The Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Robert Aronda Nyakairima, died of heart failure on board a flight from South Korea.
This was shortly after learning that the opposition in Uganda had issued an ultimatum to government on the implementation of electoral reforms or face the consequences.
Robert Aronda are his names and Nyakairima is his father’s name.
The family could be one of those early migrants who trace their origin from Rwanda.
During Museveni’s Bush War, Aronda and Paul Kagame ran a parallel spy outfit for Museveni whose task was to spy on members who did not tow Museveni’s line or expressed dissent.
That is how he escaped ever going for combat during the war.
Upon taking over power in 1996, Museveni assigned him to take charge of the Central Police Station (CPS) with a task of disinfecting Kampala and government departments of any “Bipingamizi”.
Museveni took him through preferential rapid military training opportunities more especially at leading overseas military academies thus gained the prestigious tittle of Past Staff College (PSC).
He took charge of Museveni’s personal security detail right from its inception till his death by overseeing the creation of the Presidential Protection Unit [PPU] that has since evolved into Presidential Guard Brigade [PGB] and now Special Forces Group [SFG] under the command of Museveni’s son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
As Army Commander, Aronda is accused by critics of transforming UPDF into “Museveni’s private security company” by identifying loyal party cadres to take charge over strategic command positions [Museveni says the army was not built on ethnic or tribal lines].
That way, he allegedly ring fenced strategic military units and placed them under the SFG thus handing over the residue of the army to the command of the army to the likes of CDF Gen Katumba Wamala, Charles Angina and Wilson Mbadi.
Having accomplished that lifeline of the military regime, Museveni moved him to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in order to reinforce Police Chief Gen. Kale Kayihura in reorganising the Police force.
As minster of Internal Affairs, he has been behind the disbanding of the traditional intelligence organisations and creating parallel new ones that Gen. David Ssejusa and Amama Mbabazi have no influence over.
He had the task of militarising Immigration and Prisons departments, curtailing the operations of NGOs, creation of militia groups [which government denies], preparation of the voters register through the National ID project, enforcing the politically motivated Public Order and Terrorism laws, and delivering Museveni’s 2016 election victory.
This is what most misinformed Ugandans mistook for a demotion and sidelining of Gen Aronda by Museveni.
Gen. Aronda was Museveni’s most trusted Political Assistant for domestic political manoeuvres and Museveni’s private diplomatic engagements.
He recruited many regime officials (Ministers, RDCs, diplomats, army and security officers, Presidential Advisors, heads of government parastatals, etc).
He would recommend their appointment, promotion, demotion, dismissal, and transfer etc.
His special diplomatic role helped diffuse the Museveni/Kagame tension and he remained Rwanda’s Special Ambassador to Uganda.
The special message of condolence from President Kenyatta following Aronda’s death confirms this.
He had some time back delivered Museveni’s special message to Kenyatta but Ugandans have never bothered to ask why Aronda of all others.
It’s not by coincidence that Museveni was this week on an official visit to Sudan and it is said that from Dubai Aronda had intended to connect to Sudan.
To many opposition opportunists and fortune seekers, striking a deal with Aronda was as good as doing it with Museveni himself.
That is why you see the likes of Norbert Mao and Kasirye Gwanga yelling uncontrollably over his death.
Thousands of those who benefited from his patronage like Minister Vincent Ssempijja are mourning in silence.
Gen. Aronda may have died from natural causes. He did not take alcohol and did not smoke.
Aronda had no social life
He was a member of an international association of Christian Army Officers.
It is also more likely that throughout his life he had sex with only his wife Linda (daughter of Kahooza – the former Auditor General).
Even with his wife, he must have been following a set timetable for having sex.
Even his decision to get married in mid 1990s followed protracted battles with his father who would camp for weeks in Kampala over the same since the son was reluctant to do so.
He spent every minute of his military career preoccupied with scheming for Museveni’s hold on power.
He had no weekends, no leave or holiday and would leave office at midnight.
He ran more than three offices at ago – he had offices in the President’s Office at Parliamentary building, State House, International Conference Center, Army headquarters, different Safe Houses for intelligence coordination more especially in areas of Kololo etc.
He had no personal friends and despised any form of off duty social engagements.
It’s only when he was courting his wife that they would meet at Athina Club.
His main food was tea and fruits and despised people who prioritised eating thus would engage his subordinates in long meetings without lunch breaks and would travel long journeys without ever stopping for atleast his driver and body guards to eat something.
Throughout his 29 years of military service, he had unlimited access to state resources from any government department – a factor that helped him to accomplish all his assignments.
No wonder, he was one of the top little known rich people.
For Museveni, Gen. Aronda was another “First Son”.
Alleged to had thought Museveni was “grooming him for the presidency”, Aronda is accused of undermining the careers of several including the late Noble Mayombo, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, Ssejusa and others but he hit a snag when it came to Muhoozi (the first son).
He had also had trouble with the First Lady, Janet Kataaha Museveni.
Otherwise, until his death Gen. Aronda remained Museveni’s de facto Vice President, Army Chief, Security Minister, Coordinator of Intelligence Services, National Political Commissar, Principal Political Assistant to the President, head of Museveni’s security detail, among other assignments.
Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political analyst