An inside story is told how decorated bush-war generals in the past severally approached their fellow, Gen Salim Saleh with the offer of succeeding his big brother, Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as president.
We now understand how Museveni had prior to the generals` meetingwith Saleh, had given the proposal a thumbs up. Subsequently, the president was willing to yield to Saleh’s succession bid.
This, since the big brother not only trusts Saleh so much as a confidant and strategist, but also because the operation wealth initiative’s patron is a tested, and proven fighter who immensely contributed to his triumph as a rebel leader.
In addition to the above qualities, Museveni knows very well how Saleh is a viable brand among the bush war heroes, the war veterans as well as among the security forces, even without talking about the NRM organs, including youths. Take it or leave it, this son of Mzee Kaguta is an amiable figure.
The military general oozes serenity, charm, confidence and love. He would keep the poise, even under very stressful conditions. Those merits flow naturally in Saleh’s case. They are, matter of fact, part and parcel of the general’s DNA. Saleh is credited as one of the key fighters who helped to fight the past fascist governments.
He has served in the top echelons of the military, and only once, as a political figure when Museveni appointed him his military advisor. Saleh abhors politicians. So much that he is on record asserting how he cannot stand politicians since they waste a lot of time talking, instead of quickly taking key decisions, intended to better the lives of civilians.
Much as he is one of the people who the president consults while appointing cabinet ministers, and whose word in these matters Kaguta considers so much, Saleh has always told those in his circles, that he isn’t interested in being a minister! So as not to sidetrack, let us revert to the meetings the war generals held with Saleh, to persuade him to take up the mantle, from big brother Museveni.
“Thank you so much comrade… but am better off as a low key person,” this is how Saleh, as per insiders, would retort to each and every bush war general, who would be `assigned` to meet him with the offer of entrusting him with the presidency. Yet the bush war generals were hell-bent on having Saleh take over after Museveni.
The more Saleh would brush off their proposal, the more the bush war combatants would keep nudging him to take up the offer. Much the same, Saleh kept calmly speaking his mind but strongly and clearly so, about how he wasn’t interested in taking up the mantle.
“Thanks very much again comrades… I will be always indebted to you… for the privilege of picking me up among the many… to lead the country… but am afraid….am not made for those things,” Saleh is quoted as having told his colleagues who had finally cornered him as a team. Saleh would then make himself clearer, about how he was interested only in pursuing humanitarian causes.
Those causes, he would point out, included fighting poverty, among the wanainchi. He would then reject proposals for him to lead the fight from the front. “We didn’t fight with the intention of all us becoming presidents.I think I did my part. I will now leave the rest to posterity to judge,” the former army commander reflectively informed the delegation.
He would end by lecturing the combatants on his mission following the bush war. “I chose subsequently to devote my remaining time on earth to fighting poverty among our people. I did this purposely. I might be wrong… but that’s my conviction and calling now.” The combatants, following that legendary lecture from the man himself, sobered up.
We mean, they henceforth gave up on pursuing Saleh, over the issue of the presidency! Well, we have been informed about the time the combatants met Saleh over the matter. The meetings took place following Dr. Warren Kiiza Kifeefe Besigye’s decamp from the military and NRM fold. Besigye lit up the country, following that legendary missive that he authored, before parting ways with the military.
Besigye used the missive, to lampoon the CiC in Gen Museveni and the ruling NRM party, for what he was termed as derailing from the bush war ideals. Besigye was still part of the UPDF and the NRM party at the time. The missive rubbed Kaguta and his trusted military generals, the wrong way. The CiC demanded that Besigye be marched to the Court Martial. Why? Besigye, according to Kaguta, had used the wrong fora, to talk about matters to do with the military and NRM.
Yet, Besigye was still a serving officer, precluded from making controversial statements. While sticking to what he had stated in the missive, the son of Nakabango, pressed the army to release him. The CiC hesitated initially but, somewhat, yielded to Besigye’s request later. Astory is told how Besigye, having picked the discharge letter from Bombo army headquarters, Kaguta learned that he was rushing to Kampala, to proclaim his intent to vie for the presidency!
Kaguta, sources divulge, contacted Bombo, to find out if Besigye had not crossed the gate yet. Yet Besigye’s moles in the military, had informed him how the CiC was plotting to remove the discharge letter from him.Using short cuts, to dodge Museveni’s people, Besigye arrived in Kampala. He hurriedly made his statement of intent. As they say, the rest is history.
Oh dear! This blatant declaration, as made by Besigye, hit Museveni’s sworn military generals, much like a thunderbolt out of the blue! “What a blasphemy! How effrontery!” one of Museveni’s top generals and bush war comrade, yelled loudly, upon listening to Besigye’s declaration.
This specific military general, informed contemporaries about how he was going to hit back hard at Besigye. Then army commander, Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, having learned of the statement Gen David Sejusa was itching to drop, tried to dissuade him from doing so. Well, Sejusa went ahead and made the statement, of course against the army commander`s counsel.
Sejusa was putting Besigye on notice, about how the military generals were not going to salute him as president as well as CiC. Sejusa’s statement only served to negatively add more fuel on the fire that had been lit by Besigye. Politicians strongly called out Sejusa, for insinuating how the military wasn’t willing to accept any other CiC apart from Kaguta.
As politicians and members of the public resorted to turning Sejusa’s own statement into that of the UPDF in general, Gen Mugisha, in his capacity as the army commander, stepped out. He clarified that the UPDF would salute any president apart from Museveni, in the event that he or she was the popular choice of the people.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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