ARMY RESHUFFLES: How Will Gen Angina Be Remembered
By John V Sserwaniko
Until this week defense reshuffle, Charles Angina was the Deputy Chief of Defense Forces (CDF). Knowledgeable sources say the very prayerful General cordially worked with his boss CDF Katumba Wamala. As DCDF, Angina busied himself frequently visiting army installations talking to soldiers acquainting himself with their welfare concerns.
He would regularly share his findings with colleagues in top management meetings.
“He also liked routinely assessing the combat readiness of the forces within and outside Uganda in Central African Republic, South Sudan and even Somalia,” the source said.
It’s also true Angina’s simplicity made it easy for many ordinary soldiers to always confide in him personal problems. Many went to him for counseling and advice.
His undisguised love for prayer made for him enemies as critics saw him as turning the army office into a spiritual center of sorts.
“He is deeply spiritual and likes prayer. If he isn’t on duty at office or abroad, you will find him in his house in Kyambogo fasting and praying. He believes prayer is the best way to stabilize institutions,” said one of the many insiders we talked to for this article.
His dad died but mum lives in Magamaga in Busoga where Angina built for her. Angina regularly attends fellowship with friends at a house in Luzira where other officers like Ondoga also converge for spiritual nourishment.
The man from Serere also despises material things the very reason he owns no house in Kampala. The Kyambogo property where he stays with his spouse and kids is rented for him by the military. His only property is in Mbale which he bought from the Custodian Board.
Socially he has deep roots in Mbale where his father worked as a prisons officer. In Teso he belongs to a small community of Bakenyi which is always discriminated and despised by the mainstream Itesots. The Bakenyi famously engaged in fishing and lived on water areas of present day Serere district.
His wife is a Gishu from Mbale but has two children from his original marriage to an Iteso woman. His wife’s father was late Mukhana. Angina is also related to Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Mutebile because his wife’s mum was Mutebile’s sister.
As a young private, Angina was mentored by NRA legendary fighter/commander Chefe Ali who recruited him while serving as NRA’s Chief of Staff.
Angina, who went to school in Mbale, originally belonged to UNLA of Obote and was sympathetic to a faction of Obote loyalists that resisted Okello Lutwa even after the 1985 coup. This hardliners group was patronized by Col William Omaria.
Some remnants of this group even tried to fight NRA that eventually ousted Lutwa. It was in the midst of this confusion that Chefe Ali reached out and persuaded a number of these young UNLA officers to embrace NRA. Angina, who joined UNLA in 1984, had just returned from a Cadet course in Tanzania and his first army assignment was effectively under NRA closely supervised by Chefe Ali who first made him his IO (Intelligence Officer).
However, many Itesots hated him seeing his embracing of NRA as betrayal. Chefe Ali used younger Angina to lure many Itesot fighters to abandon groups like Peter Otai’s UPA to embrace Museveni’s nascent NRA. Musa Ecweru was among the many he recruited from rebel ranks to NRA.
This decimated the rebellion and initially made Angina hated by many conservatives in Teso community.
Angina, who got born again at a young age, has had a well accomplished army career notwithstanding the original hostility by Teso elders who loathed his soft spot for NRA.
For many Museveni years, the Itesots saw Angina as the highest ranking army officer from their place only 2nd to Gen Jeje Odong.
Even when he is officially barred, Angina has always been politically very engaged doing Museveni’s clandestine political errands.
Sometimes he would initiate his own political activities widely campaigning for Museveni, bolstering NRM teams, in parts of Teso and Bugisu.
“There was always a vacuum as the political heavyweights from these areas would primarily be campaigning for themselves. Angina always made use of the army logistics to fill the gap,” said a source.
He also partly got into problems after being accused of being the undeclared spy that would report to Museveni some of the Teso colleagues whose loyalty was doubted as in between JPAM and Museveni.
His reports resulted in some Ministers being identified and isolated resulting into political defeats in February 2016 elections. Some of these returned to haunt him in the subsequent defense elections of UPDF MPs whereby the much targeted Angina narrowly lost to newcomer Felix Kulaigye. His supporters blamed his humiliating defeat by Kulaigye on a campaign mounted by Jessica Alupo’s supporters and on the perceived corrupt in the Defense Ministry who always felt incorruptible Angina was reporting their deals to the President.
He conceded defeat and moved on. His best allies in Teso include Bukedea MP Anita Among and Parliamentary PR Director Chris Obore.
Broadly speaking, he has served the military in the following ways: When Chefe Ali, whom he served as IO left for other assignments in late 1980s, Angina stayed in Gulu serving as Brigade Commander.
Angina after Gulu was deployed in Kasese for anti-ADF operations. This was in mid 1990s. He was in charge when the Kichwamba massacre happened. Gen James Kazini, who had always had issues with his incorruptibility, rode on this to paint to the CiC as incompetent.
Kazini wondered why a serious commander wouldn’t prevent Kichwamba but Angina defended himself saying he was in Kampala attending to other high command errands.
The row with Kazini vanquished Angina for some time and he was put on Katebe for months until Museveni deployed him to DRC as a sector commander.
DRC is one mission Kazini closely supervised and was subsequently involved in directly. Inevitably Angina’s differences with Kazini only escalated.
Angina survived several assassination attempts blamed on the Kazini camp. There was the issue of looting timber and other natural resources in DRC.
Angina always reprimanded his men insisting the mission was ADF and not looting. This angered Kazini (eventually indicted in UN report) and Angina’s problems only escalated.
Besides the assassination rumors, Kazini was daily reporting him to Museveni as a bad operations commander. Feeling very isolated, Angina fled the DRC frontline and hid in his house in Mbale.
While there he linked up with childhood friend Deo Matsanga, a Museveni political activist, who linked him to James Wapakabulo. He had tried to reach Museveni through Mukula and Jeje Odong to report the Kazini mistreatment but the duo didn’t help him enough.
Wapa rang Museveni straight away saying “I have a commander here who badly wants to see you to share some information regarding the Congo operation.”
Museveni immediately granted the meeting and it’s said the intelligence he got from Angina partly contributed to Kazini’s eventual knifing from the office of Army Commander and eventual investigation by a committee that had Mbabazi, Sejusa and others over improper conduct.
For some time Angina refused to return to DRC claiming Kazini’s people would kill him. As he sort out Kazini, Museveni deployed Angina to Tanzania and later US as military attaché.
On return from US, Angina was made Chief of Staff after which he became Chairman Court Martial. From court martial he was re-appointed Chief of Staff in 2012.
Meanwhile he was also UPDF MP. In May 2013 he benefited from the dust Sejusa raised prompting Museveni to make a haste army reshuffle which saw Katumba Wamala become CDF deputized by Angina.
Angina replaced Gen Ivan Koreta. This has been Angina’s station until this week reshufle that saw him deployed as Gen Saleh’s deputy in OWC.
He has since gracefully taken the new assignment and close acquaintances say he is ready to work with enthusiasm like never before. Angina has also remarkably been close to Tamale Mirundi whom he would occasionally prompt to appear on Teso radios to detoxicate opposition propaganda there including in 2016 elections when Angina and others had to work real hard to prevent Besigye from sweeping this politically very volatile region.