By Pepper Intelligence Unit
He was an accomplished fighter but loathed by the opposition for his free speaking. That’s why when some callous people rumored him dead before it was confirmed, condemnation from the country was swift and firm.
Over his more than 40-year career, Gen. Elly Tumwine was renowned as a National Resistance Army war hero. He served as the Army Commander, one of the army representatives to Parliament, Chairman of the UPDF General Court Martial, and Minister in President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
A lot has been said about him except how he qualified to be a member of Stingy Men Association. He was one of the kind that gave tough love to many of his close people.
Those who were so close to the late Tumwine, knew him as a calculative man when it came to finances. He was materially rich by levels of a UPDF General and also at heart.
However, the way he played about his finances qualified him to be a member of the Association. It is with this background that most men who subscribe to the Association will dearly miss him. His money antics would encourage fellow members to push on. And these are some of the invaluable lessons they will never forget about him when it comes to money matters.
While on the journey he warns his soldiers to carry beans, posho and charcoal stoves ready to prepare meals for themselves. He also advises them to carry painkillers so as to handle in case of health hazards. He does this to notify them that they should not expect him to spend on them. The General knew how to save his money and put it to good use-and he carries no blame at all
THE ‘ARMY GENERAL MANAGER’
Amongst army circles Tumwine was regarded as ‘Army General Manager’. But this did not stop him from being a jolly soft-spoken man, workaholic and most celebrated member of the Stingy Men’s Association.
A story is told how late Tumwine up to the few months before his death, he would storm Mbuya and Bombo barracks to collect food ration of Posho and beans from the army like all other soldiers. Other Generals of his caliber had stopped picking Posho many years ago but not Tumwine. While on the journey he would warn his soldiers to carry beans, posho and charcoal stoves ready to prepare meals for themselves. We are also told sometimes Tumwine would go to a hotel and buy food without giving any of his bodyguards. He would also advise them to carry painkillers so as to handle in case of health hazards. He did this to notify them that they should not expect him to spend on them.
Those who worked with him on private matters revealed to us that to pay you even if it’s a mere 50k, he would first count the money like ten times to be sure he’s not made an error in over paying. He kept his own fuel card by himself and did his own shopping.
General Tumwine left a record that will take long to be broken! He is the only Ugandan who wore clothes made by himself. Whereas he had money that could see him fly abroad to shop in famous stores like Louis Viton, Gucci and others, he stopped in the 1990s. This is a lesson Stingy Men’s Association members will never forget. In many media interviews, he would openly talk about his trademark Kitenge style. In his many submissions, late Tumwine would reveal that in a way to promote African Culture, he would make and wear Kitenge all his life. In all his entire life, Late Tumwine would wear a Kitenge even in Parliament. When not in his Kitenge shirts, he would be in full Army attire. At one point, the Parliament of Uganda questioned Tumwine’s dress code.
Stingy Men’s Association members also learnt from Tumwine that you can plan and build a house without necessarily spending big on architects for designs and what. Tumwine is on record to be the only known Ugandan who built a gigantic house without any corner, a design he did himself. A thorough look at his house in Kazo district, it’s all circular. He loved art all his life and no wonder he used his art to design his house. “It is my greatest art piece because it is not anywhere. It is my personal design. That house has no corner. It is round and everything in it is round,” he often shared with Stingy Men Association members.
CHEAPEST WEDDING EVER
On 7th February 1987, then as Uganda’s Army Commander, Gen Tumwine surrendered to superior forces. This was one day after the National Resistance Army celebrated its 6th birthday and Tumwine handed himself over to Jolly Nuwagaba. His boss and mentor, President Yoweri Museveni was present at Namirembe Cathedral, Kampala. It was the cheapest wedding ever held by a person of Tumwine’s status—an army boss. His Mc was John Nasasira.
He did not hold a pre-wedding party nor an after wedding party. It all ended at Namirembe Cathedral. It also goes on record that he only invited 20 guests. He was following the advice of his former teacher and army commander Gen. Museveni who counseled him that marriage and love after all was not about extravagance but what mattered was the union of hearts. This is an act Stingy Men’s Association members will never forget. President Museveni attended the wedding at Namirembe but gave him a simple envelope that contained a few notes and since then he had been sitting by Museveni’s side at every military function.
Late General Tumwine loved art. He occupied Nakasero based Momo gallery, an arts centre for ten years without paying rent on advice of Stingy Men’s Association members. Their view was that he sacrificed a lot for this country including his eye, so, subjecting him to pay rent was a sign of disrespect
During his funeral service in Kazo, his children praised him for nurturing them the hard way. One of his sons recounted times while still studying. The son revealed that in most of their holidays, Tumwine would allocate work for each one of them. He would tell them that the assignment came with a payment in the form of school fees. His son furthermore revealed that they would work hard to make sure the assignment would get complete before school started.
Tumwine was shot in his head and lost his eye on 1st November 1981 in Bukomero in an ambush by enemy fire. He later went for an eye operation in Kenya and Cuba and was given his trademark black glasses. Until his death, Tumwine owned only one pair of these glasses despite having money to own like 10 or so. He would appear in the public donning his glasses until his death and he was buried with them.
In childhood, Tumwine cheated death four times. He had three snake bites that nearly took his life. In 1963, Tumwine and some of his family members survived a lightning strike on their house. His elder brother died in the fateful strike while his younger brother died months after. Tumwine survived with severe burns on the stomach, which were treated at Mubende hospital.
The other time Tumwine cheated death was during the bush war following the November attack at Bukomero. General Elly Tumwine has been using November 1st each year to launch his songs and painting in remembrance of the day he nearly died.
NOTE: This story was first published on Sep 15, 2022 . It has since been updated.
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