By Hanning Mbabazi
Kampala: The Special Forces Command, the elite force which guards president Yoweri Museveni, has refuted allegations that its officers denied Maj. Gen. Kasirye Gwanga access to Serena Hotel during the State of the Nation address on Thursday.
Ever since the Thursday Presidential State of the nation address, there have been mixed reactions after word spread that SFC officer had barred Gen. Kasirye from attending the occasion. However, the SFC spokesperson Capt. Jimmy Omara said it is the General who instead declined entering the conference hall, denying allegations that the Force barred Gen. Kasirye from entering Serena Conference hall during the state of the nation address on Thursday because he had not been officially invited. Capt. Omara said “When Gen. Kasirye arrived at Serena main entrance, our officers wanted to help lead him to the conference hall but he gently declined, saying he preferred seating in the gardens because he had a pre-planned interview with one of the TV stations and that he had no business in the hall. It’s not true that our officers pushed him out. At Serena, our role was to simply screen and avoid anyone moving in with unwanted materials and not dealing with issues of protocol,” Omara said in a statement.
Who is Kasirye Ggwanga?
Kasirye Ggwanga, is a Ugandan senior military officer in the Uganda People’s Defense Force. He was previously incarcerated as a prisoner of war for 897 days, inside both Uganda and Tanzania. He was born in 1952, in Mubende district, to a father who was a hunter and farmer. Kasirye Ggwanga learned both skills and is still good at them. He attended Katakala Primary School, then studied at Kibuli Secondary School for his O-Level education. After completing Senior four, he joined the Uganda Army in 1972. Following boot camp and initial training, he was posted to Arua in the West Nile sub-region, as a map reader, serving in that capacity until 1977. In 1978, he was promoted to the position of artillery officer and the following year, he was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. In 1978, the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) invaded Uganda. In April they captured Kampala and deposed Idi Amin. Kasirye Ggwanga surrendered and was taken to Tanga, Tanzania, as a prisoner of war number 17341.
In June 1980, President Godfrey Binayisa negotiated the return of political prisoners to Uganda. They were first housed at Maluku Prison in Mbale District. Later, they were moved to Kirinya Prison, Jinja district. On 7 October 1981, Kasirye Ggwanga was in the first batch to be released. Three months after Kasirye Ggwanga’s release, the Uganda Freedom Army (UFA) rebels led by Andrew Kayiira attacked the army barracks at Mengo Lubiri in Kampala. The government in power at the time, led by Milton Obote of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) mistakenly thought that the recently released prisoners (former Idi Amin soldiers) were involved in the attack. Kasirye Ggwanga was placed on the “wanted list”. He went underground. His elder brother, Lieutenant James Kasirye, a military pilot then based at Nakasongola Military Air Base was arrested and tortured, then killed when he refused to reveal where his brother Kasirye Gwanga was hiding. To avenge the killing of his brother, Kasirye Ggwanga joined the UFA rebels, then about 650 in number. This group operated in the Mawokota and Mubende areas in Buganda. In 1985, he left UFA and joined Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s National Resistance Army, which captured power in January 1986. During the drive to capture Kampala, Kasirye Ggwanga commanded a 120mm artillery unit.
Between 1986 and 2005, he served in several roles including as the LC5 chairman for Mubende district and as the director of stores in the UPDF. On 31 January 2005, he was retired from the UPDF at the rank of Brigadier. However, after three months on the outside he returned to the military and asked to be re-instated. The UPDF Commander-in-chief allowed him to rejoin on a renewable contract of five years. In March 2018, Kasirye Ggwanga was promoted from the rank of Brigadier to that of Major General, in a promotions exercise involving 1,384 men and women of the UPDF. He was also officially retired from the Uganda military, in 2018. Kasirye Ggwanga is a married father. He is a commercial farmer and owns two farms; one in Mubende district, and another in Mukono district which measures 200 acres (0.81 km2) which he refers to as his Camp David.