Only Truth Can Set Tinye ‘Free’

Ten years ago, General David Tinyefuza (now Sejusa) was in the news, after he apologized to President Museveni for earlier outbursts.

Ogen Kevin Aliro, then managing editor of The Weekly Observer, wrote this opinion on Sejusa on December 16, 2004. We republish Aliro’s article, days after Sejusa has returned to Uganda

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So Lt Gen David Tinyefuza apologises to President Museveni and confesses that he was ‘misled’ – even possessed – when he denounced the system and tried to leave the UPDF in 1997?

Here are Tinyefuza’s exact words as quoted in the papers:

“Mzee [Museveni], forgive me because I got aice from some people. It was as if I was possessed because I received aice from some circles but I later woke up to my senses and made a turn-around. I am prepared to work with you even more.”

The general’s belated public apology to Mr Museveni came on December 4 at Emmanuel cathedral, Rushere (Mbarara) as the president attended the wedding of Tinyefuza’s daughter. Miria Matembe Woman MP for Mbarara and former Ethics and Integrity minister, cannot believe that the general has no shame in claiming that he was ill- aised.

“Things are like [George Orwell’s] Animal Farm. The chicken used to come and say I have been misaised by so and so. Who was misaising Tinyefuza? He saw the wrong things and he still sees them,” Matembe said in an interview with The Weekly Observer.

Tinyefuza’s story is a very interesting one especially to the few ‘friends’ who remained ‘close’ to the once maverick general during his lowest moments in 1997. I feel personally insulted because Tinyefuza is lying about the kind of aice he received from ‘some circles’ – including myself. To the contrary, he often refused to take sensible aice. One night he spat back at me: “Do you think I do not know what I am doing?”

That was shortly after Tinyefuza lost the final court battle to government. His official military police guards were withdrawn and most of Tinyefuza’s ‘friends’ abandoned him. The general had instantly become a ‘political leper’ and an untouchable to anyone who still sought patronage from the system.

Even the few military friends who empathised with Tinyefuza did not dare go anywhere near his home in Kyengera. The one or two really daring ones only came by night. Tinyefuza felt completely ‘naked’ in terms of personal security. He was afraid ‘they’ would try to kill him in the night, especially now that the official bodyguards and arms had been withdrawn.

We moved quickly and improvised. A friend in Makindye helped us to mobilise several LDUs armed with AK47s, who we irregularly ‘deployed’ at Tinyefuza’s residence in Kyengera. Just in case. One night we sat with Tinyefuza by his swimming pool.

I drank wine and whisky. Tinyefuza initially refused to drink – but he later drank too. After midnight, we moved to the veranda. Tinyefuza asked me to do him one last favour – as a friend and someone who “has married our daughter”.

He wanted me to book a hall either at the Grand Imperial or any other downtown hotel for a press conference. He also wanted me to invite the journalists – local and international.

Why? I asked.

“Because I want to denounce Museveni. It is time the whole world came to know who Museveni really is… ”

I stopped the general in his tracks.

“You cannot do that now. This is 1997 and Museveni has just been elected president (in 1996) under a new constitution. He is in his first year. He is still very popular. You can’t denounce him now. You will get nothing. You will get headlines for a week or two, then what next? You will be forgotten – because you cannot take on Museveni now!” I counselled.

Tinyefuza – as if ‘possessed’ – barked at me: “What? You mean I do not know what I am doing? You… ” The situation was getting tricky – both of us had been drinking and were literally shouting at each other.

“Okay, okay,” I told the general. “If you really want the press conference, give me the money tomorrow and I shall organise it. But you won’t get anything beyond headlines for a week or two. Why don’t you wait around election time in 2001? Then you can denounce Museveni and maybe stand against him for president? That will be the right time… ”

Tinyefuza was seething with anger and pain. But we did not fight. Instead he retired to the main house. I slept in his guesthouse. I did not see Tinyefuza in the morning. When I called him later, he was now hesitant about the press conference.

But the general remained paranoid for several days. He kept saying ‘they’ were planning to kill him. ‘They’ were even tapping his phones. Some nights he would call me 10 or 20 times. He would demand to know where I was or why I was allowing ‘them’ to tap my phone and thus ‘spy’ on him in the process.

Once, I lost my temper and asked him why he kept calling me if he thought I was a ‘spy’ for the system that he had, in any case, helped to create. Tinyefuza apologized – apparently because he realised I was one of the few real friends he still had.

During those days, I came to learn about many sensitive things – good and bad – that happened between Museveni and his lieutenants like Tinyefuza during the NRA bush days and between the day they took power in January 1986 and 1996.

Some of Tinyefuza’s complaints were about legitimate national issues.

Some were really petty soldiering stuff – like Museveni ‘banning’ everyone else from having women in the bush – except, allegedly, for three top commanders. Tinyefuza said that violating that ‘ban’ was one of the reasons Museveni had arrested and detained him in the bush.

About the same time in 1997, General Salim Saleh started wooing Tinyefuza back into the fold. But Tinyefuza remained stubborn and suspicious even of Saleh. He told me that, among other things, Saleh had offered him a ‘capitulation’ package of Shs 800 million from the army veterans’ fund.

Saleh once spent the whole night at Tinyefuza’s house, begging him to accept to be rehabilitated. Saleh finally won and Tinyefuza capitulated. There are many other things that Tinyefuza told friends back then when he was angry and wounded.

In his anger, he remembered so many ugly things that had happened during the bush war and in the war in northern Uganda. Tinyefuza also complained about Museveni betraying allies and friends. In particular, he highlighted the arrest and detention of Lt Gen Moses Ali (now first deputy prime minister) after arms were allegedly ‘planted’ on his premises.

Some of the ‘revelations’ about the system were so sensitive I decided never to put them in print – and I shall forever honour that commitment to a former friend. But why do I revisit bits of the past now? It is because in his latest confession and apology to Museveni, Tinyefuza was so economical with the truth and is outright treacherous – betraying friends who gave him good aice that he often rejected.

It is of course good for Uganda that Tinyefuza and Museveni made up without spilling any blood. Tinyefuza must, however, accept full and personal responsibility for whatever happened.

It is only the whole truth that will set Tinyefuza completely free again.

The author was the founding managing director of The Weekly Observer. He died on November 12, 2005.

Source : The Observer

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