New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Army Takeover Talk Senseless - Minister

Justice and Constitutional Affairs M inister Maj. Gen Kahinda Otafiire has advised the Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF) to stay in the barracks and not to interfere with the work of the President and Parliament.

Speaking at the graduation party for Lwemiyaga Member of Parliament, Theodore Ssekikubo, the minister said that the army should stick to its role of defending the Constitution and the country. Ssekikubo last week graduated from Makerere with a Bachelor of Laws degree.

The party held at the Lwemiyaga primary school was attended by a number of vocal legislators.

Otafiire who said he was invited to the party in his private capacity as a personal friend of the vocal legislator, was commenting on remarks recently made by the Chief of Defiance Forces, Lt. General Aronda Nyakairima, warning politicians against taking the country back to the political turmoil.

"Stand advised that should you not change course, other things will take place. Let no one return us to the past. We experienced a quarter century of turmoil and we cannot afford to take the country back," said Nyakairima last week during a press conference answering a question about earlier statement by defence minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga.

The defence minister had warned colleagues in Parliament that the army could intervene and take over Government if they mess up and undermine the integrity of the legislature.

Otafiire started off his speech by saying he would have preferred to address the gathering in English so that what he stated was not distorted. "However, due to the time constraint, I will deliver my speech in Luganda," he said and then heaped praises on Ssekikubo as an honest and straightforward legislator.

Ssekikubo and five other vocal NRM MPs are facing disciplinary action for conduct perceived to be undermining their Party in Parliament.

"We share one thing in common. I like Ssekikubo so much because he is an honest person. He tells me what he thinks. He gives me candid advice. At times we do not agree, he at times tells me things I do not agree with, but he never tells a lie," Otafiire said.

Otafiire said he has had problems dealing with many people because he hates liars. He also remarked that the work of legislators was to voice issues while the Executive has role to deliver services to the population.

Otafiire then turned to the army and said he has seen in the media talk about the coup.

"I want to warn my friends in the army; stay in your barracks. The work of the army is to defend the constitution and the country, not to capture the government," he said.

"The President was elected for a five-year term and the Parliament was elected for a five-year term. Let the President do his work and Parliament to play its role," added Otafiire.

"The Executive and the Parliament are like brothers, they may disagree but remain united. Parliament will not breach the Constitution and we in the Executive are not about to violate the constitution," Otafiire said.

He said the army should not involve itself in matters that do not concern them.

"Now what do you want from the President when he doing the work he was given to do?" Otafiire asked adding; "everybody has a role to play in this government to ensure that Ugandans are at peace."

He said the voters were the real masters, but not the President, the ministers or Parliament.

"It is the voters who have the powers to change the government in case they find that we are not serving their interests," he said adding that Parliament had the duty to advise the executive and to voice the views of the local people.

"When someone talks about your wrong doing, you should not instead beat him or her up but you analyze what that person is saying and you put right what may have gone wrong," Otafiire added.

"Some of us tend to forget that the one who talks about your wrongs is your best friend and we instead decide to hate such a person," he explained.

Sekikubo on his part asked Otafiire to inform President Museveni that the rich in Sembabule district and Lwemiyaga, in particular were harassing the poor. He also requested the President to fulfill his promise of buying landing for those people who were being evicted.

Ssekikubo vowed never to keep quiet but to voice whatever the people of Lwemiyaga asks him to tell government.

Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko thanked Otafiire for being an exemplary leader.

"We all like minister Otafiire because he is an honest man. No one has ever heard that he snatched money from government coffers," Nsereko said.

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