Gen. Moses Ali, 83, has lately grabbed news headlines for being a visibly frail man whom many Ugandans believe should be retired from cabinet by President Yoweri Museveni in public interest.
In just about a month, Gen. Ali’s health has become a topic of public concern on two occasions. The first occasion happened during the election of the speaker at Kololo independence grounds when the giant general was captured on camera struggling to keep his jaws in proper coordination while at the same time rocking his head side to side as if he was about to collapse in a heap.
And just this week, a video of Ali falling in parliament emerged, sending Ugandans into talk that the good general has lost full coordination in his limbs and movement.
As such, many Ugandans believe the best gift that can be given to General Ali now is to send him home to rest just like his younger counterparts like Gilbert Bukenya who is living a totally stress-free life at his home in Kakiri.
But while the two incidents went viral in the media, there have been earlier incidents that pointed to the fact that the Second Deputy Premier deserves to be playing with his grandchildren back in West Nile instead of trying to keep up with the rigors of public service.
For instance, it is worth noting that Wednesday’s fall is not Gen. Ali’s first public tumble. In 2018, the minister fell back at Namboole stadium as he attempted to kick a ball and went through much uneasiness and pain as his aides helped him to his feet thereafter. Meanwhile, those who are familiar with his travels intimated to our Inspectors that Gen. Ali hardly sits for more than three hours. It is said that on a journey to his constituency in East Moyo, Adjumani, his driver must ensure that he makes at least three stopovers. These are specifically meant to allow the aged minister at least two hours of sleep to recuperate before proceeding. This therefore means that our deputy leader of government business must use almost an entire day to reach home if he is to use road transport.
It is also worth remembering that during the previous general elections, Gen. Ali gave the exercise its iconic picture when he displayed ultimate exhaustion by campaigning while seated in a chair. Nonetheless, he won.
Such images have intensified calls for Ali’s retirement. However, in this analysis, the Inspector gives you intimate secrets of why Gen. Ali is not about to go home despite rumblings of his “haters”. Read on….
REBEL DEMOBILISATION PACT
Perhaps the first and most important reason which explains why the president cannot rest Gen. Ali is a pact that the two senior citizens signed around 2002 as part of the demobilization and reintegration of rebels programme. This was to the effect that for as long Gen. Ali is an MP, he would be kept in cabinet. This was a token of appreciation for persuading thousands of his Uganda national rescue front rebels to join government and be integrated within the UPDF. Sources say that among these rebels was the late Ibrahim Abiriga, who died while a hysterical president Museveni promoter.
It should be remembered that Gen. Ali was the head of the first Uganda National Rescue Front, also known as “National Salvation Front” (UNRF 1). This force was formed to oppose, fight and overthrow President Milton Obote II by the “West Nilers” who were not willing to be led by a man who deposed their fellow West Niler, Idi Amin Dada CBE. Ali, then a Brigadier, had formerly served as Amin’s Minister of Finance.
After the fall of Obote, over 1000 of the UNRF rebels joined Yoweri Museveni’s government and Ali as group leader was incorporated in cabinet where he has held various positions including Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport. In April 1990, however, Ali was arrested on treason charges, and incarcerated until June 1992, when he was released and acquitted. Ali’s arrest coincided with reports of a breakaway of some of his former rebels who would formally mobilize themselves into the Uganda National Rescue Front II under Maj. Gen Ali Bamuze. The group included hundreds of the original UNRF that did not make peace with Museveni. It operated mostly in Aringa County, Arua District, out of bases in southern Sudan, and received support from the Sudanese government (the National Islamic Front). The group which felt shortchanged by Ali also was retaliating on behalf of Sudan for Uganda’s support for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. However, Ali was deployed by the government to convince this group to put down their arms, with the promise to be given things they believed formed the centre of their grievances. And indeed, on December 24, 2002, the UNRF II agreed to quit rebel activity and signed a formal ceasefire agreement with the government in the town of Yumbe in northwestern Uganda. It is the terms of this agreement which made Ali a permanent fixture in cabinet as it was agreed that for as long as he is MP he would be appointed minister! Other terms included a battalion of UNRF II soldiers being incorporated in the Ugandan army, and Shs4.2bn being distributed to the group. We have been told that another man who enjoys similar privilege is Musa Ecweru, whose Uganda People’s army made peace with government through the Teso Commission in 1992.
Huge family/ Many Dependents
Earlier this week, the country was treated to shock after news emerged that Mbale District Mechanical Engineer Deogratoas Akorimo had written to the area Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) requesting to be allowed to extend his retirement by two more years. Akol who clocked retirement age made the desperate plea citing a need to keep earning so as to take care of pending personal issues including having income to pay tuition for his children who are still young. Now, those familiar with Gen. Ali’s personal life indicates that the giant General could be pushing on with public office just to be able to fend for his very large family.
Sources say that Gen. Ali still has a sizeable number of school-going dependents who would risk going hungry or even dropping out of school if he stopped working today.
In fact, it is a public secret within army circles that Gen. Ali is among the few UPDF top shots who religiously draw food rations offered by the army to feed his big family. It is said that the family comprises both his immediate family and many other dependents. And indeed in this regard, Gen. Ali revealed in a recent interview that the question of his retirement is beyond his own control but is rather dependent on his people. “My people will decide for me; they’ll have to decide. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the people,” he said while also affirming that “I’m very happy to continue serving my people.”
Also, as if to keep him in public office, Gen. Ali’s family members have taken it upon themselves to speak for him and defend him whenever the general public questions his fitness to remain a public servant. For instance, at the recent election of the speaker at Kololo, Gen. Ali seemed to lose control as his head was captured on video rocking from side to side, albeit in a scary manner. However, his daughter Mariam Ali was quick to issue a statement on behalf of the family, saying the general was fit health wise and the Kololo incident was just a one-off caused by an uncomfortable chair.
BIG BRAIN, Fearless
Another reason why Ali can’t be retired is his super brain fitness. It is common knowledge within the political circles that despite his physical limitations, Gen. Ali is among the brightest Ugandan politicians. Because of this, he has been deployed by the president to handle critical assignments which require a combination of high reasoning and utter fearlessness; another trait Ali possesses. Ali displayed his brain prowess when at the ripe age of 64 in 2003 he enrolled for a degree in Law at Makerere University and passed it with flying colours. He proceeded to Law Development Centre and seamlessly completed the Bar course which remains one of the most dreaded courses in the country due to its difficulty.
His age put aside, Ali continues to play a pivotal role in Museveni’s government especially when it comes to dealing with thieves in government. A case in point was in the 9th parliament where Museveni asked Ali to tell parliament that he had sacked both Syda Bbumba and Kiddu Makubuya in case the duo had refused to resign following the nasty Basajjabalaba Shs149bn compensation deal scandal. All other ministers had allegedly feared to execute this order and Museveni saw Ali as the best man to execute it. Good thing though, the ministers resigned on their own as per the presidential directive.
Sources have also told us that one of the reasons why Gen. Ali cannot retire is because he is an amiable man whom colleagues both in cabinet and parliament love and have no problem working with. As such, he has not faced much hostility at work and therefore feels he can push on and on.
Ali is also great at mending fences as evidenced by the fact that he and Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju are friends despite the many altercations they have had. In fact, sources say that despite staying in cabinet for long, Ali’s documented opponents in cabinet were Apollo Nsibambi (RIP) and Tarsis Bazana Kabwegyere.
Ali’s spat with Late Nsibambi arose when the former Premier allegedly described Ali as a ‘leaking jerry can’ upon losing his MP seat in the 7th parliament. Nsibambi is said to have hit Ali hard over reports that the pair had a cold war over supremacy. In fact, in a 2009 interview with The Observer, Gen. Ali accused Nsibambi of having caused his 2006 election loss and also loss of the first deputy premier position to Eria Kategaya whom Nsibambi convinced to return to NRM.
As for Kabwegyere, “Ali accused Tarsis of sidelining him on official communications. Whenever he wrote a letter addressed to the PM, he would not copy Ali in but would go ahead and copy in other ministers. This annoyed Ali who went public about it in one of the cabinet sittings,” sources said. However, Ali took it lightly and fortunately, both Nsibambi and Tarsis were knifed from the cabinet. Ali has since retained his post and is still soldiering on.
Not willing to retire
The last reason why Gen. Ali cannot be sent packing is because he himself has shown that he dreads retirement like a plague. On not more than a single occasion, Gen. Ali has taken issue with anybody who tells him to retire and he has openly quarreled about it. Such protestations, experts say, are always indirect messages to the appointing authority that he shouldn’t touch him.
In 2016, for instance, Gen. Ali went into a full blown rant after a section of Ugandans called for him to be denied a ministerial post on account of his advanced age. An incensed Ali cursed the naysayers, reminding them that they will also grow old one day.
“It is God who decides to make us as old as we are, what is your problem of age, as if you are not going to be old?” Ali who is First Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament queried. Ali warned young people who found his age a problem that they should learn to live with the fact that the old men are not going anywhere. “You can’t just get tired of us, we brought this country to where it is now,” Ali ranted. At the time of this fury, Ali, then 77, was the second oldest member in cabinet, only younger than al Haji Kirunda Kivejinja who was 81. The other senior minister was Philemon Mateke who although looked the oldest of the lot, had an official age of 73. And at the time, analysts opined that the President kept the veteran politicians in cabinet to cushion him against being the eldest cabinet member. If that argument held any iota of reason, then it is evident that currently Ali is clear that Ali is playing the role alone; with Kivejinja dead and Mateke enjoying retirement at his home in Kisoro. We should not forget that after the death of Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, the President revealed that he wouldn’t have allowed him to be speaker if he knew he was sick. This proves that the President is not willing to assign ‘sick’ officials to do the strenuous cabinet work; thus making Gen. Ali a ‘special’ case.
Gen. Moses Ali Fact File
Born on April 5 1939, Gen. Moses Ali is the First Deputy Premier of Uganda and Deputy Leader of Government Business. He is aged 81 but many times takes issue with people who keep harping about his age. He actually made this discomfort known on the floor of parliament. He has been a minister in Museveni’s government for some time, occupying various key positions in the Office of the Prime Minister. He has also been the MP for East Moyo in Adjumani district which is his home town since 2011. A soldier by profession, Gen. Ali is also a lawyer having obtained a degree from Makerere University and also attended Law Development Center where he passed with a Diploma in legal practice to become an advocate. Prior to this, Gen. Ali had been in Gen. Idi Amin’s government and he participated properly in the coup against then President Milton Obote which brought Amin to power. He would soon be appointed as Minister for Finance where he allegedly amassed huge wealth to the extent that his master accused him of mismanaging the economy and the central Bank. Search engine-Wikipedia also says Ali survived an attempt on his life during Amin’s reign and it was revealed that he suspected that his rival Gen. Yousef Gowon had a hand in it. It was out of this situation that Ali fled on suspicion that his master wanted him dead.