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We are stronger than ever before -UPDF generals speak out after assassination attempt on former army commander Gen. Wamala

As General Edward Katumba Wamala continues nursing gunshot wounds sustained on Tuesday morning, his colleagues in the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF) have come out to vehemently say that the national army is stronger than ever before, even if one of their own, General Wamala survived an assassination attempt by yet to be identified terrorists.

“What happened on Monday to General Wamala and others in the vehicle that day was unfortunate but we who serve in the UPDF are stronger than ever before to crush any enemy. The assassination attempt will not make UPDF weaker because our work is to defend Uganda against both internal and external enemies,” a general who preferred to remain anonymous in this story said, adding that, “The UPDF cannot be intimidated by extremists who attack our senior officers. We will capture those criminals who attempted to kill General Wamala. They will face the wrath of the law of the country.”

General Wamala who lost his daughter Brenda Nantong and his driver Haruna Ssentongo to the gunshots in the assassination attempt is one of the most decorated National Resistance Army (NRA) that captured state power in January 1986, even though the former rebel force was later turned into UPDF to mirror a national outlook as it absorbed other armed groups. Among other duties, Gen. Wamala has served as Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and Inspector General of Defence (IGP) where he exhibited distinguished service that made him to be admired by some sections of the general public.

The attack on Gen. Wamala is the latest in what appears to be a coordinated series where senior security officers are targeted by criminals whose intentions are unclear. Former Assistant Inspector of Police Felix Kaweesi, UPDF Major Sulaiman Kiggundu and ASP Mohammed Kirumira died from gunshots after being attacked by gunmen, even though security teams or government have never made any reports public as regards those who were behind the killing of the three former security officers.

When asked why security officials in the country have never released a death report of Kaweesi and Kiggundu who were gunned in broad daylight, another UPDF general who was recently appointed to 11th Parliament of Uganda said: “My friend the process of investigating certain murder cases takes years. Sometimes reports are available but we cannot just make them public. We instead act on them internally. It is not that we just sit on those reports and do nothing about them. We really work on them but it is a security matter that we cannot just put openly in public. I can tell you that we have made some strides related to the brutal murder of AIGP Kaweesi and others. The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and other sister security organs are doing good work.”

Asked if the attempt on General Wamala’s life could be rooted in the perceived internal wrangling in the UPDF top echelon, another general who was also appointed to represent the army in the 11th Parliament of Uganda said the army’s senior officers are united and discuss emerging issues to keep the force strong.’ “We don’t have disagreements that could lead to an attempt on Gen. Wamala’s life. President Museveni who is the commander -In -Chief of the UPDF has kept us united. Therefore the issue of internal differences between the top army officers cannot arise as the cause of an attempt on Gen. Wamala’s life,” he said, adding that Gen. Wamala is an intelligent and friendly army officer. “I think it is the reason why President Museveni appointed him a minister.”

The general further said Gen. Wamala is one of those senior army officers that have worked hard over the decades to ensure that rebel forces like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are flushed out of Uganda. “To us in the UPDF, General Wamala is a hero. We cannot turn around to take his life. The UPDF is strong because of people like Gen. Wamala who have modernized it to the extent that the force is now involved in peace keeping missions in places like Somalia,” he said, adding that he has never heard anyone refer to Gen. Wamala as being corrupt.

Gen. Katumba himself says he doesn’t know the motive of the assailants. “I survived, but my dear daughter Brenda Nantongo Katumba and my driver Kayondo Haruna died at the crime scene. I have no clue about the motive of this attack. There was no reason to end the lives of these innocent people. May their souls rest in peace, he posted on his Twitter handle.

However, a political scientist who this news website interviewed said an attempt on Gen. Wamala’s life could have been the work of terrorists who want to destabilise the government especially that President Museveni was only days ago sworn in for his sixth 5-year term, even though the former rebel leader first captured political power on January 26, 1986. 

“There are elements in this country who think that by assassinating army and other security officers, it makes the government of Museveni weaker. “I think they are wrong. They should come out openly and table their issues for discussion. I think this government can listen to them,” he said, adding that for the sake of having a peaceful country, Museveni wants to talk to those opposed to his rule and that an attempt on Wamala’s life does not mean that the government or army is weak. “The UPDF is one of the strongest armies in Africa,” he said.

But a security expert talked to for this story said that government as well as top security personnel will always have enemies and that what is needed is a deliberate policy to address the security needs of senior military and government officials. “I am one of those who believe that a military General must be provided with tight security. How can a general move with one bodyguard? This issue must be addressed and I remember government talking about boosting the security of such officials,” he said, adding that the 10th parliament deliberated on the security of very important persons in Uganda.

Gen. Wamala is thankful of God for surviving death. He has appreciated those that have been reaching out to him as well.

“I have been overwhelmed by sympathy and condolence messages from all over Uganda! People of all creeds, different ages have sent a myriad of messages. As a family, we highly appreciate the love & care you have extended to us.”

Greetings Uganda! I survived. I thank God. While driving in the morning with my daughter, bodyguard and driver heading to my mother in-law’s vigil, some terrorists tried to assassinate me,” Gen. Wamala posted on Twitter handle.

“I survived, but my dear daughter Brenda Nantongo Katumba and my driver Kayondo Haruna died at the crime scene. I have no clue about the motive of this attack. There was no reason to end the lives of these innocent people. May their souls rest in peace.”

Gen. Wamala is also appreciative of president Museveni who has been telephoning him since the attack. “I want to thank my Commander in Chief… Museveni for the care he has shown me. “His phone calls are some of the reasons I am still fighting on,” he continued on his twitter handle.

He has also appreciated the boda boda man who evacuated him to hospital. “I would like in a special way to thank the boda boda man who forced me on his boda so that I can go and get first aid. In the same spirit, I would thank Malcolm Healthcare Kisasi for everything they did to stop the bleeding. That first aid helped so much.”

Gen Wamala, while speaking yesterday at the event to pray for his deceased daughter, said that he witnessed her and the driver die, and that it will take long for him to fight off that trauma of the mind.

“Allow me to thank my escort, Sgt. Khalid Koboyoit for evacuating me from the crime scene as fast as he did and for shooting back at the terrorists. Things could have been worse,” the general said.

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