Before he sacked his charismatic younger brother as army commander in 1989, President Museveni forewarned all army units that something big was going to happen.
The radio message communicating the impending development, which turned out to be the astonishing removal of Gen Salim Saleh just a year into his posting, also advised the officers and men to stay calm.
This is part of the revelations from an interview with retired Colonel Fred Bogere, who served as Gen Saleh’s aide de camp (ADC) when he was army chief, but came to prominence in 2005 as the Army MP who refused to vote in support of the presidential term limit amendment.
“One thing that people don’t know, and I hear Saleh also saying he was disciplined; that the president sacked him and he agreed to go. The fact is, there were a lot of negotiations before he was dropped, to the extent that the president sent a radio message pre-warning all units that there was something that was going to happen but everybody should remain calm,” Col Bogere said recently.
In the wide-ranging interview, Bogere speaks about the frequent arguments between the brothers. Stretched by counter-insurgency operations in the North, West Nile and the far East, there were disagreements over how the then National Resistance Army was being managed.
And yet soldiers generally had a romantic view of Saleh as a war hero; a free-spirited, wild-living sort of Robin Hood who happily broke the rules for the rank and file.
Saleh, Bogere says, paid a lot of attention to troop welfare. But on more than one occasion, Museveni reportedly told off Saleh, not to bring “Aminism” to the army.
This was probably a reference to former dictator Idi Amin’s unreasonably soft spot for the army, which encouraged indiscipline and partly led to his downfall in 1979.
Although Bogere declined to delve into the details of the disagreements, he told The Observer that the firing “… was not normal; he [Museveni] knew Saleh was capable of causing trouble.”
Saleh was later ‘rehabilitated’ and appointed commander of the army’s Reserve Force (1990–2001), involved in resettling army veterans of the bush war, and senior presidential advisor on defence and security (1996–1998).
Over time, the president’s brother withdrew from the public eye and immersed himself in a wide range of investments through a company known as Divinity Union, among many others.
Bogere retired from the army in 2016 under strange circumstances. As one of ten army representatives in parliament, the colonel refused to support Museveni’sbid for a third elective term in office.
Under immense pressure, Bogere stood his ground and refused to accept the Shs 5 million which was given to each ‘Movement’ MP, including army MPs, to vote for the proposal.
In part I of the interview published last week, The Observer reported how he mobilised against the 2005 scrapping of Article 105(2) of the Constitution; the provision which set the two five-year term limits, actions which saw the colonel gain national acclaim but also become an outsider in a system he helped create.
He remained on katebe (undeployed) for a while until he was finally let go in 2016.