Army (NRA) struggle, Lt. Gen. Pecos Kutesa died at the age of 65. He was a Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) man to the core. Kutesa, who died on August 17 in an Indian hospital, was always referred to as a valiant soldier and patriot.
His death, which came just two weeks after he was discharged from the army, seemed to imply that he could not be separated from the UPDF. Kutesa, on the other hand, had petitioned for retirement years before, after becoming disillusioned with an institution he cherished.
Tributes to a man characterized as a gentleman, compassionate, scholarly, and whose name is carved in the annals of Ugandan history flooded in from across the political divide, civil society, and the general public.
“An exceptional soldier, a bookmaker, and a generally straightforward officer has retired.” Dr. Kizza Besigye, Col. (Rtd), said of Kutesa, with whom he fought in the five-year NRA conflict.
Uganda’s Defence Attaché to Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, Maj. Gen. Moses Rwakitarate, described the dead General as a brilliant fighter and an intellectual soldier. Gen. Pecos Kutesa’s memoirs, Uganda’s Revolution 1979-1986: How I Saw It, are possibly his most well-known works. It’s a gripping story of the war that propelled the NRA to power under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni.
The book has received wonderful reviews since its publication in 2005, and it is generally recommended for everyone interested in learning more about one of Uganda’s most important historical events.
In 1979, Kutesa joined the army after Museveni recruited him to join the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA). Idi Amin’s government was crumbling, and Kutesa felt compelled to be a part of something bigger than himself. He and other candidates were sent to the National Leadership Academy in Monduli, Tanzania, for military training. The harsh conditions under which Tanzanian military instructors taught, according to Kutesa, lay the groundwork for his ambition to take part in a liberation struggle in Uganda.
Kutesa was an ADC to rebel leader Museveni in the early stages of the war, and he had previously served in a similar capacity during Prof. Yusuf Lule’s brief tenure after Amin’s fall.
Kutesa distinguished himself as a young officer in engagements at Kakiri and in general fighting and warfare. During the second Obote government, Kutesa led the 1st battalion in offensives against the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) in Kabamba, Masindi, and Hoima. The year was 1983, and the NRA was making significant progress against government forces.
Kutesa was assigned as the first Fourth Division Commander based in Gulu when the NRA guerillas triumphed in 1986. He was only 30 years old at the time. This was Kutesa’s final major operational deployment, and he admitted that he preferred his time as a guerrilla to his time as a professional soldier. In his book, he writes, “On a personal level, my participation in post-1986 events has not been as dramatic as any role in the armed fight from 1979 to 1986.”
Kutesa was born in the Lyantonde district of Kabula in 1956. Between 1971 through 1975, he attended Masaka Secondary School for his O and A Levels. After graduating from high school, he immediately joined the anti-Amin resistance and received his first military training at Monduli in 1979. After completing the nine-month training, he was assigned to the UNLA’s Nakasongola Military Training School as a regimental teacher. However, in 1981, he left the UNLA and joined the NRA.
Following the war, the NRA began the process of transitioning from a guerilla army to a professional army. In 1990, Kutesa was assigned to the Armed Forces Staff College in Ghana for a training course.
Kutesa, a political activist, took leave from the army in 1994 and was elected as a Constituent Assembly member for Kabula County to participate in the constitution-making process. He returned to the army in 1996, dissatisfied with the intrigue of politics, and was posted as Chief of Recruitment and Training. He studied psychology at Makerere University from 1998 to 2001, which he described as “intellectually satisfying and rejuvenating” after years of receiving and carrying out commands in the military.
Kutesa’s last assignment before retiring was as Chief of Doctrine Synthesis and Development. He also spent ten years as an army Member of Parliament. Dorah, his wife, and their children survive him.