In July last year, former Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde declared his ambition to run for Kampala Lord Mayor. Under his wraps, Tumukunde, who once served as the country’s intelligence chief had a different plan – challenge his boss, Yoweri Museveni for the presidency in 2021.
Between July and December last year, Tumukunde convened a total of 47 meetings around Kampala, mostly with groups of Boda Boda cyclists that were opposed to jailed Abdallah Kitatta’s Boda Boda 2010.
While his Kampala meetings did not attract a lot of attention from the state, the intelligence services eventually picked interest once word slipped through that Tumukunde was clandestinely establishing contact with mobilisers outside Kampala.
According to well-placed sources, while Tumukunde maintained that he was mobilizing for the Kampala Lord Mayoral seat, he built networks in Busoga, northern and parts of Buganda in addition to making monthly trips to western Uganda.
Some of his upcountry contacts from as far as Karamoja formed part of the meetings he held in Kampala as part of his Lord Mayoral consultations.
“Suspicion grew and Museveni started sending him emissaries but he brushed them off,” a source said.
Tumukunde’s interest in the presidency is not new.
In 2003, during a retreat at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi, Tumukunde, then an Army MP infuriated Museveni when he openly criticized the “third-term project” which was designed to amend the Constitution and remove the presidential term limits to give Museveni an infinite right to stand for re-election.
At the expiry of his second elective term in 2006, Museveni would be ineligible to stand for re-election hadn’t MPs voted to delete Article 105 from the 1995 Constitution that limited a president to two five-year terms.
Because of his opposition to the amendment, Tumukunde was forced to lose his seat in Parliament in May 2005, a month before MPs took the controversial vote to amend the Constitution.
In days that followed, Tumukunde was arrested and subsequently charged with abuse of office, military misconduct and spreading harmful propaganda.
The abuse of office charge was later dropped but the state maintained the other charges before the General Military Court-martial that tried him till April 2013 when he was sentenced to severe reprimand.
In September 2015, Tumukunde who was at the rank of Brigadier was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and subsequently retired from the army before Museveni deployed him to neutralize former Prime Minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s campaign networks for the 2016 presidential elections.
With enough resources at his disposal including a chopper to move around the country in the name of neutralizing Mbabazi’s networks, the former spymaster seized the opportunity to build his networks, with sights set on the 2021 elections.
Museveni named him in the post-2016 election cabinet giving him an opportunity for retribution against then-Police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura who commanded the soldiers that arrested him (Tumukunde) in 2005. When their fights reached pitch high levels, Museveni showed them the exit in March 2018.