James Kazini

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Major General James Kazini (1957–2009) was a Ugandan Army officer. Between 2001 and 2003, he served as Commander of the UPDF, a position that is now known as the Chief of Defence Forces of Uganda, the highest military position within the Uganda People's Defense Force.


He was born in 1957 in the Basongora ethnic group, in Kasese District, western Uganda.[1] He did not attain much formal education. Prior to 1984, Kazini was a member of the Uganda National Rescue Front, a rebel group then headed by General Moses Ali, which was based in West Nile, in northwestern Uganda. Around 1984 he left that group and joined the National Resistance Army, headed by Yoweri Museveni, the current president of Uganda, as an enlisted soldier.[2]

Military career[edit]

Over the years, he rose through the ranks; Private, Sergeant, Cadet Officer. During that time, he became the head of General Salim Saleh's body guards. In 1987, he became a commissioned officer at the rank of Captain. In 1989 he was promoted to Major and made the commander of the military police. In 1991 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed Commander of Masaka Mechanised Regiment to replace Colonel Kizza Besigye. In 1995 he was sent to West Nile to fight the General Ali Bamuze's West Nile Rescue Front.

In 1996 he was promoted to Colonel and appointed Deputy Divisional Commander of the Fourth Division of the UPDF, based in Gulu. This appointment caused a rift between the then commander of the Fourth Division, Brigadier Chefe Ali (R.I.P.) and Kazini. Ultimately Chefe was made Chief of Staff of the UPDF and was transferred to Bombo Army Headquarters and Kazini became full Commander of the Fourth Division. In March 1998, Kazini was deployed to Kasese District to the fight the Allied Democratic Front rebels.

In 1999 was promoted to Brigadier and was appointed Chief of Staff of the UPDF. He was also named Commander of Operation Safe Haven in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2000, after two clashes between the armies of Rwanda and Uganda in Kisangani (1999 and 2000), Kazini was recalled from the Congo.

In 2001, he was promoted to Major General and appointed Commander of the Army. He was dropped as army commander in 2003 and was replaced by General Aronda Nyakairima. In 2005, the position was renamed Chief of Defence Forces, a move that also saw the creation of other positions including:[3]


In December 2003, President Yoweri Museveni, the Commander in Chief of the UPDF, committed Kazini and a dozen senior officers to the General Court Martial on various charges, especially creation and maintenance of "ghost" soldiers on the army payroll. Others included Brigadier Nakibus Lakara (former Chief of Staff), Brigadier Henry Tumukunde (former director general of the Internal Security Organization) and Brigadier Andrew Guti, who was later pardoned and promoted. Guti, now a Lieutenant General, is the Force Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

On 27 March 2008, when the General Court Martial under Lieutenant General Ivan Koreta sentenced him to three years in jail for causing financial loss of Shs60 million (approximately US$30,000), Kazini wept. Kazini and others, still on trial, allegedly maintained 24,000 fictitious names on the army payroll which resulted in loss of Shs600 billion (approximately US$300 million) over 13 years. He later challenged the sentence in the Constitutional Court, arguing that the Court Martial had no jurisdiction to hear the case but he recently lost the appeal. He had lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court and the case was due for hearing.[5]

Military leadership[edit]

One of the attributes that served him well on his rise to the top in the UPDF is his reputation as a fearless soldier, often personally leading his soldiers into battle on the front-lines. The other attribute was his total commitment to the Commander in Chief and the UPDF. Museveni is reported to have repeatedly ignored complaints about Kazini's limited formal education. Over the years, he repeatedly promoted him and gave him increasing security and defence responsibilities.[6]

He personally led the UPDF in Operation Iron Fist against the Lord's Resistance Army from 2002–2003. He was suspended by President Museveni and stated that he was being sent to a war college, but it was widely suspected that he was suspended after allegations by the United Nations and the Rwandan government that Kazini was plundering resources from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Ituri conflict. He was replaced by General Edward Katumba Wamala, at that time a Major General, as Commander of the UPDF in the Congo. Kazini had precipitated the Ituri conflict when he ignored the protests of the RCD-K and appointed a Hema as governor of the re-created Kibali-Ituri Province.


On the morning of Tuesday 10 November 2009, sometime around 6AM local time, Major General James Kazini died at the home of his girlfriend, in the Kampala suburb of Namuwongo after being struck on the head with a metal pipe, during a domestic brawl. At the time of his death James Kazini was 52 years old.[7] His alleged killer, 28-year-old Lydia Draru, who also goes by several different aliases, was arrested, presented before a magistrate and remanded to jail, pending trial for capital murder.[8] Kazini leaves behind five children, four daughters and one son; with two different women. His alleged killer did not have a child with him.[9] Lydia Draru was tried and convicted of murder. In 2011, she was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. She is currently serving her sentence at Luzira Maximum Security Prison.[10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Jeje Odongo
Commander of Uganda People's Defence Force
Succeeded by
Aronda Nyakairima
As Chief of Defense Forces of Uganda