Outwardly, government is selling the view that it’s pursuing reconciliation with General David Sejusa but behind the scenes, state and army officials are grappling with how to deal with the wayward officer.
It’s a catch-22 situation: be seen as too soft on him and risk more dissent in the army ranks be too harsh and you could win him more political support. When he fled the country last year after alleging a plot to assassinate senior government officials opposed to First Son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s future presidency, Gen David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza was declared an army deserter.
He became a pariah overnight, as the army moved to remove him from Parliament as one of its 10 MPs.
“Sejusa is already a deserter who made a lot of mistakes, and he will be handled according to the law,” President Museveni said in October last year.
Since his quiet return on December 14, government has been coy about the fate of Sejusa, a former coordinator of intelligence services, until Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze Bakireke brought the matter to the fore in Parliament.
During the prime minister’s question-and-answer session on December 17, Nambooze asked Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to explain how the government plans to deal with Sejusa. For a while, Rugunda seemed to have no answer. But after some thought, Rugunda told Parliament that government would pursue reconciliation.
“Government will do what it has always done to others like him [Sejusa] which is to reconcile… his case should be an indicator to anyone else living out of Uganda on pretext of insecurity that Uganda is our country and they are always welcome back home,” Rugunda said.
Reconciliation, The Observer has learnt, is an option adopted recently after Sejusa refused, during negotiations for his return, to heed aice from government officials to seek amnesty. According to the Amnesty Act 2000, amnesty is granted to Ugandans involved in acts of war in various parts of the country and for other connected purposes.
Section 2 of the Act, states that a person seeking amnesty shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any form of punishment. When Sejusa rejected amnesty, sources familiar with the negotiations said, government then explored the option of bringing charges against him, which would later be removed by a presidential pardon.
As Nambooze pinned Rugunda on whether government would arraign Sejusa before the General Court Martial on charges of desertion – some cabinet ministers were in the corridors of Parliament urging opposition MPs to slow down on pressuring government to clamp down on Sejusa.
“This is embarrassing for government it is exposing us that we have some people we can deal with and others who can’t be dealt with,” a minister reportedly told an opposition MP.
The Sejusa paradox, the minister said, has put the UPDF leadership in a tight spot. According to the source, if the army leadership is soft on Sejusa, it risks whipping up more rebellion within its ranks and if it cracks too hard, the errant general might get the political capital he needs to explore a presidential bid in 2016.
Desertion of an army is a capital offence, according to Section 146 of the UPDF Act 2005. According to the section: “A person subject to military law, who deserts the Defence Forces, commits an offence and is on conviction… .liable to suffer death or, in any other case, liable to life imprisonment.”
Prosecuting Sejusa, the minister said, requires the government to arrest him. The minister told our source that arresting Sejusa would brighten his political chances.
“The problem now is how the UPDF will deal with other officers who desert the army this case is likely to encourage more desertions,” the minister said. Hundreds of soldiers, according to media reports, have deserted the army over the years.
Asked for a comment today, the UPDF spokesman, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said: “Kitatta, don’t go far! Sejusa came back with the knowledge of government, I cannot go beyond that.” But Gen Aronda Nyakayirima, the former chief of defence forces and now minister for Internal Affairs, said in an interview today: that, “The UPDF operates institutionally that issue [Sejusa] is now with government, the army is not privy to anything. We really don’t know whether there was an agreement with the president.”
Source : The Observer