The shocking news of Gen Aronda’s death must have jolted everyone that new him and I was no exception. Even though, as a medical doctor, I am familiar with the phenomenon of sudden death, when it happens to someone you know well, it’s quite startling.
I know how much worse it must be for those who lived and worked closely with the General. My thoughts and sympathy especially go to his family, relatives, workmates and close friends.
I have known Gen Aronda since mid 1982, when we met in Mondlane Unit of the National Resistance Army (NRA). The Unit was then situated at Kitemamasanga, near Semuto, about 45 km north of Kampala.
The young and slender man that I met then had just completed his university degree and his demeanour has remained the same till his passing. He was soft-spoken, humble, rather shy, but with steely determination.
I undertook my first military training with Gen Aronda and other recruits, mainly, his colleagues from Makerere University. These included Maj Gen Benon Biraro and several others that have since passed on.
Our instructors were especially rough with us. They had a perception that “intellectuals”, as our type was referred to, were too “soft” and needed extra hardening to prepare us for the bush war life. Gen Aronda took all the maltreatment with grace, while some of the colleagues tempers boiled over.
The tough and often dire times of the bush war had turned us into blood brothers and sisters. Many comrades succumbed to the tough times and some barely scrapped through those times. Gen Aronda’s steely determination brought him to the end of the war in “one piece”.
I trained with Gen Aronda again in 1990, when we did our Officers’ Basic Course (OBC) in Bombo. The six-month course, under Tanzanian (TPDF) instructors, was even much tougher than our bush training. Once again, Gen Aronda withstood the tough conditions and performed very well.
Since my retirement from the UPDF in 2000, I didn’t have much interaction with Gen Aronda. Serving military officers are generally very uncomfortable, even scared, to be seen talking to political opposition leaders of my type! This is because of the fear of being “misunderstood” to be sympathetic to their views.
Whenever I’ve chanced into Gen Aronda, he was polite and thoughtful in whatever he said. He has been full of life and was still in the prime years of his life. He was highly disciplined in his personal life.
In most of our Ugandan cultures, every death causes relatives and friends to speculate on where the evil hand came from. There is a saying in Ruhororo that “Tihaine omufu atarogwa”, meaning that every dead person was bewitched.
Even in the best of times, sudden death raises strong suspicion of possible foul play. Yet, Gen Aronda’s death happened in times that cannot be remotely considered as good. It occurred against a background of many suspicious deaths of high-ranking government and military officials.
It also happened against a background of a specific warning that his life could be in eminent danger. The concerns spelt out in the Gen Sejusa’s letter, which triggered serious fallout in government security circles cannot be ignored, when such a death occurs.
It’s prudent that all possible angles relevant to the inevitable investigation into the cause and circumstances surrounding Gen Aronda’s death are explored. This is important for the family, the government and the country at large. It’s wrong to hush up any information that may have relevance to establishing the cause of death.
Gen Aronda was a fine officer and a gentleman, who, like a number of his colleagues, was serving in a very difficult and nefarious environment. He has endeavoured to serve his country well. At the time of his death, he had stuck his head out to push back the notorious illegal militia of Maj (rtd) Kakooza Mutale.
My heartfelt condolences go the widow and children, the family members, relatives, the NRA/UPDF comrades and all friends.
I pray that the Almighty God rests his soul in eternal peace. AMEN.