Even I, a former FDC international envoy, who spent over a decade doing anything and everything diplomatically possible to bring down the NRM government would have had no hesitation in recommending General Jim Katugugu Muhwezi to be appointed Security ministry, (Alupo named VP, Nabbanja named PM as Museveni finally releases cabinet list 8th June 2021).
My former association with others in negotiating the 1972 UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has taught me that there is no cabinet post, or its equivalence in any country, which is more critical to the survival of the state than that of Security Minister.
He or she is the personification of the ‘balance of power’, so vital in international relations and by inference at a national level too. The state would fall or survive, depending on his or her vigilance, or lack of it.
My experience as someone who has lived through Uganda’s turbulent history has also demonstrated to me that there has never been a period since independence, when the issue of national security was more important than today.
Thanks to the advent of globalisation and online communication, Uganda has become a single house in the global village, where a dispute or an outbreak of disease elsewhere affects everyone within a few days. Think of the terrorist attacks in Kampala on the World Cup final day in 2010, or Covid today.
Finally, my observation of Uganda politics and politicians over the years have led me to the conclusion that there are few if any Ugandan men or women, more uniquely well prepared by qualification, practical experience and natural attributes to organise and operate to complex machinery of national security than Gen. Muhwezi.
Let me elaborate.
Maintaining national security is not only about disrupting and stopping a group of daredevils from robbing a bank, stealing medicine from Uganda Medical Stores, uprooting railway lines for sale, or taking control of state power by unconstitutional means. It covers the protection of the whole spectrum of national assets, fixed and mobile.
These include citizens, state institutions, economic and social infrastructures such as power generation and transmission, transport systems, communication network, industries, schools at all grades, land, water, forests, and minerals to mention but a few.
The International Institute of Strategic Studies informs us that “the basic purpose of a national security strategy is to provide guidance on managing the risks associated with current and future challenges, thereby assuring the enduring security of the nation over the long term in the face of both general uncertainty and well-defined threats.”
In Uganda’s case, I believe the greatest threats waiting to overwhelm us within the next 20 years are population explosion and the attendant pressure on land and water, corruption, unemployment, refugee influx, the proliferation of illegal arms, religious fanaticism and drug use.
That brings me directly to Gen Jim Muhwezi and why he is a fit and proper person to be Security minister at this point in time.
He is not only a lawyer, policeman and soldier by training and practice, but also an unassuming man by nature. These qualities, plus the fact that he is also a politician make him the perfect spies’ spy.
Whereas some bush-war generals have become famous for courting controversy, throwing reckless punches or tantrums on camera, Gen Muhwezi is noticeable by his self-imposed disciple, obscurity and measured comments.
The most controversial thing, by Ugandan standards, which Gen Muhwezi has repeatedly done, publicly, is to praise his only wife, Susan, a Canon, for her support!
I have a personal experience, validated by President Museveni, no less, of Gen Muhwezi at work, wearing all his professional robes at once.
Refer to my piece ‘Why did Muhwezi save me and Obote are other relatives in 1986?’ (New Vision 19th August 2019), when I disclosed the circumstances of my arrest from Paul Muwanga’s house, detention and release by the then NRA chief of intelligence, the Commander Jim Muhwezi, in 1986.
As if to corroborate my witness account, President Museveni later told Ugandans that one NRA fighter called Muhwezi had been opposed to summary execution during the Luwero bush war.
According to a Daily Monitor report, ‘Murderers should face death, Museveni tells Chief Justice’ (9 Sept 2020), “murderers should face death is our concept and what the NRA understood and did in the bush. One of our soldiers, a boy called Zaburoni and another one, got drunk and killed three villagers in Semuto.
So we arrested them and we tried them…at that time, we had a lawyer who had not practised but he qualified in law at Makerere. This was Jim Muhwezi. So when we came to try them, he (Muhwezi) said, ‘You people, you need to be very careful, what killed these people was not Zaburoni but the beer which was inside them”.
Sadly, Muhwezi’s lone voice was overruled to satisfy public opinion because “people like Andrew Kayiira were pushing tribal sentiments so we said no, we cannot, these people must be executed in public in Semuto”.
Some 36 years on, the same Muhwezi, the lawyer, policeman, soldier and former NRA chief intelligence officer, who has a proven track record of operating within the law, even during war, is now the Security Minister.
He has his work cut out, carrying the full weight of history on his shoulders and conscience amid reports of corruption even in the security services.
Ugandan, historically a difficult people to manage, will test Muhwezi’s undoubted abilities to the limit. I welcome his well-deserved appointment and wish him good luck in his post as the chief custodian of our national state security.