opinionBy Haggai Matsiko
It's difficult to guess what Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza, the maverick Coordinator of Military Intelligence and Senior Advisor to President Yoweri Museveni, is thinking. But you can bet anytime that it is something controversial. Often reticent in public, his big round eyes lie hidden behind dark shades and a bushy moustache which tweaks when he talks or grins mischievously. Restlessness has become his badge.
Gen. Sejusa threw President Museveni and the Army High Command in frenzy last October when he wrote a public letter about "creeping lawlessness, impunity, primitive arrogance and insensitive behaviour, increasingly being exhibited by some actors who manage the affairs of the state".
President Museveni called an emergency High Command meeting to discuss the matter and the stormed had not quite settled when he sparked off another. If Gen. Sejusa's first letter ruffled Museveni's feathers, the latest has no doubt plucked them.
Subject matter apart, the impunity the letter exhibits has got pundits divided on how Museveni will react this time.
Part of the problem for Museveni is that he sparked the furor himself when he told MPs at an NRM Caucus retreat that the army could takeover if parliament continues to rebel and not follow his guidance.
The Minister of Defence, Crispus Kiyonga, and the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima reinforced Museveni's threats claiming that army would takeover to defend the constitution.
It now appears that Museveni, Kiyonga, and Nyakairima are isolated in their "army-can-take-over" camp. A raft army officers, politicians, and civil society leaders have condemned Museveni's threatening remarks. Even members of his Cabinet like Attorney General Kahinda Otafire, who is a Maj. General in the army, and influential officers like Brig. Kankiriho have condemned it. Gen. Aronda has been sued for alleged treason over the remarks although the case, by Luweero Woman MP, Brenda Nabukenya, is facing technical hitches. Even the American embassy in Kampala has joined the chorus of condemnation.
But Gen. Sejusa has been punished before for allegedly making public statements to journalists without authorization which is in breach of the Code of Conduct of the Uganda Defence Force.
His letters come at a time when army top officer, Brig. Henry Tumukunde is being court-martialed for a similar offence. Significantly, members of the select club of Ugandan Generals; Elly Tumwine, Salim Saleh, Ivan Koreta, and Katumba Wamala are all quiet.
Former Army Commander and current opposition Forum for Democratic Change President, Gen. Mugisha Muntu, says Gen. Sejusa's message is important because it shows there consensus on the need for change.
"That is the message on everybody's lips," Muntu told The Independent, it started in FDC, it is now in government and in the security organs."
No more pretence:
Retired Maj. John Kazoora, who knows these generals well, also says Gen. David Sejusa's letter pointing out that change is inevitable shows that President Yoweri Museveni's time is up and there is no point in pretending about it anymore.
In an interview with The Independent, Maj. Kazoora likened Gen. Sejusa to the fox in a popular folktale. Kazoora says the fox always knew it was jinxed and would only whistle at night. One day it whistled during the day. When questioned, it told everyone the time of pretense is over.
"You cannot run away from change," Kazoora says, "When I last met Museveni personally in 2004, when he was campaigning for another term, I told him that no matter how many bisanjas (terms), you will not escape from change, it will come."
Kazoora, who was a fighter in Museveni's rebel army with Sejusa and the other generals, says Sejusa feels entitled to speak his mind because of his historical role.
"He suffered a lot in the bush, he almost died there," Kazoora said, "If he made those sacrifices then, why should he be mute today?"
Kazoora says that Gen. Sejusa's message is what everybody is thinking; it is just that he alone has the courage to speak out that most of generals do not have.
Kazoora's claim that army generals share Gen. Sejusa's sentiments about the need for change could prove ominous in the context of the persistent debate of how the country will transit from Museveni to a new generation of leaders.
The Muhoozi factor:
Some pundints say Museveni is grooming his son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to succeed him. Brig. Muhoozi, who is the Commander of the Special Forces Group which includes the elite Presidential Guard Brigade, is one step away from becoming a full-fledged general after undergoing rapid promotion from 2nd Lieutenant in 2000; an average of one rank every two years. Muhoozi was promoted to brigadier in 2012, if the trend continues; he will be a general in 2014 and at par with Gen. Sejusa.
Significantly, as Muhoozi has grown in rank and influence in the army, so have a crop of young officers who he carefully recruited to man the most sensitive positions in the army. Part of the problem is that old war horses like Gen. Sejusa are already not in the loop despite their senior ranks. Some observers claim, 58-year old Gen. Sejusa has seen the writing on the wall and wants to get out before circumstances for him to salute Muhoozi who was a toddler when he was a superintendent of police in 1981.
In his letter, Sejusa addresses this issue. He says there is "generational gridlock" in the system meaning a situation in which no progress can be made and suggests one generation has to give way if they have to avoid friction and discontent.
Sources in the army say Sejusa like most of his generation, is a disgruntled officer, frustrated that he no longer influences anything. Although, Gen. Sejusa names several individuals who epitomise the different generations, he does not mention Muhoozi.
Looking past Museveni:
Gen. Sejusa's letter has led some to say that he like some of his colleagues, he might be positioning himself for a future in post-Museveni Uganda. The same has been said of former ISO boss Brig. Henry Tumukunde who has been battling charges of spreading harmful propaganda for about ten years in the army court.
Tumukunde's refusal to defend himself in the court martial and his declaration that he would rather be in Luzira is seen as an attempt to redefine his political fortunes. His calculation could be that defying the army and the status quo is more rewarding politically. Retired Col. Kizza Besigye, who is the leading political figure in Uganda after Museveni, made his bones by defying Museveni.
But Sejusa lists himself in the last two new generations; essentially he is saying that it is the older generations of Museveni that have to give way.
Indeed, in his latest letter, Sejusa boldly challenges the leadership to focus on the central issue, "staring us in our faces" and causing all these frictions, which is how to manage the different political forces that are taking central stage in the country.
Sejusa adds that all the political turmoil seen today is an inevitable consequence of maturity of a system which requires a clearly set out ideological and political frame work.
Apart from managing change, Sejusa's letter lists four other issues, generational gridlock, the role of the military in the management of that change, whether the opposition understands its role in the change that people want and how the population at large will behave in that national process.
In his view, these four issues will influence the behavior of the international community and determine the economic situation in the country and the long term stability of the state and the region.
"These are the issues facing us as a country not this coups or counter coups," he notes, "for in the long run they are not sustainable politically, socially, ideologically not even plausible in the geopolitical setting."
He categorises Uganda's political/military actors in four; those that emerged during independence, post independence, those that emerged during the overthrow of Idi Amin and lastly those that have emerged with the NRM government to show that there is a generational gridlock.
Sejusa promises more 'letters'. In one of them, which he says he has already written, he says has covered the nature of the current clash between Parliament and Executive to show its "inevitability" in ideological terms.
Sejusa adds that the country must confront the question of the role of the military in the management of the State.
Sejusa notes: "Will it remain an embodiment of the aspirations of the people from which it derives its legitimacy and power or will it try to subvert the power of the people and by so doing lose its historic pro people position which would of course result in its collapse and inevitable defeat, for the people always win no matter how long it may take. This is in fact why this coup talk is dangerous."
The army rarely reacts to the General's outbursts publicly:
Army Spokesperson, Col. Felix Kulayigye, says Sejusa and the likes' caliber is outside the UPDF chain of command being presidential advisors.
But Col. Fred Mwesigye, who also fought alongside Museveni and Sejusa in the bush war, says that the likes of Sejusa have a right to express their opinion, but they ought to remember that they belong to a disciplined force and must respect the chain of command.
"If every soldier stands up and says this, there will be chaos in this country," he told The Independent, "we have got several forums where you can discuss things which are going wrong.
Critics like Dr Fredrick Golooba Mutebi, a researcher and political analyst say Sejusa and other generals cease lamenting in the media and confront Museveni directly.
"The best these people can do is quit the army and join active politics, maybe someone would listen to them," Mutebi argues.
When Besigye gave him the same counsel last year, Gen. Sejusa said he could not join the opposition which he said "is confused" and that the NRM was "still here".
In his latest letter, Sejusa challenges the opposition to try to understand the part it has to play to position itself in the inevitable national process of change. He also says the population could react if "their power is challenged by the political class, politicians, or the military".
While in the bush on August 5, 1984, Gen. Sejusa challenged an order by Museveni that the rebels were not to visit the women's wing. He complained that Museveni allowed his brother, Salim Saleh and former aide Pecos Kutesa to remain with their wives.
He also criticised Museveni for appointing a commission of inquiry to investigate a UNLA attack on the NRA sick bay when he was the Director General of Intelligence and Security.
Gen. Sejusa was charged with indiscipline, stripped of these responsibilities and detained in an under-ground jail for about six months.
He later commanded units in the central region that captured Kampala.
When formal ranks were introduced in 1988, Sejusa was a Brigadier. He became a Major General and Minister of State for Defence the following year and was dispatched to northern Uganda to flush out the Alice Lakwena led rebels. He unleashed his wrath on the locals and their leaders like Daniel Omara Atubo.
As an army representative in the National Resistance Council, he on Nov 28, 1996, told the parliamentary committee on Defence and Internal Affairs in a testimony the war in the north was not ending because of mismanagement and inefficiency of the army. He was ordered to appear before the High Command but he refused and instead applied to resign.
He wrote to Museveni: "I find it unjustified to continue serving in an institution whose bodies I have no faith in or whose views I do not subscribe to," reads the 1996 resignation letter to Museveni, "...I know my own faults very well and I do not suppose I am an easy subordinate; I like to go my own way."
He blasted as incompetent the then Minister of State for Defence, Amama Mbabazi, who had turned his resignation down, took the government to the Court of Appeal but the Supreme Court reversed his victory.
And after a long spell no katebe without deployment, Sejusa fell on hard times and sought Museveni's favour. Like in 1985, Tinyefuza bounced back in full gear. He is said to have ordered the military siege of the High Court in 2006 and the arrests of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
He had served quietly as the coordinator of intelligence services until 2011, when Kampala City boss, Jenifer Musisi kicked him out of a house he had refused to vacate in Kololo.
Gen. Sejusa's letter:
The press has been awash with coup stories, claims and counter claims. This talk, however, is diversionary and masks the real fundamental issues facing us as a country.
Indeed, the coup talk is potentially disruptive and counterproductive.
Suffice to state that the long and odious struggle of NRM has been to move Uganda from dictatorship to democracy, however imperfect it may be, democracy it is all the same.
What would be the implications of this gigantic reversal of the political course? By the way, people should not confuse a people's popular uprising with a coup. A popular uprising is a legitimate people's struggle whereas a coup is an illegitimate anti people activity.
This is, however, a discussion for another day where I have covered the nature of the current clash between Parliament and Executive and showing the inevitability of it in ideological terms.
The central issue, however, that is facing us and indeed staring us in our faces, which I think is causing all these frictions is how to manage the different political forces that are taking central stage in the country. When a government has been in power for 27 uninterrupted years, it becomes inevitable that people will start asking questions about service delivery, about accountability, about crime etc, and ultimately will start demanding for change of some sort. It's only natural.
The central role of leaders therefore, is to confront, head on, the complex issue of how to manage these changes. Many failures often, result from the tendency of the people who are in charge, keeping their heads down in denial about this fact.
Often times, precious time and opportunity is lost in this procrastination and dilly dallying. So all this turmoil we see today, especially among the political actors and between the different state institutions in an inevitable consequence of maturity (coming of age) of a system which requires a clearly set out ideological and political frame work.
This is the ideological issue and the core question of our time. And how we handle this central issue will determine how Uganda as a country and the Eastern African region will be, not in the next 20 or 30 years, but may be three years or less. This is what faces us and must guide us in the choices we make today.
The other issue that must be confronted and resolved is what I may term generational gridlock; this basically refers to generational roles and positioning of the different generational political/military actors in the political dispensation now and in the future.
There are four generations which can be said to be active in the current political life of the country. The first is that of independence struggle era. These are people who participated in the independence struggle or were part of the political process immediately after independence. This group is represented by elders like our wazei Kintu Musoke, Kirunda Kivejinja, Bidandi Ssali, Miria Obote, Rhoda Kalema, and Joyce Mpanga, Honorable Henry Kajura, Moses Ali and others.
The second category is that which cut its political teeth, so to speak, during the turbulent post independence years. This group is led by His Excellency the President, with elders Honorable Eriya Kategaya, Tarsis Kabwegyere, Sam Kutesa, Kahinda Otafiire, Amama Mbabazi, Edward Sekandi, Fredrick Ssempebwa, John Katende, Richard Kaijuka, Amanya Mushega, Tumusiime Mutebire, Ruhakana Rugunda and others.
The third category is the generation of those who were still in school until the overthrow of Idi Amin. This group comprises majority of the current corporate class like Dr. Simon Kagugube, Onyango Obbo etc, Generals, Elly Tumwine, David Sejusa, Nyakairima Aronda etc, people like Miria Matembe, Prof. Ntambirweki, Mugisha Muntu, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Richard Butera and many of the middle aged professors, MPs and military generals you hear of today.
The fourth category is the category of post NRM/NRA bush war. These I can safely term as the children of the revolution. Though this has two segments, they can be joined, for their political and social outlook has been determined or influenced by the same circumstances.
These are the young people like late Noble Mayombo, Andrew Mwenda, Robert Kabushenga, Norbert Mao etc. To this group we can add up many young professionals in many fields today. People like a young Kampala lawyer, Erias Lukwago, Theodore Ssekikubo, Abdu Katuntu, Frank Tumwebaze, Richard Todwong etc.
The reason I am raising this, rather unfamiliar subject is the centrality of the generational positioning which may have a profound impact on the whole equation of any change management. The leaders must start focusing on this question if they have to avoid friction and discontent by failure to appreciate the generational gridlock. This is however, a different subject all together which should highlight the crucial importance of the matter on the orderly functioning of society in the process of the management of change.
The third component that we must confront is the role of the military in the management of the State. Will it remain an embodiment of the aspirations of the people from which it derives its legitimacy and power or will it try to subvert the power of the people and by so doing loose its historic pro people position which would of course result in its collapse and inevitable defeat, for the people always win no matter how long it may take. This is in fact why this coup talk is dangerous.
The last point concerns our opposition politicians. Have they discussed or do they even know what part to play or even how to position themselves in this inevitable national process? Do they have the ideological depth to manage constructively the rather complex dynamics of moving a system from democratic centralism to liberal democracy without disrupting the social and political cohesion of the state? For instance, what is the ideological foundation of "Walk to Work" campaign? What is its end state as we say in the military? It is revolutionary in intent or evolutionary? That is, does it aim at sweeping away the current government or reform it? I hope they even fully understand the mechanisms of political warfare vice visa strategy and tactics.
The last component and perhaps the most crucial of all is the role of civil society and the population at large. With the political and quasi-military (Mchaka mchaka/cadre training etc) empowerment they have attained in the last 31 years of NRM rule (1981-2013), how will they behave if their power is challenged by the political class, be they politicians or the military?
All the above will influence the behavior of the international community and determine the economic situation in the country and the long term stability of the state and the region. These are the issues facing us as a country not this coups or counter coups. For in the long run they are not sustainable politically, socially, ideologically not even plausible in the geopolitical setting.
Gen. David Sejusa (a.k.a Tinyefuza)