24 January 2013

Uganda: Coup Would be 'Foolish' - General

FDC President, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, yesterday gave an ominous warning to the army that staging a coup would be 'foolish and counterproductive.'

In a terse statement he delivered at the FDC offices in Najjanakumbi, Muntu said recent threats of a coup were intended to cow Parliament but beneath the façade is a regime clutching on its last straws.

Muntu, who previously served as army commander and military intelligence chief, put it curtly, "To the UPDF, I have this to say: no officer should be tempted to think of overthrowing the government as insinuated by the Head of State as trying to do so would not only be foolish but also counter-productive."

Muntu argues that on the contrary, a coup could send the country into an abyss like in Somalia. On Wednesday, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, repeated the threats that the army could intervene to restore sanity in politics.

"The message was well- taken for those to who it was intended. Stand warned. Stand advised. Should you not change course, other things will be brought into play. Let no one return to the past. We have seen enough, almost 25 years of turmoil," Aronda said, during a news conference at the ministry of Defence offices in Mbuya.

Earlier on, the Commander in Chief, President Museveni, reportedly warned of a military takeover, remarks which were earlier made by Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga. However, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi says the president's remarks were nuanced.

"The president never said that the army will take over Parliament. He only gave an example of a country he knows where drug dealers joined politics and [gained control of] the government... He said we can't accept such a situation in Uganda. He did not say that the army is going to take over" Mbabazi said, during a news briefing at his office in Kampala.

However, Mbabazi added that there is need for sanity in politics.

"It's true that the leadership needs disciplined people because if we the politicians do not act in good conduct, it will discourage the good disciplined people to join politics".

Muntu attempted to defend Parliament's oversight role.

"When members of Parliament rise up in a bipartisan effort to demand a stop to the cancer of corruption that is denying this country an opportunity to offer the best for its public servants and the citizens, that cannot be characterized as confusion," warned Muntu.

He added that the "Constitution calls upon the institution of parliament to be the guarantor of our constitutional rights when those rights are undermined by an overbearing executive and presidency."

Muntu said that the threats, which he dubbed psychological warfare, would not stop the inevitability of change.

"The dynamics of change have already built a momentum. They may be checked once in a while but nobody can stop, as they say, an idea whose time has come, if you look at what is happening in the country, if you can make an analysis ... you can really see that the regime is almost in a state of freefall."

Later, Muntu cautioned the President that the era of coups d' etat was in the past.

"Mr president, you need to know that there is still life outside power and to also recognize that there are many Ugandans who can ably run this country," Muntu said.

"This should enable you to make the choice to retire with the comforting feeling that this country will move on and prosper beyond your leadership rather than fortifying yourself through force and fear because across the African continent, it is evident that such actions are no longer sustainable."

Though Muntu believes that the army will not be tempted to betray the democratic objectives of the Luweero bush struggle, he implored the army to prepare for change.

"...and the worst thing is for any security institution or establishment to be taken by surprise or to plunge itself into a state of denial ... they need to ask themselves if this happens what will be the outcome so that they are prepared all the time to ensure that they remain an institution that maintains stability of the country as political actors chart out a way through this transition."

He asked state actors including politicians and the military to work for a stable transition. In 2012, Muntu, quoting an African proverb, said if senior army and police officers do not listen to advice, they will end up like the proverbial fly that followed the corpse into the grave. The army leadership responded with vitriolic attacks.

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