Gen Elwelu earns second promotion since 2016 Kasese massacre
MBUYA | In 2007, Peter Elwelu was at the rank of a Colonel. He had commanded defence and military parade during national ceremonies severally until the eventful Independence Day celebrations at Kololo Airstrip.
President Museveni was in the middle of his speech. Overcast, the sun bore down on the celebrants with evil intentions. Elwelu, however, did not notice the evil intention, or if he did, protocol ensured he was helpless to even move his body well enough to commit the much needed blood circulation to the brain.
And then it happened. He must have fainted standing in the stiff attention position, before going head-first on the tarmac end of the parade ground.
Museveni momentarily paused in his speech and winced. The deputy drill commander marched forward to take Elwelu’s place, saluted and calmly positioned his saber at his feet.
Regiment Police (soldiers responsible for discipline enforcement who wear white sleeves) appeared at the scene to pick Elwelu for first aid, effectively ending his illustrious career as a parade commander.
Journalist John Njoroge, then reporting for The Spy (defunct) newspaper, captured a few shots of the incident but Regiment Police descended on him, forcing him to delete all the images of the fainted comrade.
But Elwelu had merely fainted in the true sense of the word. He was not out.
For redemption, Elwelu distinguished himself as a commander of Uganda’s contingent to the African Union Mission to Somalia. He had been able to climb the ranks to Brigadier, his only promotion in 10 years.
But in the last two years, he has climbed up two ranks to a three-star general, a feat few officers in Uganda People’s Defence Forces can even dare dream about.
However, Kasese leadership wouldn’t want to hear of it. It is in Kasese where Lt Gen Peter Elwelu is seen as nothing but the military officer with the blood of the people on his hands.
Elwelu’s promotion to the rank of Major-General, which came with elevation to Commander of Land Forces from Second Division Commander in 2017, followed high on the heels of the raid on the Rwenzururu kingdom’s Buhikira palace.
In 2017 reshuffle of senior military officers, Elwelu was elevated to the rank of Major-General and promoted to serve as the UPDF Commander of Land Forces. It is widely held that the then Brigadier commanded the forces that attacked Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace on November 27, 2016.
At least 46 palace guards were killed and dozens of UPDF soldiers felled during the raid that turned bloody.
In 2017, Kasese leaders bemoaned Elwelu’s promotion to Major-General with Busongora North MP William Nzoghu and Kasese Woman MP saying it appeared like a reward for the way he commanded the massacre of fellow Ugandans.
But battle-hardened generals like Elwelu cannot be held down by sentiments. They are not prisoners of their past. He had this message for those who were calling for his prosecution rather than promotion in 2017.
And he will no doubt have a similar message as he stands at attention to be adorned with the pips befitting of his current rank — a three-star general.
In Friday’s promotions, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Gen Yoweri Museveni promoted at least 65 serving senior officers to various ranks from Colonel to General.
Among the celebrated officers are bush war combatants Ivan Koreta and Joram Mugume, both now full general while Pecos Kuteesa, John Mugume, and Proscovia Nalweyiso moved a rank up to Lieutenant-General.
Museveni’s son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who was born in exile in Tanzania while his father was waging war against the governments of the time, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.
Other bush war combatants promoted to three-star general are Charles Awany Otema, James Nakibus Lakara, and James Mugira.
Joseph B Musanyufu and Charles Lutaaya complete the list of the Major-Generals who moved a rank up.