One of Uganda’s most interesting characters has returned to favour with President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda. Retired Lieutenant General Henry Tumukunde was brought back in from the cold earlier this year to take a leading role in President Yoweri Museveni’s re-election campaign and, as East Africa Politics & Security reports, his new role may place him in a strong position when it comes to choosing a successor to Museveni in post-2016 elections.
Tumukunde has a long history in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and prior to that in the National Resistance Army (NRA). He remained at the heart of the regime, which he served as head of Military Intelligence until 2003, when he challenged President Museveni’s move to do away with term limits. In 2005 he was forcibly detained by troops led by General Kale Kayihura, now Inspector General of Police. Two years of extra-judicial house arrest continued until his eventual release and the dropping of charges. His rehabilitation was maybe not completely unexpected. His NRM and NRA history speaks for itself, and his wife Stella Tumukunde is a cousin of President Museveni’s wife Janet Museveni.
Henry Tumukunde’s role is unclear, but includes managing the controversial ‘Crime Preventers’, a mass nationwide vigilante or community policing network. With their T-Shirts in National Resistance Movement yellow, their loyalty is clear. Over one million of them have been recruited and trained so far (see East Africa Politics & Security for background). Ironically, this has reportedly led to a clash with police chief General Kayihura, under whose leadership the Crime Preventers have been up until now. The Crime Preventers do not come with a budget line attached – Kayihura’s management of them has to come from the police budget. This is a strain during the election campaign when thousands of them have to be bussed around to rallies.
In the short term the value in overseeing the Crime Preventers can come from off-budget allocations to support their activities. But there is still value in controlling the militia itself beyond the 2016 elections, as well as the process of raising future Crime Preventers. This election is widely expected to be President Museveni’s last and control of a nationwide semi-state militia would be valuable for any contender for the succession.