Untold Story – How Mbabazi Pleaded to Keep Guards [analysis]

Soldiers storm Amama Mbabazi’s home to disarm his guards last year

On the afternoon of September 25 last year, as soldiers searched his home for guns, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi threatened, pleaded, and then cajoled.

As the army moved to disarm his guards, army sources have told us, the Kinkizi West MP telephoned President Museveni, who was attending the UN General Assembly in New York.

Mbabazi, according to these sources, wanted the president to call off the operation which was led by Brig Leo Kyanda, the chief of staff of the Land Forces.

In those frantic moments before he could get hold of the president, Mbabazi warned Kyanda and his men not to go ahead until he got Museveni’s final word.

“You will be making a big mistake, Kyanda,” Mbabazi reportedly said, according to our sources, privy to the conversation between the two men on that day.

At this stage, Kyanda had already set up camp at Mbabazi’s residence in Kololo while Mbabazi was reportedly still holed up at parliament. Later, Mbabazi got through to the president and stated his case. Our sources told us that when Mbabazi talked to Kyanda later, he painted a picture that the president was not aware of the operation.

“Why can’t you wait until the president comes back?” Mbabazi reportedly told Kyanda.

When Kyanda refused to relent, Mbabazi asked for at least two days to sort out a few things. But Kyanda could have none of it.

“For me, I am working on the instructions of Gen [Katumba] Wamala [the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF)]. He is the only one who can order me to stop the operation,” Kyanda told Mbabazi, according to our sources.

TRIED AND FAILED

“Let me talk to Katumba,” Mbabazi then suggested. But Mbabazi tried and failed to reach Katumba on phone.

Frustrated with Katumba not picking his calls, Mbabazi then suggested that Kyanda calls the CDF on phone and explains his (Mbabazi’s) predicament. Kyanda told him, according to our sources, that it was not for him to state his [Mbabazi’s] case. He said his job was to carry out the CDF’s instructions.

Kyanda then told Mbabazi that “negotiations” were over because he was supposed to execute the assignment within a limited time. As he got off the phone, he motioned his boys to proceed with the operation.

Brig Leo Kyanda (C) then overseeing the ‘operation’ at Mbabazi’s home

We could not get Gen Katumba to verify this account. He could not be reached on his known phone numbers yesterday. We have been told that he spent most of the day at State House attending the commissioning of infantry officer cadets and air force pilot cadets. Mbabazi, too, did not pick or return our calls.

On his part, Kyanda, through an aide, declined to comment. Much as the dramatic withdrawal of Mbabazi’s guards was widely publicized by the media last year, the back wheeling, the frantic bargaining and the behind-the-scenes story of the operation has not been told in detail, until now.

The details help put the political fallout between Museveni and Mbabazi into another perspective. As the two former allies drifted apart and following talk of Mbabazi’s presidential ambition, Museveni wanted to prove that he was still in charge.

THE OPERATION

The operation was largely carried out by regular UPDF soldiers and personnel from military police. There were also personnel from the police’s VIP protection unit and paratroopers from the Special Forces Command (SFC).

Before Kyanda gained entry into Mbabazi’s compound, paratroopers had been placed on the ready to scale the wall if there was any resistance. There was minimal resistance. Initially, Jacqueline, Mbabazi’s wife, said she had not been informed about the exercise and instructed one of the guards, Ahmed Baluku, not to allow anyone in.

With some journalists in tow, Kyanda and his men forced their way in and immediately apprehended Baluku, for disrespecting army orders. He was led away to a waiting pickup truck as other soldiers continued with the operation. Baluku would later be questioned at Bombo barracks.

Kyanda then sent a vehicle to pick up the soldiers who were moving with Mbabazi. Mbabazi had initially protested the move, citing personal security. Kyanda told Mbabazi that for the time being, his driver Sam Matovu, a WOII, would act as his sole guard.

Our source told us that contrary to earlier reports that Mbabazi had 10 soldiers at home, the number was 15. At the time of the operation, another five were with him and an unspecified number were stationed at his rural home in Kihiihi. After the guards had signed out and handed in their equipment, the verification process of the equipment started.

Kyanda ticked off the checklist of the cache of equipment and weapons that had to be handed over to ensure that they tallied with those that were supplied. At some point, when there was a disagreement over the number of weapons turned in, Kyanda suggested that they search the entire house.

Jacqueline and her daughter Nina Mbabazi Rukikaire protested. They said everything that belonged to the army had been turned over. What remained in Mbabazi’s possession were private firearms which are licensed.

The duo was, however, overpowered. Using specialized weapon detectors, they scanned all the rooms, including the ceiling to ensure that no army weapon stayed behind. Yet it was the search of Mbabazi’s bedroom that elicited drama. Jacqueline, according to our sources, first refused to open the bedroom door, arguing that it would amount to gross abuse of their privacy. But the soldiers said they needed to check everywhere.

THE BEDROOM SEARCH

They threatened to break the door. Jacqueline gave in and led them into her bedroom. As they searched every corner of her bedroom, she moved with them, inch by inch. Occasionally, she protested the manner in which her property was being handled, especially when one of the soldiers turned over the mattress. They insisted that she opens the wardrobe or they break into it. She relented.

At about 7:30pm, Mbabazi arrived at the scene. Seated in the co-driver’s seat, he first lowered the window of his car halfway, scanning around the area. Kyanda moved over to the car and the two started talking. Mbabazi reportedly told him that he was not happy with the way he had been treated. The presence of the media in particular had really rattled him.

In the midst of their talk, a TV journalist emerged and captured some footage of the two. Uneasy with the attention, Mbabazi pulled up the window and drove inside. Kyanda, too, got into his car and left.

The raid at the Kololo house, which marked a new low in the relationship between the two comrades (Mbabazi and Museveni), happened one week after Mbabazi had been relieved of his duties as prime minister. He would lose his other job as NRM secretary general three weeks later.

Source : The Observer

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