10 March 2014

Uganda: Coincidence of Mbabazi, Aronda Fates and Sejusa Letter

Photo: Capital FM
Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

As Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has been fighting for his political life, the exiled General David Sejusa (Tinyefuza) has been generally quiet.

It's not clear why, but Sejusa could well have been having a good laugh in Britain.

And you have to go back 10 months to see why.

Just before Gen Sejusa fled to exile in May 2013, he demanded an investigation into allegations that he and two other officials could be assassinated for opposing a planned presidential succession scheme.

The other two public figures named in Sejusa's dossier were Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Gen Aronda, the then chief of defence forces (CDF).

Although all three are still alive, there has been what some analysts have called an almost systematic assassination of their respective political and military careers since then.

Mbabazi, also the NRM secretary general, is the last of the trio still battling to ensure his wings are not clipped within the party and government.

Some political analysts say the assassination of careers may perhaps signal a change of tact by the brains behind the alleged scheme, but it nevertheless lends some weight to the allegations made by Sejusa.

"All those people have been made vulnerable. That is why they refused Aronda to leave the army so that he remains vulnerable to prosecution by whatever forces. That is why Mbabazi is being taken to a disciplinary committee, also to make him vulnerable," said Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University.

In his April 29 letter to Brig Ronald Balya, the director general of the Internal Security Organisation (Iso), Gen Sejusa hinted that he, Mbabazi and Aronda could be in trouble because they were perceived as being opposed to plans to have the First Son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed his father as president.

The army and the government vehemently denied that such a scheme existed. Sejusa's letter sparked a chain of events, which analysts say could be connected to the current debacle that Mbabazi and his wife Jacqueline, who chairs the NRM Women's League, are facing within the ruling party.

However, government functionaries say it is just a coincidence that Sejusa chose to stay in exile rather than returning to Uganda "to be arrested like a chicken thief". Gen Aronda has since been replaced as CDF without being retired from the army. And Mbabazi is clinging to his political career, with the party accusing him of nursing ambitions to replace President Museveni.

President Museveni's Private Secretary on Political Affairs, David K Mafabi, last week dismissed the connection of the trio's current circumstances to the claims made by Sejusa as speculation.

"There is absolutely no legitimacy to what Gen Sejusa said," Mafabi said.

He added that both Mbabazi and Gen Nyakairima were still serving a Museveni-led government while Gen Sejusa "is out of the country voluntarily."

Mafabi tacitly admitted that all was not well between Museveni and allies such as Mbabazi.

"There have been issues but, you must have read the president's statement issued [on Thursday], those issues are being handled in-house," he said. "The misunderstandings, from wherever they arose, are being handled."

Sejusa exile:

When the contents of Sejusa's letter became public, the army MP was in London on what he called official duty. However, as the UPDF began to send signals that it would arrest Sejusa, 59, on his return, he eventually asked for political asylum.

The army withdrew guns from Sejusa, sent soldiers to search his home and offices, and arrested soldiers who were said to be loyal to the now-renegade member of the UPDF High Command.

Eventually, Sejusa lost his parliamentary seat, something he once told The Observer was the handiwork of President Museveni. Ndebesa reasoned that Sejusa could have been privy to some information on the behind-the-scenes plans, forcing the spymaster to blow the whistle.

"Maybe he had his own intelligence," the academic said. "Even if it was not intelligence, he probably knew which people were in the way of a bigger project."

However, Mafabi said the NRM did not believe in assassinating its opponents, citing the case of former FDC president, retired Colonel Dr Kizza Besigye, who has challenged Museveni's hold on power three times and he remains "very active in opposition."

Aronda sacked:

Shortly after Sejusa's damning revelations, President Museveni began to criticise Gen Aronda Nyakairima, Uganda's longest-serving CDF in his regime, for operational incompetence. Analysts say the timing of the criticism was rather curious given that Museveni had trusted his comrade to serve at the helm of the army for about 11 years.

During a May 22 UPDF High Command meeting, which came two weeks after Daily Monitor first published the contents of Sejusa's letter, Museveni castigated Gen Nyakairima for the several mistakes he said the army had made.

The next day, Museveni fired Nyakairima, replacing him with Gen Katumba Wamala. Several young officers were promoted and appointed to understudy the new CDF, in a reshuffle that effectively marked a generational change in the army under Museveni. Nyakairima was appointed minister for Internal Affairs.

But Museveni declined to retire him from the army as had been standard practice in the past, with former army commanders such as Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu and Gen Jeje Odongo. Instead, the president got Parliament to approve the former CDF to a cabinet post while still a serving officer.

Earlier reports indicated that Nyakairima had asked to retire from the army and, possibly, run for MP for Rubabo constituency in Rukungiri district. However, Museveni is said to have ignored the request.

Ndebesa says that by making such a decision, Museveni had got the final laugh - kicking one opponent of the "Muhoozi project" from control of the army while keeping him shackled by military law. Should Aronda flirt with 'hostile' political ambitions (such as those of Mbabazi, for instance), he could be dragged to the UPDF court martial.

Mbabazi wings clipped:

With the two senior army officers having been neutralised, analysts have said the final piece in this particular jigsaw could have been to clip Mbabazi's wings, who held two senior positions in government and the party.

Even before Sejusa opened the can of worms that claimed his political and military career, and derailed Nyakairima's, Museveni had tried to get Mbabazi to resign as NRM secretary general. However, Mbabazi refused to budge, saying there was no reason. After all, Museveni is both president of the republic and chairman of the party.

The relationship between Museveni and Mbabazi has since grown increasingly strained, especially after intelligence reports suggested that the prime minister's supporters were working behind-the-scenes to prepare ground for him to ambush the president.

Ndebesa argues that because Museveni does not allow any space for challenging his power, he has disagreed with Mbabazi and all the NRM secretary general's predecessors in the Movement system such as Amanya Mushega, Dr Besigye, and James Wapakhabulo - all of whom served as National Political Commissars.

"Normally the secretary generals of parties are the ideologues of the party and are kind of groomed to succeed into the chairmanship. He has ensured that they become vulnerable or he has removed them in a very bad way," Ndebesa said of Museveni.

"If you cannot trust the political ideologues, the secretary generals of the party, then who else can you trust? If a secretary general cannot speak, then who else can speak? This is almost near to absolute monarchism."

Speaking on the Capital Gang radio talk show on Saturday, Mbabazi said while he was not interested in contesting against President Museveni, his wife Jacqueline had heard that some party officials were organising to remove him from the position of party secretary general.

Mbabazi said his wife mobilised against those forces, which was misconstrued as organising to topple Museveni from the presidency. He said despite his current troubles, nobody was going to expunge him from the NRM because of his long-serving record in the organisation.

"Those of you who are asking me to quit NRM, obviously it is like asking me to quit myself," he emphasised. "Nobody can throw me out of NRM; nobody. It is not possible."

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