At the burial of former minister Matthew Rukaikire’s son on Friday in Rukungiri, Security Minister Gen Henry Tumukunde astounded mourners when he relayed a pile of compliments to main opposition figure, Col. Kizza Besigye.
Despite the two sharing a common history of fighting the 5-year bush war the ushered in the current government, Tumukunde’s words that included calling Besigye the most powerful man he has ever known, were quite unexpected, considering how the latter has been a strong critic of the former’s boss, more so a huge threat to his power.
“I have worked with Dr Besigye since the Bush War and we have been friends since. Dr Besigye had a lot of power while in government and I don’t think there has ever been a person with power than him. Even when he was still in government, as a young man below 30, when he summoned you to his office, you would see a person with power, but he really never abused this power,” Gen Tumukunde said.
Looking at it from another angle though, it could have been an emotional and reflective moment for Tumukunde since he was sort of reuniting with his bush war comrades. Besigye, who was a doctor in the war, as Tumukunde said, saved his life by treating his leg, and Rukikaire, as Besigye noted in his speech, bankrolled several operations in the struggle.
Besigye Speaks out
Kizza Besigye, who has been a 4-time presidential candidate and is still seen as a potential rival to President Yoweri Museveni’s power, speaking on the development, seemed unconvinced by Henry Tumukunde’s remarks, but instead urged him to rethink his continued loyalty to President Museveni.
“I picture Mr Tumukunde the same way as I see his employer; he works for Mr. Museveni. But Tumukunde and the rest who are like him, we all started as young men to fight together to liberate our country. And some of us it’s the same country we are still fighting for,” Besigye said in a video statement released Sunday.
“…Every time I try to tell them that what we fought for is now a lost cause, and whoever has stuck to it, will get problems with it. You know, even flies when they are on a corpse, when it comes to laying it in the grave, the flies jump off; fries are never buried with a dead body. So, where we’ve reached people need to know that what we fought for is no longer helpful, so they should jump off of it, and we focus on something fresh.”
Besigye added, “Personally, I don’t have a problem with anyone still in NRM, because I have also been part of it, and everyone sees reality in their own time. We can’t all have our eyes opened at the same time; for me, I will still keep urging them (People still loyal to Museveni). So I urge them to wake up so that they are not buried with the dead.”
It should be recalled that Gen Tumukunde in 2015 bitterly fell out with Museveni over the removal of term limits and was he forced to resign as an army representative in parliament, on top of nearly ten years of house arrest.
It is in 2015 towards presidential elections that he bounced back, scoring an appointment as security minister in July 2016.