By Mike Ssegawa
Monday, September 12, was Idd day for many people across the world. However, for some, it was a special day to remember a life and career of a great man. A grand soldier. An irreplaceable son of Uganda
It was 2pm, military generals, diplomats, senior civil servants, politicians, academicians, media, students, et al, assembled inside Makerere University main hall around the family of the late Gen Aronda Nyakairima.
News of his death a year ago, took the country by surprised and left it in shock for more than a week. The Internal Affairs minister had died on the Emirates airplane midflight enroute to Dubai as he flew from South Korea back to Uganda.
Although the cause of his death is not accepted by many, the official record says he suffered a heart attack on the plane. He was discovered already dead by a plane attendant. With him on the plane however were senior managers of the National Identity Card Authority.
Gen Aronda who had served for 10 years as army chief and spent over three decades in the military, had influenced people from all spheres of life.
A brave widow, Lindah Aronda, her mother, and in-laws were in the hall as speaker after the other eulogised the soldier like he had just passed on.
The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala who was the chief guest, said Aronda was a towering figure because of his commitment to service, humility and love for his country. The CDF didn’t spare an article penned by Democratic party’s Norbert Mao in the commemoration magazine saying Gen Aronda should have been retired from the army as soon as he was relieved of his army chief’s duties and appointed minister.
A charged Gen Wamala, said, the article was misleading and he wanted to make the record straight. He said, it wasn’t necessary for Gen Aronda to retire from the army as he had a lot to offer.
“There was no reason for Gen Aronda to retire as there was a lot of work for him to do,” the chief of defense forces, said.
This however remains one of the most contentious parts of the general’s military career. Aronda embarked on his ministerial job, of course wearing suits, but, with his full military entitlements. Many people believe it was a mistake for Aronda to be minister and a serving military officer.
Gen Katumba certainly knows more than anybody that Aronda’s remaining in the military was very useful to the military and to his work as internal affairs minister.
Internal affairs Permanent Secretary Stephen Kagoda would actually give the answer in his submission on how the Identity Card project became a success.
“We learnt from Aronda to land running. Aronda was a selfless person,” Kagoda said, revealing that without Aronda, the ministry couldn’t have delivered the ID to the mwananchi.
The permanent secretary said the late general introduced a multi-sectoral approach to complete tasks in the project. The UPDF are some of the outfits he introduced to expedite the process.
“If there’s any lessons we can borrow from Gen Aronda to accomplish government projects, it’s a multi sectoral approach to solving Uganda’s problems,” Kagoda said.
Representing the Church, Bishop Edward Muhima, retired bishop of North Kigezi diocese, captured the person of Aronda and what made him the man admired by all generations.
Aronda who was barely 57 years old when he passed on, grew up to be a nationalist who put his country first because of his background.
“He was a loyal and disciplined child,” said Muhima, adding, he “remained human and modest when he achieved so much in the military”.
The bishop noted that Aronda served his country with faithfulness, impeccable resilience, and that he would move on despite difficult situations.
“He was a man of special qualities. His yes was yes. His no was a no,” said the bishop who said he knew the general as a young man to the time he died.
Prof Augustus Nuwagaba the key note speaker dwelt on Aronda as a man of humility in his presentation and how peace and stability was the garden where development blossoms.
“If you want change, this change is you. It comes from within,” said Nuwagaba, who underscored the role of peace and security in the development of the country. He saluted UPDF for remaining steadfast and giving Uganda the much needed stability.
Gen Katumba Wamala said Aronda was a very determined person. “Gen Aronda didn’t have a god parent in the military,” said the man who succeeded Aronda at the helm of the military.
Brig Charles Bakahumura, the chief of military intelligence addressed himself to Gen Aronda who cared for his soldiers and mentored his commanders.
The CMI boss said the former army chief ensured he mentored his successors and that was why Gen Katumba took charge of UPDF seamlessly and the force was only growing stronger.
Bakahumura who was one of the first general managers of Wazalendo, catapulted the military sacco to be the most successful sacco in the country. The sacco is one of the projects attributed to the late general on top of kicking Joseph Kony’s LRA out of Uganda, professionalizing the military, returning sanity in Karamoja and giving Ugandans identity cards.
As the debate ended, it was just the moment that a student of Makerere University moved to ask Gen Katumba Wamala for the UPDF establishment to raise a monument in honour of Gen Aronda Nyakairima to inspire generations.
The entire audience endorsed the idea, which was supported by the Chief of Defence Forces himself.
Gen Katumba said there was a process to honour officers who excel in their duties like Aronda. He also welcomed another idea from publisher James Tumusiime to compile works of the UPDF successes for generations to come.