While serving in the UPDF, former spy chief David Sejusa (formerly Tinyefuza) helped opponents of President Museveni to fight his erstwhile leader’s “dictatorial tendencies,” the renegade general has confessed.
Speaking on Sunday, Gen Sejusa said his “struggle against Mr Museveni’s dictatorial tendencies dates back to the National Resistance Army (NRA) bush war of 1981-1986.”
Sejusa has spent 17 months exiled in the United Kingdom, and is now chairman of Free Uganda, a loose political platform largely composed of Ugandans in exile.
He spoke at the launch of the organisation’s website and online gazette. Sejusa fled last year, after demanding an investigation into an alleged plan to kill opponents of an alleged Museveni plan to install his son as successor. Then, he was the coordinator of intelligence services, but he now says he has consistently backed opponents of Museveni’s dictatorial tendencies.
Sejusa’s speech will be seen as an attempt to firmly position himself as a quiet voice of reform from within the National Resistance Movement. When Museveni faced the first challenge to his presidency through the ballot, Gen Sejusa says he pulled behind-the-scenes strings to help Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere to resign from cabinet and announce his presidential bid.
“What many may not know is that Dr Kawanga Ssemogerere was not ready yet because he had been threatened. I personally picked the late Kakyama Mayanja from his Lungujja home and together we went and picked Dr Kawanga from his Lubaga home in Late Kakyama [Abu Mayanja]’s Cross Country vehicle, and drove him to the place where he announced his resignation from NRM government as second deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs,” he wrote.
“Mr Museveni wanted to sack him first so that he goes with no political capital. At least I saved him from the Dr [Samson] Kisekka humiliation, and the type of humiliation that [former premier Amama] Mbabazi is now facing. He then declared his candidature against Museveni,” added the former army MP.
Sejusa says he decided to support a Museveni opponent after trying in vain to convince the president not to contest in that election but instead “avoid future problems” by allowing a non-military person to stand for president as a way of returning the country to civilian rule.
“I felt that the ideals for which I had fought and was shot twice during the war were being betrayed,” he says in the detailed 2,500-word speech, a copy of which he emailed to The Observer.
Asked to comment on Sejusa’s claims, Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere declined, saying he needed to first read the speech.
Opposition from within
Responding to what he described as “many revisionists” casting his opposition to Museveni in 1984 as being merely about a woman, Sejusa said his was “a struggle against not following systems, about nepotism, about dictatorial and blatant disregard of procedures and rules.”
Sejusa argues that the culture of lack of accountability in the bush is what laid the ground for “the degrading of the formal state and emergence of personal rule based on patronage, incredible corruption and actually, open subversion of the Constitution” that Ugandans have witnessed in the last 27 years of Museveni’s rule.
According to Sejusa, when the NRM took the “morally and politically wrong decision” to extend NRM rule without the election that was promised to Ugandans, he stood with Wasswa Ziritwawula to oppose the move. Sejusa does not explain how he “stood with” Ziritwawula, who took the principled decision to resign from the National Resistance Council after the NRM extended its rule beyond the initial four years.
According to Sejusa, when Museveni issued an order that only the then army commander, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, would speak in the NRC to present the army’s “collective position,” he objected. His argument was that the collective position taken had misrepresented what transpired at the meeting.
However, Museveni responded to his protests by saying he could either go to that NRC session and speak in favour of the decision or not attend at all. He chose not to attend. Sejusa says he also came under fire during the Constituent Assembly debates in 1994-5, when he opposed what he describes as Museveni’s open subversion against the constitution-making process.
“I used to warn my colleagues that what was happening would come back to haunt us. Many thought I was an alarmist,” he said. “When I supported Federo during [Constituent] Assembly, I was the only person from the government side to vote with the opposition. And then I wanted the opening up of political space, this time with Dr Besigye and Col Serwanga Lwanga, the threats against us were huge.”
While naming only Bidandi Ssali, Sejusa says that many of the people now leading opposition parties, who were still in NRM then, considered him a spoiler.
“I warned them then, as I am warning others now, that the danger that faces our country is real and the consequences will be dire,” he says.
Painting fresh picture
In his speech, the 59-year-old general attempts to cast his image in a different light from what the public has been fed with over the years. For instance, while Sejusa is seen as the mastermind of the scorched earth policy, a brutal move to rid the army of rebels, Sejusa says he exposed many evils during that war and opposed the use of IDP camps.
Sejusa says he also opposed the removal of term limits in 2005, but was forced to go to Parliament to vote – along with other army MPs who were studying at the Senior Command and Staff College, Kimaka at the time.
“There are many areas that we have been involved in to resist the dictatorship. The important point to note is that they are within the confines of the law. None is in contravention of the Constitution. Therefore, there was never any reason for me or any of my compatriots to flee our country and live in exile,” says the general.
Sejusa says that despite his exile, his group has registered a series of achievements within Uganda and in the diaspora. He is holding on to the conviction that “the people will ultimately win.”
FU’s achievements (according to Sejusa)
There has been:
1. The galvanisation of a united people-based mass liberation struggle, covering all areas and sectors in the country.
2. The ideological shift in the country towards a broad-based, multipronged approach with a vibrant debate on the ways and means to achieve liberation as provided for under the constitution of Uganda.
3. Diplomatic victories against the dictatorship, not only in the region but internationally. These are many and important but I will spell them out later.
4.Increased political awareness about the popular discontent in the country against the dictatorship.
5. The exposure of the glaring facts which show the inevitable collapse of the formal state and internal disintegration of NRM.
6. A new strategy of opposition forces building joint capacity irrespective of their historical configurations.
7. The agreement on the minimum political programme for the country to help shape a new Uganda. This is of course a continuing process but I must say we are on the right course.
Source : The Observer