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My journey to where I currently am – Col. Edith Nakalema

By An Executive Editor

Former Head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Col. Edith Nakalema, has God to credit for who is today.

From being ridden on a bicycle (by her father) to school to being one of the most powerful personalities in the Country.  

Certainly, the senior army officer is not where she is by mere coincidence but through fearlessness, discipline, flexibility, reliability, courage, consistency and above all, trusting and believing in her God.

In 1997, Nakalema set out to join the Revenue Protection Service.

Almost six months in training and nearing pass – out, she opted out.

“I got a dream. I was walking among wolves (that wanted to snatch me from all sides) but as I kept moving forward, others moved away and some turned into sheep and followed me until we stepped on a red carpet and entered such a big golden House I had never seen in the physical. I realized that the Lord was calling me to serve with a weapon,” Col. Nakalema recalls her switch from the Protection Service to the UPDF. “So, I went to my friend who is now the CG of URA John Musinguzi. A dear brother in the Lord. I told him (Singu), I am not going to RPS. The Lord has called me to join the army. That was in 1997. Those days those that joined the army were looked at as socially unfit. Life failures. But I had known the Lord and the Lord had spoken to me.”

While Nakalema says Musinguzi did not welcome her decision, she pursued her dream.

“John didn’t take in a good faith but I said the Lord spoke. He left it at that. My colleagues thought I had been promised something special in the army,” Nakalema says.

Against the above background, Nakalema joined the UPDF.

“I finished the officer Cadet course and I was the first Internal Auditor who was in uniform. A few of us who were (I think the best in training) were taken to the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU) – that time. I was the first Internal Auditor who was a soldier. Auditing was always left for civilians from the Ministry of Defense. I was the first to be given that responsibility,” Nakalema says.

A 2nd Lt auditing senior officers in their Units, Nakalema says “the threat started that very time.”

“So, for me, my first deployment actually came with threats but I was called to move through hardships. Through those that are ready to kill,” Nakalema told a congregation at St. Francis Chapel, Makerere on October 31, 2021 while speaking on a topic: “Christ’s all time soldier: Occupy till I come.”

Col. Nakalema adds that the “Threats became many and the Commander of the PPU gave me two guards.”

“Because I was auditing and revealing what had gone wrong. Revealing what was stolen in the PPU. Imagine the threats from people very senior to you and you leave with them in the barracks but we were still sharing a room with fellow 2nd Lieutenants (we were 4) and then this was me with the threat and I had been given two escorts and I was moving on foot. I didn’t have a car. I had not even dreamt of having a car. So, whenever I would be moving in the barracks, I would be moving in between two armed guards. So, I looked like a prisoner. I went to the Commander and said Sir, I think I can’t afford to walk like a prisoner. I have a god who assured me of protection. Leave the soldiers. I will be protected. He was hesitant but I refused the soldiers. He left me and the Lord protected me,” Col. Nakalema narrated.

After years in audit, Col. Nakalema was promoted to Head Finance in the Special Forces Command (SFC).

“I was promoted later to Head Finance. I headed Finance for 13 years until I was appointed Director Finance in the SFC (Special Forces Command). As the Head of Finance of the Presidential Guard Brigade, there were recruits that didn’t complete their course because of the war that was still on-going in Northern Uganda. So, we had 18 million that was supposed to buy their food. I chose to take this money in a taxi back to the headquarters of the arm in Bombo. The money was a lot. 18 million in 2001 was like maybe a billion today. I took it with me when I was earning 220, 000 that time as a Second Lieutenant. I took back the money. I got my receipt and I sat comfortably aware that I had done the right thing. Later, someone started an investigation without asking where the money had gone and that gave me an opportunity to be known by His Excellency the President that I was the first one to take back that whole cash using my little transport in a taxi. That risk of carrying that money which was a lot back to the coffers,” says Col. Nakalema.

Col. Nakalema says that she has been fighting corruption as an all-time Christ’s soldier.  

“That (returning the money) gave me an opportunity to be known by the top leadership including the President and in 2013 that is when the President appointed me as his Senior Private Secretary. I was doing everything. Speeches, programme, directives and this was me who had not trained to do any secretarial work. So, starting to write the speech of the President when you had not even accessed a lot of information. So, God lifted me to that level and the President himself told me that he had brought me to his office because of my degree of salvation and he told me, clean my office with your degree of salvation,” Col. Nakalema says.

With that trust, Col. Nakalema says, “the Lord lifted me and gave me good exposure.”

“I have been to the best places on this earth. I have been with all Presidents including the Pope. The Lord has put me to the levels I could never have imagined, including giving my parents some of the things I could not have if they had not taught us to be faithful, to trust in God and to work hard,” recalls Col. Nakalema.  

According to Col. Nakalema, their home had a Motto.

“Our Motto at home was always, Jesus alone is enough for you. I was ridden on a bicycle to school all through. Our father would ride me singing.”

In August 2014, the President asked to visit Col. Nakalema’s parents to thank them for raising well.

“He asked about my parents. Where they live. Who they are and I told him and he told me, he wanted to visit them to thank them for my morals. I wasn’t earning a salary (as Senior Private Secretary) because I am a soldier. I was getting any privileges of the SPS because the one who was supposed to get them was there but was doing nothing. When the President chose to go and visit my parents, it was the work of the State House Controller to ensure that where the President was going to visit was moderate. Ensuring that the President will reach a place that is presentable. So, my parents were there looking at everything being worked on, including digging the road where the convoy was to pass up to the compound. The Lord did it. When you trust God, when you remain focused, the Lord will give you everything,” the former Senior Private Secretary to the President says, quoting a number of scriptures including 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Ephesians 6: 10-18, Joel 2: 7 & 8 and 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Col. Nakalema says she got saved at 14 years old and that the “Lord has been faithful.”

Col. Nakalema is married to Lt. Col. Jimmy Asizua, a man she met in the aborted training of the revenue Protection Services.

“And that’s how I met my husband who comes from Arua. I am a very balanced Ugandan. My mother comes from Ankole. My father hails from Buganda,” Col. Nakalema says proudly. They have three children.

Despite going to third world schools and finally to Kings College – London in 2017 for her Masters in Defense Studies, Col. Nakalema says “When you trust God, when you remain focused, the Lord will give you everything.”

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