The Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, Gen Salim Saleh has narrated how his was hate at first sight with Gen Katumba Wamala which later blossomed into great friendship that is inseparable.
Speaking virtually during the launch of the launch of the autobiography, ENDURANCE; A Sure Shot To Victory” at Hotel Africana in Kampala, Gen Saleh narrated that when a group of educated boys, Gen Katumba inclusive, was named to attend cadet officers’ course at the respected Monduli institution in Tanzania in 1979 during the post-Idi Amin era, the hate started.
“Our friendship was not good at the start because after the 1979 war, the president (Museveni) who was the minister of defence then, decided to recruit educated people into the armed forces and that batch of Gen Katumba of educated guys became a thorn to us. Our relationship with Gen Katumba was not good at all,” Gen Saleh narrated amidst laughter from the audience that included fellow bush war heroes, UPDF generals and other dignitaries.
“When they went for training, for us we thought they were coming to take us out of action. It was like that. When they finished their training, a group of around 15 was posted to Moroto and generally, UNLA didn’t like educated guys in the army.”
He however noted that destiny later brought them together.
“Our relationship with Gen Katumba was not good until destiny brought us together after. From that day of Kabamba attack, I became good friends with him.”
Joining the army in 1979, Gen Katumba has gone on to blossom within the military scaling the heights to the highest rank and position as General and Chief of Defence Forces respectively in the institution.
He would later serve as an Aide de Camp (ADC) serving three army commanders; Gen Elly Tumwine, Gen Salim Saleh and Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu respectively, a feat not many have been able to achieve.
Speaking on Thursday, Gen Saleh said having brought together by destiny, the friendship with Gen Katumba has been at its best.
“I have known Gen Katumba for 42 years and is one of the biggest pillars in the formation of the UPDF. We have been the brother’s keeper and kept each other’s love for 42 years.”
He admitted that then they didn’t understand the role of educated officers and hated them but said President Museveni knew something in recruiting them for future use.
“It is that group of Gen Katumba that started the whole exercise of education in the armed forces.”
Gen Saleh joked that whereas he had earlier promised to launch a book before Gen Katumba’s, his promise has not come to pass.
“He has challenged and defeated me on the book launch because I had told him I would launch mine before him. If you read that book, apart from the early life, the military service, he has given all those pages to talk about myself and others in military service who have contributed in one way or another.”
Catching Museveni’s eye
Gen Saleh, President Museveni’s younger brother also spoke about the time Gen Katumba Wamala caught the eye of the Ugandan leader.
“He wrote a very good paper about transforming a guerilla force into a modern confrontational army. That was the first paper for transforming a guerilla force into a professional army. That is what caught the eye of the commander in chief.”
“He participated a lot in writing all those training manuals for officers.”
He however described Gen Katumba as a cautious, consistent and “a little bit conservative to some of us.”
“He is one person who is able to easily change from one position to another. One day he was a soldier, then the next day he was a police officer, then the next day he was supposed to become a minister. Those are qualities most of us don’t have. He has a unique character. Gen Katumba is a unique person.”
Reviewing the book, the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation said it is not about Gen Katumba but what Uganda has gone through the years.
“20% is about him(Gen Katumba) and 80% is about Uganda. Ugandans should buy and read the book to understand the story.”
To honour his friend, Gen Saleh bought a copy of the book for shs20 million.
According to General Katumba, part of the proceeds of the book will go towards children and women suffering from HIV and Cancer by covering their hospital bills and ensuring their safe transportation to and from medical facilities, a cause started by his late daughter, Brenda Nantongo.
“Furthermore, this book serves a higher purpose, one that is deeply inspired by my late daughter Brenda Nantongo. She devoted her life to helping those in dire need, particularly children and women facing complex diseases like HIV and Cancer. Through part of the proceeds from this book, I am committed to carrying forward her vision and dream,” he said.
“I am also committed to addressing a critical issue plaguing the Mulago Children’s Cancer Department; the shortage of food additives. I firmly believe that our contribution to this cause can bring a ray of hope to the courageous young souls fighting cancer.”