The remains of Gen Elly Tumwine were returned home during a low-key event on Friday night at Entebbe International Airport.
The four-star general lost his battle to lung cancer on Thursday after spending a couple of weeks at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, undergoing treatment.
At 7.10pm on Friday, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi—Gen Tumwine’s immediate successor in the Security docket of Cabinet—was joined by the deceased’s children, relatives, senior Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) officers and friends to receive the remains.
The remains of the fallen Bush War hero came in a chartered plane with four other family members aboard. When the casket carrying Gen Tumwine’s remains was removed from the aircraft, family members sang out gospel songs. Others couldn’t hold back the tears.
The senior army officers led by Lt Gen Charles Lwanga Lutaaya—the commander of the UPDF Air Force—received the remains with time-honoured military elements like a guard of honour and a flag draping over the casket. The remains were then taken to Bombo Military hospital for further treatment.
Other army officers who were at the airport included Maj Gen Leopold Kyanda, the chief of staff of UPDF; Brig Micheal Kisaame; Brig Edison Muhanguzi; Brig Charity Bainababo, the deputy commander of the Special Forces Command (SFC), among others.
Maj Gen Muhwezi described Gen Tumwine as a patriot and pan Africanist.
“In him we see the beginning of the struggle and the transformation that has taken place,” Maj Gen Muhwezi said, adding, “He has gone to rest, he did his part and he has gone to get the crown he deserves.”
On Saturday, UPDF finally released the official program for the sendoff of the fallen General that showed: “There will be requiem service on August 30 in Kazo- and thereafter, burial at the same place.”
Earlier, Brig Felix Kulayigye—the UPDF spokesperson—told mourners who kept vigil at the deceased’s home in Kampala on Friday that Gen Tumwine will be laid to rest on August 31.
“Tentatively, I think we have a review of the programme, which will begin with the family today in the final meeting. I don’t want to go through it, but I think we shall bury on [August] 31, according to what we have received,” he said.
During Friday’s wake, Maj Gen Charles Otema, the commander of the UPDF’s Reserve Force, lauded Gen Tumwine for serving “the country in different capacities” and being “the longest serving Member of Parliament.” He urged Ugandans to mirror the fallen general’s service to make Uganda “a much better place.”
“UPDF was his second family; if not first family. We are what we are because of him,” he said.
Maj Gen Otema also revealed the role that Gen Tumwine played in having Jacob Oulanyah clinch the House speakership decades after their infamous spat within the precincts of parliament.
“If there is anyone who really fought for my brother—the late Jacob Oulanyah—to become the Speaker of Parliament, it was Gen Tumwine,” Maj Gen Otema started, adding, “When he got to know that in the northern region there were some people who were not pro-Oulanyah, he called me 20 times and we were in the meeting. When I answered his call, he invited me to his home.”
Maj Gen Otema proceeded to reveal: “When I went, he said: ‘You know Otema, I have done my research. If the people from the north are to vote for Oulanyah, I need your support. This is the opportunity for the people from northern Uganda to climb to that level.’ We talked and he advised how the late Oulanyah could get votes and indeed, he won.”
Mr James Tweheyo, a member of the NRM’s Central Executive Committee representing workers, revealed that Gen Tumwine’s courage and independent thinking saw him attempt to single-handedly install Prince Barigye as the King of the defunct Ankole Kingdom before President Museveni could intervene on November 20, 1993.
“That prince had his own challenges … [but] the royals of Ankole will remember [Gen Tumwine] for that,” Mr Tweheyo said, adding, “If there were no differences within the royal family, they would be having a king now.”
Kutesa, senior army officers eulogise Gen Tumwine
Sam Kutesa, former Internal Affairs minister: “I first met Gen Tumwine in 1974. He had just joined Makerere University, and I was a young lawyer. My late wife was a relative of his and that’s how he used to come to see us as family.
He was a very passionate artist even when he was still studying Art at Makerere. He did personal portraits and paintings and he would bring them home.
He has been passionate about his ideas and he could persuade them dearly. There is nothing that he has done in his life without passion, be it in the army, Parliament, and church or even painting itself. Gen Tumwine joined Parliament in 1987 [and served as MP] until 2021. In the history of Uganda, he is the longest serving Member of Parliament.”
Bright Rwamirama, Minister of State for Animal Industry: “Gen Tumwine was a person who would tell the truth when others didn’t want to do so even when they knew it. This made him stand out from the crowd.
Gen Tumwine thought about the bigger Uganda. He was a nationalist and a true revolutionist. I will give you two critical incidents. One time, he had a scuffle in Parliament and was almost fighting with Oulanyah. I separated them and we went for peace talks. Later on, when Oulanyah stood for speakership, Gen Tumwine was one of the people campaigning for him very seriously.
He also had unique characteristics. He did not only write many things at functions, but he took pictures. He had a box, sometimes you would find two cameras.”
Gen Henry Tumukunde (Rtd), former Security minister: “Gen Tumwine was our leader who was firm, resolute and worked towards the direction of the ideological position of the revolution at that time. He was a disciplined revolutionary. He believed in the leadership of National Resistance Army, later on NRM.
We fought and finished the war and later he became our commander. We would have disagreements because he was on the discipline side unlike me … He would believe in himself and whatever side he took, whether right or wrong, he would believe it’s the right side.
One time, he reminded me about what he did to me in the court martial and told me that if it wasn’t him, I would still be in Luzira prison. Because I don’t have proof, but I got his answer, maybe it could be the truth.
Gen Tumwine was always committed to whatever he would be doing.
He had absolute commitment and whenever I would be in Parliament you would think he is a civilian.
He would mingle with others, mobilise them for just a motion or an important Bill that had to be passed. No wonder he served for so long in Parliament.
Gen Tumwine was a good writer and designer. He showed me like 10 designs for the UPDF uniform and to me they looked the same.
I told him that whatever he chose would be the best for us.”
Gen Ivan Koreta, UPDF representative to Parliament: “We first met during the war efforts of 1979 from which he and 299 other young Ugandans were selected to go for official training in Tanzania. When he returned from the course as a second lieutenant, we all joined.
We were members of Uganda National Liberation Army, which we served diligently until the problems of after elections of December 1980.
Gen Tumwine’s contribution in the start of the war on the 6th of February 1981 and the various contributions and responsibilities that he held as an NRA soldier later in UPDF up to the time of his death. Yes, he was our army commander; but having that background of having known each other during the liberation war, it took away most of those hard boundaries. In the military, you don’t just befriend your commander, there are no friends there.
You keep your level, he keeps his. You answer when you are called upon and that’s it.
But that barrier wasn’t there very much with Elly because of our background in the earlier days during the 1979 days when we knew each other at family level.”
Brig Felix Kulayigye, UPDF Spokesperson: “We are here to celebrate a man who has been a teacher, an artist, a singer, photographer, a researcher, motivator, a family man and most importantly a freedom fighter.
In this world there are negative and positive forces … the negative forces have spoken and spoken, but even if they speak from sunrise to sunset, they will not erase the contributions of Gen Tumwine to this nation.
I was privileged to have seen him when I was a student at Kabalega Secondary School. He was Second Lieutenant then. He met me in town. He had seen me with the UPM T-shirt so I was a vigilant mobiliser and he said “ekyojo norebota” literally meaning young boy, how do you see?
I didn’t understand him and he just walked away. The following day, the commanding officer of Masindi barracks issued a fatal order that whoever sees Tumwine shoot on sight.”