24 January 2013

Uganda: Lawmakers Blast Museveni, Aronda Over Coup Talk

On Wednesday, the army made a bold announcement; it would take over in the face of bad politics.

The announcement has not only exposed the major strains in the relationship between the ruling Government and Parliament but has attracted an equally bold response.

Rujumbura County MP Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi's response was tempered with caution but was clear; no situation prevailing in Uganda today warrants an army takeover. Muhwezi, who fought in the 1981-1986 Luweero bush war said; "I don't know the context [under which Gen Aronda made the remarks of military takeover]. I don't think anybody in Uganda has said that we want the army to take-over," Muhwezi said.

"They can only come in when there is a breakdown in law and order, and there is no situation that warrants the army to come in."

Muhwezi added: "In 1981, the situation was bad. That is why I took up arms."

Another retired army officer and the Nyabushozi MP Col Fred Mwesigye told The Observer that the media could have misconstrued Gen Aronda Nyakairima's statement, but urged politicians not to misuse their platform. "God has given us this platform ... to speak and spread the message of love amongst people but we should not use the platform to spread lies and confusion," he said.

Aruu MP Samuel Odonga Otto said; "I have been reflecting on the statement made by the president that the army can take over--it all comes down to one thing: Museveni doesn't believe in separation of powers."

"The ultimate authority is the power of the people. We are waiting to see that and as civilians, we are ready to defend the constitution as article three of the constitution provides. The army should not be commanded to do wrong things," he said.

Nyakairima told a news conference this week that the army would not allow bad politics to take Uganda back into turmoil. His remarks come a week after defence minister Crispus Kiyonga had warned that there was an option for the army to intervene if MPs continue not showing seriousness that they can solve the country's problems.

MPs argue that the "military takeover" rhetoric has its origins in a number of activities leading up to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga calling a special session to debate oil matters. The session had dire repercussions for the state: documents were tabled implicating three cabinet ministers in receiving bribes from oil companies.

According to Odonga Otto, shortly after that controversial special session on oil, Museveni was forced to tell the NRM caucus that if they cut the ministry of Defence budget to improve the health sector, this would annoy the army. Several MPs we spoke too dismissed the latest statements as signs of the government's weaknesses.

"The comments show admission of ideological failure on the part of the people who claim to have reclaimed this country in 1986," said Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga. "The only outcome should be regime change."

Dokolo MP Felix Okot Ogong was also unimpressed with the coup talk.

"They should stop hiding their heads under the sun. Even, the [Muammar] Gaddaffis and Hosni Mubarak had the army on their side, but they are no more. They should just go to hell. No one is more powerful than the people," he said.

Kyotera MP Haruna Kasolo said that by making those remarks, Museveni is inviting a takeover of his government and a possibility of taking over Parliament.

Geoffrey Ekanya, the Tororo legislator, read an even deeper message in the coup talk. "We have been telling you that this is a military regime but now the cat has been let out of the bag. These are military people clothed in civilian attire."

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