By Lawrence Kazooba
On Tuesday, Gen Katumba Wamala resurrected the debate of retiring old soldiers at the piping ceremony for generals who were promoted recently. He said, people like him, Gen Elly Tumwine and Gen Pecos Kuteesa (both attending the decoration of 14 generals) should be allowed to retire from the military. It should be noted that Tumwine and Kuteesa are not on record asking to be retired and denied exit. They seem comfortable wearing their military fatigues.
Gen Wamala the outgoing chief of defence force said on Tuesday, “I think it is high time we think of ‘getting away’ and giving young people room”. He said he was proud to see the young generation taking full command of the military which is a noble gesture from an accomplished soldier and general.
However like they say, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. However, Gen Katumba’s call was loud but masked in crocodile tears as he failed to guarantee the feelings of fellow senior soldiers while he was CDF.
The most prominent case is that of Gen David Sejusa who has even resorted to going to court because he would not get the opportunity to be retired as he so wishes.
The case of retirement was touched on by another aging soldier Kasiry Gwanga who said the army has failed to retire them because the govenemnt cannot raise their gratuity. He wondered how the president can be wasteful by donating Sh6 billion to highly paid government officials who represented Uganda in the Heritage Oil vs Uganda tax arbitration case.
Sejusa on the other hand had asked that old soldiers should be retired to be saved from the humiliation of saluting “their children”.
Upon his return from exile on December 14, 2014, Gen Sejusa’s main demand from President Museveni was to retire him from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). The request was at the centre of the January 3, 2016 meeting between Museveni and Sejusa at State House in Entebbe.
The President apparently had ordered the UPDF Chief of Legal Services Brig Ramadhan Kyamulesire who had attended the meeting to start the retirement process.
Unfortunately, Brig Kyamulesire on January 7 wrote to his boss Gen Katumba Wamala denying any instructions by the President about Sejusa’s retirement.
This was after Katumba followed up on Sejusa’s lawyers communication inquiring about the progress of Sejusa’s retirement application of December 30, 2014.
Brig Kyamulesire officially wrote to Gen Wamala saying,“I wish to categorically clarify that in the said meeting the President never instructed the Chief of Legal Services of UPDF and other relevant officers to process Gen Sejusa’s retirement.”
The army boss Gen Katumba wrote to Sejusa on January 8 announcing his disappointment that he would not do anything about his retirement. What he fell short of saying was that the President was playing ‘mind games’ on all of them.
Katumba is supposed to be the chairman of the Commissions/Promotions Board which is responsible for promoting or retiring soldiers.
However in his letter to Sejusa, the CDF said, ““In reference A [letter inquiring about Sejusa retirement], you sought to know the progress of General Sejusa’s retirement process and purported that the President had given instructions to this effect, to the Chief of Legal Services and other officers, during a meeting on January 3, 2015 at Entebbe.
“In the circumstances, following the clarification above (Brig Kyamulesire’s letter), as Chairman of the Commissions/Promotions Board, I shall wait for a written or other forms of communication from the President and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, giving guidance on the matter.”
From that letter it is clear only President Museveni has the last say on who can be retired. But it is such a shame, Gen Katumba could not defend a fellow combatant caught up in the politics of the military he wants out.
Last year in April, Gen Wamala would tell a group of 1500 retiring soldiers at the Land Forces headquarters in Bombo that army retirements are not done through courts of law, in reference to Sejusa who had run to court to seek redress.
Gen. Katumba emphasized that procedures are well laid out through which service officers are duly retired.
“Some of you run to the media while others go to courts of law seeking to be retired. You don’t need to go to court but just go through the right procedure if you want to retire,” said Gen. Katumba.
Let us keep our eyes open if Katumba too would get his wish to be retired from the military, especially that he knows the right way to get his retirement.