who is Henry Tumukunde
Who is Gen Henry Tumukunde?

Who is Gen Henry Tumukunde? Flash Uganda Media looks at his Biography, Early Life, Education, Family and Political Career of a retired senior military officer and a presidential aspirant.

Gen Henry Tumukunde is a retired senior military officer of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), Lawyer, politician, father and a husband.

Gen Tumukunde on 3rd March 2020 declared his Presidential ambitions officially to stand against the incumbent, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in the 2021 general elections.

Early Life and Education 

Gen Henry Tumukunde was born on 28 February 1959 in Rukungiri District Western Region of Uganda. 

He attended Bishop Stuart College Demonstration School for his primary school, then Kigezi College Butobere and Kibuli Secondary School for his O-Level and A-level education, respectively.

After, Tumukunde joined Makerere University Kampala (MUK) graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1981. He later obtained a Diploma in Legal Practice awarded by the Law Development Centre (LDC) in 2010. 

Tumukunde proceeded with his studies and obtained an Executive Masters in Oil and Gas Management, awarded by the Graduate Institute of Geneva in 2013.

Gen Henry Tumukunde – Work and Experience

Tumukunde joins NRA guerillas

During his time at Makerere, Tumukunde was involved in anti-government politics, which subsequently led to his joining of the then rebels, the National Resistance Army (NRA), now National Resistance Movement (NRM) led by current Ugandan President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Tumukunde was hounded by the government security services during his last year at the university, and on completion, he decided to join the Ugandan Bush War, along with two of his friends at the time, Major General Mugisha Muntu and Colonel Jet Mwebaze.

Obote’s security services at the time caught wind of their impending departure for the bush and mounted an attack on the NRA’s transit house, a shop in the country’s capital city, Kampala.

It is said that Tumukunde alongside Muntu posed as shopkeepers, surviving what would have been sure torture and death. In the early stages of the bush war, Tumukunde was a machine gunner and eventually went on to become one of the senior officers in the rebel army, indicated by his senior number RA 0111.

In 1985, during one of the bigger battles with the then Uganda army in Luwero District, Tumukunde was shot multiple times in his legs. 

The wounds were so major that it was thought he would not survive.

He was, however, smuggled out of the country to Nairobi and eventually to London where he was operated on. 

Gen Tumukunde retired senior military officer
Gen Henry Tumukunde is a retired senior military officer. FILE PHOTO


On capturing power in 1986, Tumukunde was promoted to the rank of Major and appointed first secretary and military attaché at the Ugandan Embassy in the United Kingdom (UK).

Subsequently, Tumukunde was sent on a Command and Staff Course at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, in Kaduna, Nigeria from where he emerged as one of the best students.

Upon his return to Uganda, Tumukunde became the Army’s Director of Planning. He served in this role for many years and was very instrumental in the setup of formal military structures in the UPDF, which had until then been a rebel army.

In 1994, Uganda held elections for the Constituent Assembly and Tumukunde sought to represent his home County Rubaabo. His main competitor was a government minister and senior figure, Mondo Kagonyera.

Tumukunde, who was in his early thirties at the time, was thought to be the underdog in the race; however, Tumukunde was a very good mobiliser and won by a landslide margin.

Tumukunde then joined the CA, which formulated the current 1995 Uganda Constitution. Tumukunde was known to be a regular and astute contributor to the sessions and debates that preceded the formation of the Constitution.

Following the set-up of the Constitution, Uganda held elections and Tumukunde subsequently became a Member of Parliament representing the Army, as a special interest group.

He went on to serve as MP from 1995 until 2005. In addition to this, Tumukunde was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and appointed chief of personnel and administration.

In 1998, Tumukunde was again promoted to the rank of Colonel and appointed Chief of Military Intelligence and Security. His tenure was arguably the most successful by any officer as it is during this time that Al-Qaeda’s plan to bomb the American Embassy was thwarted.

There was also a time where bombings were rampant within the capital Kampala, and once again Tumukunde formed several intelligence committees within the city and the problem was managed.

Tumukunde also built an amicable rapport with the Muslim community, which many had accused of spearheading the attacks, so much so that key intelligence information was forwarded to him with ease.

Arguably, it was during his reign that the Ugandan intelligence apparatus was at its most efficient.

Tumukunde who is a qualified lawyer was then promoted to Brigadier General and transferred to command the UPDF Fourth Division based in Gulu, Northern Uganda. At the time, the war with the LRA was ongoing and Tumukunde made significant headway during his time as division commanding officer in diminishing the threat of the LRA.

Tumukunde was then appointed director-general of the Internal Security Organization (ISO), Uganda’s civil intelligence body, to bring the country’s foremost intelligence-gathering body, just as he had done with CMI.

ISO became renowned for its efficient and effective approach towards intelligence and counter-terrorism.

Removal of term limit scandal

Tumukunde’s fast rise to the upper echelons of both the political and military scene in Uganda marked him out as one of Uganda’s most popular and well-known figures and ultimately, this, alongside his very strong-minded and unrelenting dedication to his country, brought him into the sights of the very institution he helped to consolidate.

At a political retreat in 2003, Tumukunde, in the presence of the president and his cabinet, argued against the impending removal of term limits that would give President Museveni the right to stand for re-election on an infinite basis.

Tumukunde stated that this would be in direct contravention of the rights that they fought to establish and that he was not willing to take part in what he considered to be grossly unconstitutional behaviour. 

Predictably, this put him at loggerheads with the establishment and more so the president.

Gen Henry Tumukunde – Arrests and Detentions

Gen Henry Tumukunde was charged with the offences of abuse of office and spreading harmful propaganda. The abuses of office charges were eventually dropped in a manner suggesting that they had been politically motivated in the first instance.

What followed was, however, a surprise to many. Tumukunde was on 28 May 2005 forced to resign from Parliament and subsequently arrested on the orders of the president.

His home was surrounded by at least 50 soldiers commanded by generals Kale Kayihura and Masaba who proceeded to arrest him. Tumukunde was then driven in a tightly guarded convoy to an officers’ mess turned detention centre. Where he was incarcerated for nearly 2 years, during which time he had limited and tightly controlled contact with the outside world.

His extrajudicial detention coupled with a series of controversial and uncertain court-martial hearings seemed to backfire leading to irreversible pressure culminating in his release in 2007.

General Tumukunde was arrested
Tumukunde was charged with the offences of abuse of office.

His arrest followed his opposing views to the proposed “third term” project that suggested a revision to the Ugandan constitution enabling one to serve an unlimited number of terms as president, removing the two-term maximum limit.

On 18 April 2013, the UPDF General Court Martial sat to bring an end to the process that had started 8 years and summed up its deliberations.

The charge of spreading harmful propaganda was dropped while the joint charge of military misconduct was upheld and Tumukunde was subsequently sentenced to a severe reprimand.

Promotion and Retirement

On 1 September 2015, the Daily Monitor reported that Henry Tumukunde had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and then retired from the Army. He effectively skipped the rank of Major General.

Appointment to cabinet

On 6 June 2016, Tumukunde was appointed to the Cabinet as the Minister of National Security. However, on the evening of Sunday 4 March 2018, he was relieved of his cabinet responsibilities in an unexpected cabinet reshuffle, in which his nemesis, General Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police was also fired.

Gen Tumukunde was replaced by Gen Elly Tumwine who had presided over the General Court Martial when he was first charged with spreading harmful propaganda.

However, days before his sacking, Gen Tumukunde, who was on March 1, 2018, speaking in Rukungiri during the internment of Mr Mathew Rukikaire, had in surprise move lavished praise on Mr Museveni’s long-term critic and opponent, Col Dr Kizza Besigye, as “development-oriented and peace-loving Ugandan, who never misused his power when he served in government.”

Tumukunde’s wish at the time was that Dr Besigye, who he described as “a very powerful man”, could be “friends with another powerful man”. It was at the time thought that Tumukunde was trying to help mend fences between Mr Museveni and Dr Besigye.

Gen Henry Tumukunde – Presidential Aspiration

On 3rd March 2020, Henry Tumukunde declared that he will be challenging Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for the seat of presidency in 2021. 

In a press briefing, Tumukunde attributed his decision to the fact that NRM Party and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni were not ready to discuss a peaceful transition of power.

Post Presidential Bid Declaration Arrest

On Thursday 12 March 2020 at about 7 pm, General Tumukunde was arrested from his office in Kampala. This was after a joint team of military and police laid siege to the office of the former Security Minister, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, in Kololo, Kampala.

They forced the gate open and accessed the premises where Lt. Gen Tumukunde was with his aides. The team was led by Director of the Police Criminal Investigations Directorate, Ms Grace Akullo, and Mr Elly Womanya, the head of Special Investigations Division of the Police.

They inform Gen Tumukunde that they had come to search the premises but he said it was late to do so.

“I thought you were a lawyer, Akullo! Do they search for people at this time?” he asks.

One of the unidentified detectives then tells him: “The laws keep changing. You might have forgotten.”

Gen Tumukunde then replies: “Any amendments (to the law)?”

The arresting team later tells him that he had also made treasonous utterances. In response, he asks them if the utterances would be found in his office.

Akullo responds: “It is an investigation procedure, sir”.

He then asks them if he was under arrest and Womanya says that he was under arrest for uttering treasonous statements.

But Gen Tumukunde insists that they must bring paperwork to show the charges and why he was being arrested.

He tells them that he had been a colleague in security and knows the procedure of carrying out the arrests.

But Ms Akullo says there was no need to explain because Womanya has told him why he was being arrested.

“The procedure is clear. You tell someone why he is being arrested and after the arresting officer has identified himself. For paper, that will come later,” Womanya interjects.

Gen Tumukunde responds: “Anyway, I know you have been trying to arrest me and I know you have been designing it. Anyone who has a different view, you must arrest him. But at least, bring documentation.

Gen Henry Tumukunde presidential aspirant
Henry Tumukunde declared that he will be challenging Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in 2021.

He again asks them if they had a search warrant. They show it to him, but because of darkness, he asks for phone flashlight to read the search warrant. They show him the document. He is then led into a police vehicle and taken to Kibuli for questioning.

The aspiring presidential candidate was arrested and charged in Kampala Court on allegations of treason and illegal possession of firearms. He was then remanded to Luzira prison.

Police statement

Gen Henry Tumukunde is, therefore, being charged under Section 23 (2) and 23 (3) b, of the Penal Code Act, which deals with instigating persons to invade the Republic of Uganda and inciting any persons to make a mutinous assembly.

As always our number one priority is the safety and security of all Ugandans. And we would like to thank our task teams for their swift action, upon recognizing the impact of the inflammatory and provocative rhetoric by the suspect on members of the armed forces and the wider public.

This should also act as a deterrent to others who would like to promote views that seek to naturalize violence in our country, Uganda. Police Spokesperson, Fred Enanga said.

According to the charge sheet, retired Lt-Gen Tumukunde on March 13, 2020, at Impala Avenue Kololo in Kampala had a modified AK-47 rifle but he did not have a valid firearm certificate.

A frail-looking Tumukunde was wheeled into the court by security officers as he could not support himself.

A close relative of the retired army chief said he was picked up from Kololo Hospital following his collapse in police custody.

Tumukunde’s arrest follows his treasonous utterances in a series of radio and television interviews, which seek to foster hatred that might lead to intercommunity violence, fomenting and glorifying violence in general.

Also, he called on the support of a neighbouring country to support him in removing the current leadership with or without the ballot, this in a police statement issued after his arrest.

The prosecution alleges that while appearing on NBS TV during the Morning Breeze show on March 5 2020, Gen Tumukunde said (If I was Rwanda I would support those who want to cause a change in Uganda.”

After spending exactly 60 days in police and prison detentions, presidential hopeful, Lt Gen (rtd) Henry Tumukunde, was released on bail after the first bail application failed.

This was after the head of the High Court Criminal Division, Justice Wilson Kwesiga, rescinded his earlier decision and released the former Security Minister on a non-cash bail of Shs50m.

The court session at Buganda Road Court in Kampala was conducted by video conferencing as the three-star general did not physically appear in court. He followed the court proceedings from Luzira prison.

His three sureties, who included his wife, Ms Stella Tumukunde, were each bonded at Shs50 million (not cash). He was also ordered to deposit his passport in court. 

Before granting Gen Henry Tumukunde bail, Justice Kwesiga concurred with him that with the treason charges he is facing, no serving military officer at his rank of Lt Gen or higher would want to associate with him.

The judge had in his last month’s bail terms ordered Gen Tumukunde to present at least two sureties who are serving military officers at his rank or higher with a letter of introduction from the Chief of Defense Forces.

This requirement by the judge caused public debate from legal minds with many arguing that since Gen Tumukunde is a retired army officer, it was wrong to subject him to the military rules.

Equally, Gen Tumukunde had in his second bail application argued that he couldn’t produce senior officers who are currently serving in the army or government.

Further in his ruling, the judge said he found Mr Hannington Karuhanga (Tumukunde’s brother) and Mr Mathew Rukikaire (a close family friend), as substantial sureties.

In the previous application for bail, the same judge rejected Gen Mugisha Muntu, the leader of Alliance for National Transformation party, and Mr Salaamu-Musumba, the FDC’s Vice President for Eastern region, whom he said were not substantial sureties.

The judge also took into consideration that the current Covid-19 lockdown might not end soon and decided to release Gen Tumukunde.

The judge had earlier ruled that it was prudent to give the prosecution one more moth to conclude investigations against Gen Tumukunde before releasing him on bail.

The judge had also reasoned that investigations by the prosecution had been hampered by COVID-19 lockdown hence needed more time.

However, the court finally released Gen Henry Tumukunde and ordered him to report back to City Hall Court once every month starting May 20 2020.

The judge also said the same bail terms will apply to the other lesser charges of being in unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition now pending City Hall court. 

Tumukunde was being charged under Section 23 (2) and 23 (3) b, of the Penal Code Act, which deals with instigating persons to invade the Republic of Uganda and inciting any persons to make a mutinous assembly.

Police says their number one priority is the safety and security of all Ugandans. They, however, thanked the task teams for their swift action, upon recognizing the impact of the inflammatory and provocative rhetoric by the suspect on members of the armed forces and the wider public.

They said this should also act as a deterrent to others who would like to promote views that seek to naturalize violence in Uganda.


It is, of course, early days. One cannot say Gen Tumukunde’s move has set the stage for him to contest against his former boss, but the General who ran from Makerere University to join the Bush War which brought Mr Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement/Army )NRM/A) to power, has quite a long history of trouble with Mr Museveni.

He seems to thrive on storms such as the one he has kicked up.


Slightly less than 14 years ago, he stood on the stairs of the General Court Martial building in Makindye, beaming.

“Look at my face. Doesn’t it tell you the whole story?” he said before he was whisked back to the Senior Officer’s Mess in Kololo where he remained on remand.

Tumukunde had been arrested on May 31, 2005, on charges of causing financial loss of Shs379m to the government by inflating the army payroll with 650 ghost soldiers between November 2000 and November 2001 when he was the commander of the Gulu-based 4th Division.

He had also been charged with neglect of duty and disobeying orders to appear before a committee headed by Gen David Tinyefunza (now Sejusa) to probe the ghost soldiers saga.

On April 19 2006, he was acquitted of those charges but was still faced with charges of spreading harmful propaganda, which the prosecution said had been committed when he appeared on talk shows on both CBS Radio and Radio One and accused the army leadership of blocking his retirement.

The arrest and arraignment before the General Court Martial had come as a bit of a surprise.

Vote canvasser

Gen Tumukunde had headed the special task force for Mr Museveni’s 2001 re-election. Others on the team included the Deputy Chief of the Chieftaincy on Military Intelligence (CMI) then, Brig Nobel Mayombo, the Chief of the External Security Organization (ESO), Mr David Pulkol, the Chief of Internal Security Organization (ISO), Mr Phillip Idro, the Presidential Press Secretary, Mr Onapito Ekomoloit, and Charles Rwomushana.

Gen Tumukunde’s boots were very much on the ground for much of the campaign. In Jinja, for example, he met several delegations at the Nile Resort Hotel, were he dangled both the carrot and stick.

“To those, especially the businessmen who insisted on supporting Dr Kizza Besigye, he threatened to unleash Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) while those who were open to his overtures were rewarded with money which they say he had in abundance.

He is accused of having told the people in West Nile, where Dr Besigye was expected to have a clean sweep given the insurgency that was raging on at the time that “mere pieces of paper” (ballot) would not be enough to cause a change of government. He has since denied the accusations though.

Dissenting voice

Despite having thwarted a planned Al-Qaeda attack on Kampala in 1998 while he was head of CMI, countering Dr Besigye’s emergence in 2000/2001 and in presiding over counter-terrorism operations that followed a spate of bombings that occurred in Kampala and Jinja when he took over at ISO, Gen Tumukunde soon ran afoul of the establishment.

During a retreat at the National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi in either March or April 2003, Gen Tumukunde joined ministers Eriya Kategaya, Bidandi Ssali, Miria Matembe and Sarah Kiyingi in opposing plans to lift the presidential term limits on grounds that it would be in contravention of the constitutional order and rights that they had fought to establish.

Even after his sacking, Tumukunde who had during the Bush War suffered a serious leg injury that saw him smuggled out of the country for treatment in Nairobi and later London continued campaigning against the lifting of term limits.

“Changing the Constitution has a terrible history in Uganda. Obote changed it and you saw the outcome, it started the chain of so many problems in the country,” he said while appearing on CBS’s talk show “Palamenti Yammwe.”

Besides wondering why the army establishment was not allowing him to retire, Gen Tumukunde also raised issues with how Mr Museveni was managing the affairs of State.

Gen Henry Tumukunde granted bail
Henry Tumukunde, was released on bail after the first bail application failed.

New political party

Matters were not helped by the fact that one of his former aides, Mr Bernard Kibirige, who had worked as a political analyst at ISO and was a key player during Mr Museveni’s 2001 re-election bid, emerged as the secretary-general of Progressive Alliance Party (PAP), which was registered with the Registrar of Political Parties on April 12, 2005.

That triggered off thinking that he was the brain behind the party, which he intended to use to further his political ambitions. Mr Tucker Mugogo, who was one of the promoters of the party, dismisses the thinking.

Mugogo said it was not Tumukunde’s party. He was not affiliated to it and he said it was impossible even if he had wanted because he was still a serving military officer. “We knew him and he knew us and I think he was sympathetic to us, but he was not one of us. He didn’t even give us any maternal support.”

Gen Henry Tumukunde sacked from Parliament

For his outspokenness, the man who had also earlier served as first secretary and military attaché at the Ugandan Embassy in the United Kingdom, Director of Planning in the UPDF, and Chief of Personnel and Administration, was on May 28, 2005, ejected from Parliament.

“I have been directed by the Forces Council (formerly Army Council) to resign my seat in Parliament as MP representing the UPDF and I have accordingly obliged,” he wrote in a letter that was received by Parliament.

Tumukunde later wrote to the Speaker of Parliament indicating that he had not resigned in explicit terms, but Mr Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and the Constitutional Court upheld the “resignation”. 

The decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court in October 2008. The Court chided the Speaker for acting “harshly” in accepting Tumukunde’s alleged resignation instead of trying to protect the liberties of MPs.


On April 18, 2013, the eight-year trial in the General Court Martial came to an end. The charge of spreading harmful propaganda was dropped and the man who had earlier represented Rubaabo County in the Constitutional Assembly (CA) was convicted but only handed a severe reprimand for the charge of military misconduct.

Gen Henry Tumukunde – Family

Gen Tumukunde is married to Stella Tumukunde and together they have children.