One of the most enduring legacies of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) that even its most implacable detractors grudgingly concede has been instilling discipline among the men and women in the armed forces.
The rage and shock on social media following an incident in Seeta, Mukono district on Sunday, where Maj. Gen. Matayo Kyaligonza and his bodyguards are alleged to have manhandled a female traffic Police officer for daring to stop his convoy over flouting traffic rules, is perfectly understandable.
In the video and photos that made the rounds on social media immediately after the incident, Kyaligonza, clad in a white loose short-sleeved shirt, seems to be reprimanding the traffic officer as two military Police captains forming part of his security detail roughed her up. In a subsequent interview, the traffic officer alleged that Kyaligonza slapped her hard in the face.
But who is Kyaligonza whose ‘road rage’ has since set tongues wagging with a section of the public, especially women activists, baying for his blood? Currently Uganda’s Ambassador to Burundi and member of the historical High Command of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), Kyaligonza has been a public figure for over three decades.
A decorated military commander, Kyaligonza, whose name in his native Runyoro literally means “what he will want” is feted for having stuck his head above the parapet during the fierce battles in the guerrilla war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. A member of NRM’s topmost organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), Kyaligonza was a member of the Constituency Assembly whose deliberations 25 years ago birthed the 1995 Constitution. But it is safe to say that Kyaligonza, just like a stealth fighter jet, has flown under the radar over the years, with few of the millennials that form over 60% of Uganda’s population knowing him.
But like an active volcano that lies dormant for years only to sputter into life spewing hot rocks and rivulets of red searing lava in the process, Kyaligonza has intermittently over the years been involved in incidents that have been hard to forget. In December 2010, President Yoweri Museveni promised to investigate reports that some of the cattle lost in the eastern region during the insurgency were taken by top army officers, including Kyaligonza, then a brigadier. Museveni made the promise while addressing supporters at Kamonkoli Primary School, during the run-up to the 2011 elections.
It is, however, not clear whether the investigations concluded. In the wake of the Seeta incident, a number of Ugandans on social media, including Assistant Inspector General of Police Asan Kasingye, delved into their memory holes and recalled Kyaligonza slapping the then officer in charge of Jinja Road Police Station, ASP Tumusiime in 1989, resulting in his demotion. But he would soon bounce back. After some time out of elective politics, Kyaligonza threw his hat in the 2001 parliamentary elections. Aghast at a story aired on a local FM radio station, Kyaligonza is alleged to have beaten the editor.
However, the matter was settled out of court after the local prelate successfully brokered conciliatory between him and the victim. In August last year, there were reports that UPDF soldiers guarding his home, beat up a resident in Mutungo Ward, MakindyeSsabagabo municipality in Wakiso district. Known for his knack to shoot from the hip, Kyaligonza has been a sabrerattling member of NRM’s CEC — making off-cuff statements that leave those in the party’s top echelon squirming in their seats.
At the height of the contentious debate that preceded the removal of the presidential age limit, Kyaligonza gave an interview on a local FM station, saying President Museveni ought to leave power when he is still popular. In that same interview, he took a dim view of the manner in which raucous opposition lawmakers opposed to the amendment to remove the age limit were violently ejected from the parliamentary chambers. Earlier, in the run-up to the 2016 general elections, Kyaligonza had decided to remove his gloves during his bare-knuckle contest with Odrek Rwabwogo, Museveni’s son-in-law, for a seat on the NRM CEC. Kyaligonza cried foul, accusing Museveni of seeking to replace historical figures like him with his relatives.
Probably due to the stinging accusation, Museveni, ordered Rwabwogo to drop his bid. Kyaligonza was also a subject of a complaint dated October, 2017 to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, in which two residents of Kyantamba village, Ddwaniro sub -county in Kiboga district accuse him of theft of their 64 head of cattle.
Kadaga asked the Inspector General of Government to expedite investigations into the matter, but it is not known whether much headway has been made. Will Kyaligonza this time around survive the storm triggered by the Seeta incident? Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Museveni would have the final say on Kyaligonza’s fate.
“That is for the appointing authority to decide depending on the conclusion of the matter,” Mugoya told our news reporter