interviewBy Deo Walusimbi
As a former head of political intelligence in the Office of the President until 2008, Charles Rwomushana should know a few things about the inner workings of President Museveni's government.
In this interview with Deo Walusimbi, Rwomushana reflects on Museveni's relationship with former comrades, and why Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi needs to be kept on a tight leash.
What do you make of the many falling-outs between President Museveni and his bush war colleagues?
If you look at all those who have disagreed with Museveni, most of them were guerrillas with Fronasa, NRA, but the bulk of them were in intelligence.
Look at Brig [Henry]Tumukunde, [CMI, ISO], Amama Mbabazi [ESO]. Jim Muhwezi had a stint in prison [ISO].
General [Elly] Tumwine called for an investigation into claims made by Gen Tinyefuza [David Sejusa] but he was silenced in one way or the other; otherwise, he was going to make a lot of noise and he was taking a particular direction until he was reminded that you have billions of money in rent (to pay to the ministry of Gender for using Nommo gallery) which would have seen him framed and he chose to keep quiet.
Then Tinyefuza, who is now in exile, was the head of intelligence when they were in the bush. Until he left, he was the coordinator of intelligence, Mugisha Muntu was the head of CMI, and in the audio leaked tapes, they are talking about Maj Gen James Mugira once head of CMI and General Aronda who was an intelligence officer for PGB and later Army commander.
All of these were in intelligence, military and at the same time they were dealing with the population and you seem to see a trend of dissent within them.
How best can the ongoing rift between President Museveni and Mbabazi be handled without stirring chaos in the country?
To some extent, the army law can be used and to some extent discussions can work. Yes, Mbabazi has been given a signal that we can move on you, but I think the president's strategy is to cool it down as he studies him.
What's your assessment of the situation?
When it reaches to the stage of preparing to arrest the wife of the prime minister, it means that the rift is big and I don't see it narrowing, I don't see those cracks being sorted out.
Would Mbabazi be such a big threat to Museveni at this point or are there other differences between the two longtime friends?
For Mbabazi to stand for a political office against Museveni, he wouldn't be a threat and I don't want to say that the president has differences with Mbabazi because he [PM] wants to stand for president.
No, because Mbabazi can't defeat Museveni and he still has an advantage over him given that he is the chairman (NRM); he runs most of the networks. He [Mbabazi] can put up a show, but it is very limited and Mbabazi knows it.
Observers say that NRM MPs passed the Kyankwanzi resolution to lock out Mbabazi because he would easily defeat Museveni in the primaries...
No, he wouldn't win those primaries. They would do to him what he has been doing to others. But even if he were to stand as an independent, he can't [defeat] Museveni. I think the president is still studying the situation because the way I know him, he always wants to take time to observe before acting and that is why there were investigations.
To what extent do you agree with suggestions that Mbabazi should be dropped from cabinet and his wife arrested over what is unfolding in the NRM?
I have not known President Museveni to operate basing on public whims. Otherwise, if that were the case, Mbabazi wouldn't have been the prime minister, he wouldn't be a minister because he is among the most unpopular persons in NRM, in cabinet and in the public.
He [Mbabazi] is now trying to work on his public relations, but he would have left long ago if [Museveni's decisions] were based on public or popular opinion. He survived because of Museveni, even in his constituency [Kinkiizi West].
Do you see enough evidence against Mbabazi to be charged with treason?
If you are the secretary general of the party, who is clandestinely mobilising, building your own networks within the party, making a political party within a political party... , you don't need a lot because it is treacherous and you know its consequences. In fact, [South Sudan President] Salva Kiir was forced to sack the secretary general [of SPLM] when he was not the one who voted him.
He imprisoned him and they are in the civil war now. You can't say that this civil war was spontaneous, they must have arranged it before. Museveni accused Mbabazi of very many things that he [Mbabazi] even exploited external contacts to do his own things when he was supposed to brief the president, which means that they are on a collision course.
You can't tell me that you support me, you have signed the resolution, you say that you will never stand against me or let me down when you are giving money to young people on the ground who are even ready to jointly operate with the opposition. And when you check amongst the opposition, nobody can attack Mbabazi because there is credible information that he sponsors most of the opposition MPs.
And if you checked, they [opposition MPs] are not as indebted as NRM MPs yet they do a lot of things. They are not very grounded in business but they are not poor because they don't use their money.
On what do you base these allegations?
It is not an allegation, it is a fact, go and check. He has been bankrolling all these opposition MPs and [Dr Kizza] Besigye admitted that they are in discussions. I have talked to some members of the IPC (Inter-Party Co-operation), for them they are in disagreement with Besigye [over how] the Mbabazi issue should be handled.
Whereas he is telling Mbabazi to get out, [of NRM] and join the opposition, other members say he [Mbabazi] should stay in [NRM] and fight to weaken it from within. They are now having a conversation on the possibility of using force to change the regime.
But what is pushing all the big shots out of a regime they helped to capture power?
We need to investigate this. It is not a simple issue because Museveni is an expert at reconciling and that is why he worked with [Eriya] Kategaya again because he would demand a simple apology.
But this [Mbabazi saga] appears to be more serious because Museveni is moving to restrict him without sacking him. He [Mbabazi] can't hold a rally and can't go to any region and summon councillors and district chairpersons and I understand now that the president has stopped him from calling these [weekly] press conferences.
Would you sack Mbabazi if you were the president?
You sack and arrest him. You can't leave such characters because their actions are tending to treason, subversion. So, you must contain them; as you study the situation.
Otherwise, if they slip out of your hands and you just hear that they have defected to make an invasion against you as it was in Libya or Syria, it would be very problematic if those fellows get out of the net.
Can Uganda go the Libyan way?
Yeah. Look at the population, even the Americans spoke about it during their intelligence forecast of this year that Uganda is tending towards a failed state and there are signs. If you read the interview of Jacqueline Mbabazi, you could tell that there is something wrong between Museveni and Mbabazi because these two have worked together for a long time.
This shows that the system is heavily distressed and the anger is at high level. So, if I were the president, I would have some of these characters kept safe somewhere as I study the situation. And you can't contain Mbabazi without containing his wife because she is his spokesperson and she appears to be networked in the party.
Critics fault Museveni for not building institutions.
That is very true because the state was built around individuals and when they speak, the state has talked.
I understand that you cautioned Museveni on Mbabazi...
Yeah in 2008, I wrote a brief that Mbabazi was up to something and it is bigger and the game is not limited to him. That is why you see Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu saying that by the end of this April, the regime will be gone. He is not insane. You need to interrogate his statement and ask what is it that Muntu is saying will facilitate the demise of Museveni's regime.
You need to know whether they are reading from the same page like Mbabazi. All these fellows who have left intelligence have armed groups; so, when Jacqueline talks about lumpens working for police, she is serious and if there is a contradiction at the centre, you wouldn't know how it would end.
Perhaps you are just disgruntled... you said that Mbabazi got you fired from State House.
The actions at the centre would inadvertently hurt all of us once they mature. Kiir quarreled with Riek Machar [in South Sudan], but do you know how many people have died?
I don't have anything personal against Mbabazi and history will absolve me because I said the truth and here we are.
What does it mean for Museveni now that he has fallen out with many people he fought with?
His philosophy has been a free entry, free exit, but some are saying that before we exit, we will have to first ground the engine of the train or you should also exit. He must act decisively because in matters of security and national survival, you play minimal politics.
You can't play it on the principles of being a born-again and rely on Jesus Christ as the saviour because what Mbabazi's wife has done can't be done in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. No serious state would allow it because power would slip out of its hands.
Museveni is not an exception and there are certain things which are standard in security. Even in America, Obama's wife can't reveal the secrets of the state.
Can Mbabazi survive after falling out with Museveni?
They either resolve this contradiction or something else happens; but to think that Mbabazi will undermine Museveni after falling out with him, that would be delusion.