In the riveting tale of General Katumba Wamala’s life, Endurance: A Sure Shot to Victory unveils the intricate dance between ethics and survival, where choices made in the shadows echo through the corridors of time.
FROM SCHOOL TO COURT-ROOMS: THE EARLY ETHICAL CROSSROADS
The narrative delves into Katumba’s early years, painting a vivid picture of a young boy expelled from his sister’s home for unleashing a near-lethal punch on Enoch. But it’s not just about schoolyard scuffles. It’s about the ethical crossroads where a nine-year-old Katumba, facing expulsion, decides to alter his report card to secure admission to a new school.
“I saw the opportunity to solve the dilemma, and also to compensate for the lost time. On the report card “V” was written for second term. Drawing on my art and craft skills, I added ‘I” after the ‘V’ implying the report card was for the second term, of primary six,” he writes.
Katumba says while they went to draw water from the well in Bukomero, another boy only identified as Enoch caused him untold trouble.
“I don’t remember how many times I filled my gallon tin with water while Enoch kept pushing it and spilling the water wherever I tried to put it on my head. I just remember that I finally folded my fist and a blow emanated from me and landed on his groin. Enoch fell and rolled on the ground in pain. I did not pay much attention and carried my water home,” Katumba recalls.
His sister could not keep him in her home as she feared reprisal from Enoch’ father. So, he was sent back to a brother’s place in Kampala. That meant looking for another school. Even as a young Katumba found himself expelled for throwing a punch that nearly spelled tragedy for Enoch, the seeds of his pugilistic reputation were sown.
The narrative doesn’t shy away from revealing an incident where, in a fit of frustration, Katumba had slapped a girl in primary school. The trigger? His choice of a school bag crafted from the remnants of his mother’s dress. The slap reverberated beyond the school walls.
It marked a moment that etched itself into Katumba’s memory. Advised by a teacher never to raise his hand against a woman again, he made a solemn promise.
A PUNCH IN PARLIAMENT: THE PAST MEETS THE PRESENT
Fast forward to 2017, and the echoes of those early punches resurface in an unexpected arena – the Parliament. Special Command Forces (SFC) commandos stormed in as the age limit removal debate got heated; chaos ensued, and in the heat of the moment, Katumba found himself face to face with Mityana Municipality MP, Francis Zaake.
As chairs flew, tensions escalated, and Katumba, a man molded by discipline, threw a punch. When Zaake complained, Katumba attempted to deny. He said he only threatened to punch Zaake if he didn’t stop throwing chairs at the soldiers. The two have since made peace.
AN UNLIKELY TWIST: THE BRIBE THAT ALTERED FATES
Zoom forward from Bukomero to 1981, and the ethical tightrope transforms into a precarious balancing act. General Salim Saleh was once posted in Moroto like Katumba by the army authorities. The conflict and division between the officers from the northern Uganda and other parts of the country especially those from Ankole was festering.
Saleh was particularly vulnerable. For he was the brother to Yoweri Museveni who had declared war on Obote’s government. So, he was a candidate for slaughter any time!
Saleh, accused of stealing a sweater from Maj. Odyek’s concubine, faced a rigged trial in Moroto. Fearing for Saleh’s life, Katumba resorted to an extraordinary measure: dipping into the army shop funds for Shs 300,000 to bribe a magistrate. The magistrate pocketed the sweetener and Saleh was released, later joining his brother in the Luweero jungles.
The intertwining stories of altered report card or bribing the magistrate reveal a man navigating the complex landscapes of survival and loyalty! This gamble paid off five years later. This autobiography invites readers to ponder the ethical tightropes walked by a young Katumba, where survival often meant embracing shades of gray. Katumba’s story emerges as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of life’s ethical conundrums.
A DISAPPEARING ACT AS HANDCUFF TURN INTO HANSHAKES
Bonded by the events of Moroto, Saleh mysteriously went missing from Katumba’s life for five long years. No communication, no trace. Katumba, disturbed by the silence, wondered about the unspoken bond that seemed to fade into the air. Little did he know that fate had its own script, again.
Little did he know that his threads of loyalty would weave into the fabric of Uganda’s destiny. When the Museveni-led guerillas of the National Resistance Army (NRA) toppled Gen Tito Okello’s rickety government in January 1986, Katumba, ironically, found himself arrested at Mbuya hill by Col Fred Bogere, and reintroduced to Saleh, not as a saviour, but in handcuffs.
ADC BY DESTINY
Saleh, now in a position of power, did not forget the debt owed to Katumba. Immediately, he appointed Katumba as the aide de camp (ADC) to the army commander then, Gen Elly Tumwine. Tumwine and Katumba had both trained together at Monduli in Tanzania at the Chuo cha Taifa cha Uongozi.
The ADC position became not just a duty but a testament to the enduring bonds forged in times of adversity. For eleven years, Katumba served as Tumwine, Saleh and Gen Mugisha Muntu’s right-hand man, the threads of loyalty unraveling as a story of brotherhood, sacrifice, and the unpredictable symmetry of life.
A DEFIANT BOY FROM SSESE ISLAND
Endurance: A Sure Shot to Victory is not just an autobiography; it is a captivating odyssey through defiance, sacrifice and an enigmatic military career. From a defiant boy on the Ssese islands who once defied his father, tore a book and contemplated suicide to the former chief of defence forces of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), Katumba’s journey is a compelling narrative of trials and triumphs.
Born on November 19, 1956, his life unfolds against the backdrop of significant global events, such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s segregation case victory and the Suez Canal crisis. Katumba’s decision to join the army is marked by complexities. A science-oriented student, his journey from primary school to joining Bukalasa Agricultural College is a testament to his determination.
The tumultuous political landscape, with the fall of General Amin Dada on April 11, 1979, set the stage for Katumba’s recruitment into the army, inspired by the discipline of the Tanzanian army. The rigorous training in Tanzania became a transformative experience, molding him into the disciplined and admirable leader many know today.
“I was broken down and remade and the new person that was built in me allows me to listen to others, say hello, say sorry and thank you, accordingly,” he writes with relish.
FAMILY DYNAMICS AND STRUGGLES
When Katumba returned from Monduli, he visited his father and mother who had since reunited, the father was happy to see his son alive, but had misgivings about the career he had chosen. His father was Kabaka’s representative in Ssese Islands. He was the village chief.
In 1966, the then Prime Minister Dr Milton Obote had desecrated the Buganda kingdom when he ordered then Gen Amin to storm the palace. The storm of the palace sent Kabaka Mutesa into exile in the United Kingdom. This annulled the federal (federo) status Buganda and other kingdoms enjoyed. Many Baganda royalists never forgave Obote.
“Katumba, are you going to be Obote’s soldier?” the father asked, to which Katumba replied that he was not Obote’s soldier but an officer of a national army. Katumba being a Muganda, his father could not understand how his son could join forces that belonged to Obote.
The autobiography delves into the complexities of family dynamics and historical tensions between Obote and the Baganda. The narrative paints a vivid picture of personal and political challenges, providing insight into the man behind the military uniform.
BULLET SHOWERS AND UNANSWERED WHYS
But fast-forward to June 1, 2021, a hailstorm of bullets rains down on Katumba’s car, leaving a trail of unanswered questions and a heart-wrenching loss – his daughter Brenda Nantongo. Katumba writes that he is still trying to figure out why someone wanted him dead that day. Katumba’s bewilderment becomes palpable.
He grapples with the haunting question of why, on that fateful day, his car became the target of a relentless shower of bullets. The assailants claimed the life of his daughter, Brenda Nantongo, yet, the identity and motive behind this brazen attack remain shrouded in mystery, leaving Katumba and the world at large to ponder the enigma that surrounds this decorated general.
The 420-page book was launched by Gen Salim Saleh at Hotel Africana on November 16, 2023. Saleh bought his copy at Shs 20m and later persuaded other generals in attendance not to pay less than Shs 5m each for their copies. General David Muhoozi paid Shs 10m, while Lt Gen James Mugira and Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu each paid Shs 5m.
The minister for Energy, Ruth Nankabirwa bought a copy at $3000.
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
• Chief of Defence Forces, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 2013–2017
• Commander, Land Forces, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 2006–2013
• Inspector General of Police, Uganda Police Force: 2001–2005
• Officer in Charge, Operations, Congo, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 2000–2001
• Commander, 4th Division Headquarters, Gulu, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 1998–1999
• Commander, 2nd Division Headquarters, Mbarara, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 1997–1998
• Operations Coordinator, West Nile, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 1996–1997
• Commandant, Junior Staff College, Jinja, Uganda People’s Defence Forces: 1991–1994
• Aide-de-camp to the Army Commander, National Resistance Army: 1986–1990
• Military Instructor, School of Infantry, Jinja, Uganda Army: 1983–1985
• Platoon Commander, Company Commander, and Adjutant, Moroto, Uganda Army: 1980–1983