Once at the frontline of the war that brought the National Resistance Movement/Army into power 27 years ago, General Elly Tumwine now plays less active roles in politics and the military.
Tumwine, an army representative in Parliament, fired the first bullet to kick-start the NRM/A struggle in 1981. In an interview with David Tash Lumu, he reflects on the struggle that led to the NRA taking power on January 26, 1986.
What are your reflections on the last 27 years of NRM rule: successes and challenges?
When you reflect, you must have a mirror, so that you can see your face. In doing that, you are able to see where you are, where you are coming from and where you are going. For me, I have no regret whatsoever. The results are there, and the people are enjoying the fruits of the struggle.
The biggest challenge of the time – when we went to the bush – was stability, which stability has been, through thick and thin, [achieved]. We have overcome so many challenges to usher in an environment free of turmoil. There is stability now and the struggle is very strong because it was based on the firm foundation of mobilizing people. Power belongs to the people now. The country is now well-organised with an organised and disciplined force—both at the military level and political level.
The challenge of instability has been overcome by building the strength and confidence of the people. People hold their affairs in their hands because real democracy was given back to them. People have freedom. We have re-established a people’s army, which people rely on as a guarantor of this freedom and harmony between the politicians and armed forces.
So, you are on course to achieve your objectives?
We are on course. We have a big and empowered young generation, who are excited — not only to demand for their rights—but to defend them with confidence.
Unfortunately for the young generation, they seem not to know their power.
They don’t know their power. They are like the crested crane. It doesn’t know that it is protected, that it is a national symbol. What it does is to go and steal from people’s gardens where it is chased and runs away in shame. The same applies to the youth. While the environment gives them freedom, they are looking at money as the only means, and this is presenting a challenge in politics and business.
The young people have resorted to violence. Yet the environment is good and conducive for them to voice their demands without resorting to violent means. If the young generation can organise without violence, then we will solve their problems because the future belongs to the organised.
In fact, the old people have also been diverted by corruption, but these can be sorted and dealt with like we have started [to do]. As a country we must learn to solve our problems peacefully.
But you people used violence to solve Uganda’s problems in 1980.
We learnt our lessons, and we don’t want to go back that route.
Isn’t the current coup talk a sign that the NRM revolution has failed or an indication that you are taking us back to the very ills you fought against?
I don’t see anything much in the coup talk. I think it has been blown out of context. But those who talked about it had reasons to do so. I think it doesn’t mean that a military coup will take place. If I say that when you burn your house, the neighbours will come and put out that fire, does it mean that I am planning to burn your house?
Well, you might be pointing to so many things—including burning the house yourself.
You see there are many diversions. What I know is that when people mismanage politics, the military will come in, but that is the extreme—and that is not something light. War is the highest level of politics, and most of the wars and conflicts we have had have been created by the confusion of politicians. But we shall continue to discuss this matter of sorting out the politicians’ confusion because there is no problem that cannot be solved. Ugandans should not be worried, there is no crisis.
Celebrations to mark the 27th anniversary of NRA/NRM capture of state power are being held today, January 30, at Nyakasanga grounds, Nyamwamba division, in Kasese municipality.