30 January 2013

Uganda: Army Officers Blast Coup Talk

• Aronda sued for treason

No amount of caution or foresight could have prepared the army leadership for the bold and furious response to its charge that the army could intervene and take over in case bad politics reigns in the country. At least seven senior ranking army officers have so far boldly weighed in with criticism, warning that there's no basis for an army intervention.

And the surprise response of all has come from Luweero Woman MP, Brenda Nabukenya. She has filed a case in court demanding the arraignment of Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen Aronda Nyakairima, to answer charges of treason following the remarks he made in response to threats of a possible army takeover.

According to documents seen by The Observer newspaper, Nabukenya through her attorney, Alaka & Co Advocates, wants Nyakairima to defend himself in the Chief Magistrate's court at Nakawa because the alleged treasonable remarks were made at the ministry of Defence headquarters, Mbuya, in that court's jurisdiction.

Though the army has attempted to paper up the cracks by alleging the media reported the said remarks out of context, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire at the weekend boldly asked the army to stay within the confines of the barracks.

A retired army officer and politician with a defiant streak, Otafiire becomes the first cabinet minister to speak out openly against what President Museveni and later Minister of Defence, Crispus Kiyonga, and Aronda Nyakairima, warned would happen if the politicians 'misbehaved'. The utterances have rocked the political establishment and prompted MPs to summon the country's security chiefs to clarify their remarks.

The Observer has learnt that Parliament's Defence and Internal Affairs committee wants to hear from ministry of Defence officials this week. An NRM historical, Otafiire's carefully-calibrated message on the combustible subject was meant to carry significance. He chose the graduation party of regime critic Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Ssekikubo, to weigh in.

He whipped up a frenzy in Ssekikubo's rural constituency saying, "I heard that [some leaders] in the army were plotting to over-throw the government. I warn them that they should keep in their barracks because the army's major role is to defend the country and the Constitution, not managing government."

"You should not be tempted to abuse the Constitution. Both Parliament and the executive derive their mandate from the electorate. The government does neither belong to the President, his cabinet nor Parliament but to the population," he said.

Otafiire's statements were re-echoed by a number of senior UPDF officers who have commented on the ominous threat of a coup d'etat. FDC President and former Army Commander, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, last week said only fools would be tempted to carry out a coup.

"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," he said.

Maj John Kazoora, secretary for Defence in FDC, yesterday asked rhetorically, "So who will lead the coup? They should tell us who the coup leader is."

Kazoora, a former Luweero bush war fighter, said the merchants of such threats could become the victims.

"Those generals should be careful, they could incite the lieutenants. We all know what Jerry Rawlings [former Ghanaian president] did to the generals," warned Kazoora.

"We are in the 21st century. You just don't talk about military rule. If you want to tangle with (US president Barack) Obama, talk about military," Brig Kasirye Ggwanga told the Daily Monitor last Sunday.

Rujumbura County MP, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, and his Nyabushozi County counterpart, Col Fred Mwesigye, also spoke against the coup in separate interviews with The Observer this week.

"I don't know the context [under which Gen Aronda made the remarks]. 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."

Mwesigye told The Observer that the media could have misconstrued 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.

Gen Elly Tumwine, a member of the historical High Command, told The Observer yesterday, "Why a coup if it can be avoided? We should work to avoid a coup."

However, Tumwine said, "I am not aware of that [coup] plan."

He said the recent controversial statements could have been sensationalized by the media. The deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Linda Nabusayi, issued a statement yesterday attempting to clarify what the President said at the National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi. Museveni reportedly tried to school budding politicians about the threat of monetizing politics.

"If you continue like this, the good leaders will fear politics because politics now means money, money, money. If the good decent people who cannot afford to have money withdraw, then Uganda will be taken over by crooks and that will be a real crisis, we may even have to have a military coup because I don't think the army can accept crooks. You are endangering the country and yet there is no need for this, let's get money out of politics." Those, according to the statement, were Museveni's words at Kyankwanzi.

"This is all diversionary, if the President detoxicates our politicians from the confusion being sown in our people by offering genuine parental advice like this, why would anybody claim the military wants to take over? Who wants to be led by crooks?" Nabusayi wrote.

Nabukenya suit

In paper accompanying her law suit, Nabukenya says that on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, General Aronda Nyakairima, the Chief of Defence Forces and representative of the armed forces in Parliament, made statements to the effect that Parliament is not serious and that if it does not change course, "the military is going to take charge of the affairs of government."

Nabukenya says that upon consultation with her attorney, she noted that Nyakairima's statements incited the army to commit a crime, specifically treason, against the state. She adds that the CDF's remarks amount to the criminal offence of concealment of treason, terrorism and aiding or inducing soldiers into acts of mutiny.

However, the army spokesperson, Col Felix Kulayigye, has repeatedly said Nyakairima's remarks were reported out of context.

While responding to questions from journalists as to whether it was possible for the army to carry out a coup, Nyakairima said: "We are going about our normal business. I can't do more than what they said. The message was well taken for those to whom 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."

Nabukenya says her constituents, who suffered the brunt of the five-year Luweero bush insurgency, have asked her to take Gen. Nyakairima to court over the utterances.

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