Benon Biraaro, a retired UPDF General, who in 2016 contested for the top political seat in the land and wowed thousands of Uganda’s with great oratory skills at a presidential debate, is ill.
For the last two years, Biraaro, 62, has been battling a fast-moving and incurable cancer which is now threatening his life.
Family members asked ChimpReports to respect their need for Biraaro’s privacy.
Biraaro, who contested for the 2016 presidency on the ticket of his Farmers Party, had recovered well from multiple procedures and was in good physical condition until late last year when his situation rapidly deteriorated.
“It has not been easy for him,” said a close relative who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
“Gen Biraaro needs prayers. He is grounded at home. Doctors told us that the cancer had spread to all the most sensitive internal body organs,” the relative revealed.
As doctors focus on disease-focused therapy, Biraaro is said to be emotionally strong and receptive to visitors.
Contacted to speak on the health of a former UPDF combatant, defence spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire responded: “I would not wish to comment on a matter of a comrade General.”
He added: “In any case it should be treated as a private affair.”
Biraaro’s close family members said the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen David Muhoozi recently visited the ailing general at the latter’s residence in Munyonyo, a Kampala suburb.
“Muhoozi expressed his sympathies and encouraged Gen Biraaro to be strong,” a relative revealed.
Gen Muhoozi also said he would inform President Museveni about Biraaro’s health condition.
On receiving a brief on the general’s health, the President directed his private secretaries to “do everything possible to save Gen Biraaro.”
“I really didn’t know. Why didn’t you alert me about his situation before,” Museveni is reported to have asked Muhoozi.
Cancer cases have doubled in recent years, according to official records.
The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) says the new number of recorded cancer patients increased by over 32,617 in 2018 with over a half of these (21,829) actually succumbing to the disease.
In 2017, about 5,000 cases of cancer patients were recorded while in 2016 over 4,000 new cancer cases were registered at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
Officials say about 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by avoiding the key risk factors like tobacco use, harmful consumption of alcohol, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and obesity.
Biraaro, who was born on 1 March 1958 in Isingiro District, is being taken care of by his immediate family and in-laws.
Biraaro attended Makerere University, graduating in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.
Later, he attended Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, graduating with a Masters in Global Strategic Studies.
Biraaro joined the National Resistance Army (NRA) War on 7 June 1982, straight out of Makerere University.
By 1984, he had risen to the position of secretary to the High Command and National Resistance Council.
By 1986, he was the deputy to President Museveni’s Principal Private Secretary before being posted to Kitgum District as the special district administrator from 1986 until 1987.
He then was transferred to Kyankwanzi and served as deputy commandant of the National Leadership Institute.
Next, he served as the commanding officer of the 97th Battalion in Uganda’s Eastern Region, which ended the insurgency in the Teso sub-region and in Tororo and Busia Districts.
Following that, he served as the commander of the military police in Uganda. He was then appointed the military representative in the Office of the Inspector General of Government.
Biraaro then served as a member of the Adhoc Committee on Human Rights under the chairmanship of Abu Mayanja. He later became the director of training in the UPDF.
In 1998, he commanded the Ugandan contingent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
He then became the commander of the Infantry Division in the Western Region of Uganda.
Following that he was appointed deputy chief of staff of the UPDF (DCOS), the fifth-highest rank in the Uganda military.
Next, he served as the commandant for two in-takes at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College at Kimaka in the Eastern Region.
He then served as the chief of the Strategic Planning and Management Unit of the Peace and Security Council at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Biraaro attended military courses at the Junior Command and Staff College at the Nigerian Defence Academy, in Kaduna, Nigeria; Senior Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA; and also excelled in the Africa Strategic Studies Course at Nasser Military Academy, Cairo, Egypt.