old do you know the knowledge I have about you guys?
No, I cannot tell you because I will be letting out my secret. What makes me laugh is that most of you young guys regard us the old people as washed out. You cannot run this country without us.
So is President Museveni or the High Command risking by sideling the old guys and replacing them with young guys
That is his business. He is sidelining the old guys and taking up the radical group, he will find out.
Would it make the UPDF stronger?
That is General Elly Tumwine telling you stories [that young people will make UPDF stronger]. If you go to the Pentagon [in USA], most of the guys you find there are over 50 years. That is America which is developed in terms of technology.
Is it true there is nepotism in the UPDF?
What is nepotism?
People being treated by virtue of their [familial links]
I don’t know. When I joined the army in 1972 we were supposed to be officers because we had O-level certificates. I worked in the army and when the Tanzanian army attacked us I was a staff sergeant. So I do not worry about this business of ranks…
Can we have an army that stands the test of time not an army that serves the whims of the regime?
That is where we are going.
So we are not yet there, 27 years down the road?
Sure. It takes about 50, 60 years.
It is a shame. Isn’t it?
It is a shame according to you not me.
Look at the UPDF today, there is an ethnic imbalance. Why are there fewer Baganda?
They [Baganda] are running away from the army.
Ask them. When I look at the army from independence, the Langi and Acholi dominated it. Then when Idi Amin came, the Nubians, the Kakwas the Lugbaras dominated the army. Then in 1986 we took over.
The leader [Museveni] was a munyankore, but he fought in Buganda. When they went to the bush I was in prison. I just found them there. I don’t know how he [Museveni] created his core. I wouldn’t argue with him and I am not arguing with him.
Do you think there is any imbalance in the army?
I’m telling you when you are promoting people there is a Promotions Board. You go and ask them. I am not a member of the Promotions Board.
Are you questioning the manner of promotions?
What about the state of security?
You are killing yourselves, you are sacrificing children. There are people dealing in cocaine. That is what I see.
What about the recent coup talk?
Coups, in the 21st century?
But generals have been talking about it
Like Gen Aronda
You do not understand what we guys [in the army] are after. Of course the way President Museveni said it [at Kyankwanzi] was a little bit unfortunate.
Then Aronda also came in
He messed up. Now he is facing it. I understand they want him in Parliament.
Do you think this coup talk is diversionary?
No. it is not diversionary
Should civilians be bothered by this talk?
They shouldn’t. I told you it is a joke you can’t do it. If you want to do it you will tangle with the Americans or the external forces. You know what is happening in Mali, they [French troops] had to come in.
When you look at the army, is it not the kind that can act on the orders of a few individuals?
May be that is what President Museveni thinks. He is joking. The army is the army. We soldiers are soldiers. If president Museveni thinks he can play about with the army, then he is a joker.
Talk about corruption
Oh, oh, oh…it is too much. I wish I was in China. They just shoot you off. You see this Kazinda. I know him. I walked into his office one day and I told him, ‘one day I will come to see you in Luzira.’ He was messing up with money of army veterans. The way the payments were coming up was a little bit funny.
So I asked, ‘who is behind this one?’ they told me there is a man called Kazinda. I went there and saw him. He was a fat guy. I asked him, ‘why are you playing with our money?’ He asked, ‘who are you?’ I told him, ‘I am Kasirye Gwanga.’ He just ignored me and turned away. I told him one day I will visit you in Luzira. I have not visited him yet because I have not got time but I will.
You talked about shooting the corrupt officials
Just shoot them. You don’t know what corruption has done to this country.
When you see Kazinda behind bars, do you think justice has been done?
No, he is going to get out.
Who is protecting the corrupt in this country?
I don’t know may be it is God…these are very nasty questions. You are putting me in the corner, I have a family. All I am saying I do not like the way things are running.
Do you feel there is impunity in this country?
Yes, there is impunity. How can one person sign a check for a billion shillings? You cannot do this is in America.
Other than shooting what else can be done to fight corruption?
Me being a soldier all I know is shooting.
Recently the president said the corrupt should not be given bail. Is this a move in the right direction?
He is getting in line. He has taken so long. We have seen so many cases where people should be in jail. You see Captain Mike Mukula, he is in jail but his tribe mates are fighting to get him out of jail. So where are we? Why don’t you shoot Mukula and forget about him
What about other ministers?
We want them. They will never get away from it [justice].
Do you think there is selective prosecution?
It is there and I see it. Why should Mukula go to jail and Jim Muhwezi remains playing about? You hear them saying the First lady [Janet Museveni] presented a note to get money. Then the First Lady comes and lectures to us but she is implicated. Because you are a First Lady…I don’t like your way of doing things.
Should she be killed as well?
If need be.
There is talk about president Museveni’s retirement. Some people say he should not come back in 2016. What is your take?
Does he still look like a good soldier? If he still looks like a good soldier let him stay on.
How would you feel about the general welfare of the people today?
Pathetic. For me I take care of my family.
What is causing this situation?
Leadership. Most of you guys go into politics thinking of money. Most of these ‘honourables’ do not think of going back to check on the people. Who is supposed to monitor projects in the country? The soldiers?
President Museveni talks about Uganda becoming a first world country soon
First world country my nose. What about that oil when is it coming out? May be then we shall talk about it. But this banana place? You are a dreamer [if you think it can become a first world country soon].
Some people say Uganda is sitting on a time bomb due to unemployment and other ills
Unemployment is the talk allover the world. You go to America; you go to China, Soviet Union. Young people are crying out. They have no jobs.
So what’s gone wrong in this country?
You have gone wrong. You guys… you are corrupt.
What about you?
Kasirye Gwanga does no wrong. I took over a district [Mubende] in 1998. I worked there for five years, you go and ask those people what I did
So where do you see Uganda in the next few years?
Uganda is an icon on the African continent. Our neighbours Kenya are going for elections next month but everyone is worried. Tribes are against tribes but here things are okay.
You saw what happened here in 2009 when the Kabaka was stopped from going to Kayunga?
That was cheap politics… You create a situation where you want to see trouble. The central government got into power using Buganda now if you want to get out of power mess with Buganda.
What do you think about the opposition?
They don’t exist. Now I hear there is a case between Mafabi and Muntu. If they are fighting before they get power, you think I am going to trust them.
Do you see yourself saluting a member of the opposition?
Oh yeah, if he becomes the president. I don’t salute personalities, I salute the flag.
If you met President Museveni today what would you tell him?
You are taking us astray.
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