President Museveni surprised many in July when he told opposition politicians at State House Entebbe that MICHAEL KABAZIGURUKA, the Nakawa MP, twice tried but failed to kill him at his farm in Kisozi, Gomba district. This followed the charging of Kabaziguruka for treason, terrorism and planning to overthrow the government by force of arms. In an interview with Baker Batte Lule at his home in Luzira, Kabaziguruka denied the charges. He wondered why it has taken four years to have him committed to the High court for trial if the president has evidence against him as he claims.
Who is Michael Kabaziguruka?
I'm 39 years, born to Mr and Mrs Kabaziguruka of Kabale. I was born in Kampala. I normally say that I'm a Mukiga by descent but a Muganda by birth.
I'm a certified accountant by training. I'm also a member of the certified public accountants of Uganda and now I'm a politician representing Nakawa division in parliament.
You defeated Freddie Ruhindi, a senior member of President Museveni's cabinet. How did you do it?
I'm sure it was not the first time I was defeating him. I defeated him in 2011 but of course he rigged the election. But this time round my emphasis was on vote protection, which we did carefully and we managed to defeat him just like we did in 2011.
He was not very difficult to defeat because he had so many weaknesses; he thought it was all about money. He didn't care to find out what people's aspirations were. We concentrated on knowing what people wanted and that is what we addressed. That's how we managed to kick NRM out of Nakawa.
When you say he rigged the election in 2011, why didn't you challenge his victory in court?
I knew I had some internal weaknesses on my part. The vote protection mechanism was not well-prepared. I thought I should use the results as a learning experience and better organize myself in future. I didn't think that a protracted court battle was the solution. It was not in my interest.
As Nakawa MP, you have spent more time in prison than in parliament. How did you get in that mess?
To be precise, my only activities in parliament were the swearing in and the election of the speaker. As you have rightly put it, I have spent much of my time as an MP in Kigo prison, since June 28 up to last Thursday when I was granted bail.
However, my being in prison was not because I had committed any crimes but the state thought that I could be a source of instability because of my mobilization skills.
Mobilization to do what?
There are so many activities that the president would want my neck for. One time he called a meeting of KCCA councilors to State House and I also called a parallel meeting on the same day with the same councilors.
None of the FDC councilors turned up at State House. All of them came here [his house]. Even tomorrow [Wednesday], he expects them at State House but I can assure you none will be there. They will be here because I also invited them here.
Why are you doing this?
If the president wishes to engage our FDC members, he should formally communicate. We should not get phone calls from all places saying the president wants you. If it is a formally-organized meeting with a clear agenda, it should be formally communicated.
We have not seen any document inviting our councilors. So, we do not engage in any clandestine activities. We want activities fully on the table. So, as long as the president continues to use under-the-table methods, we will not be part of that confusion.
Is mobilization of FDC councilors reason enough for the president to have you charged with treason?
It is not the first time he is charging me with treason. In 2010, I was charged with treason and I was released on January 13, 2013, and I have been reporting to court since. The state has even failed to commit my case to the High court for trial. I was still reporting to the Magistrate's court for mention of the case.
Ideally, I should have been committed to the High court within six months but it has been four years and the case is not going anywhere. So, when a second treason case comes up, I'm not surprised. On the day I was nominated on December 3, 2016, the magistrate dismissed the 2012 case for lack of prosecution. When I won the election, that case was reinstated.
I was never formally informed, I read about it in the papers. I went to court to find out whether what I was reading in the papers was true. The magistrate told me that she had dismissed the case in error and that she had no powers to do so.
I asked her why she did not tell us yet our particulars were on file. Our phone numbers and our residences were on file. She could have made an effort to notify me or my sureties. I had three sureties, [Nathan] Nandala-Mafabi, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda and my auntie. But I think they did that in order to cancel my bail.
But when that didn't happen, they went into overdrive and you know my party FDC had indicated that we would start a series of defiance activities aimed at ensuring that the president didn't swear in. As a result, they kept me under house arrest from mid-April until May 15. They lifted it and allowed me to go to parliament on May 16 to swear in.
After attending the swearing in ceremony of the lord mayor [Erias Lukwago] and the councilors, I was called by lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi to swear an affidavit in favor of the defiance campaign, which I did on behalf of the party. That afternoon, after leaving Rwakafuuzi's chambers, I went to Luzira prison to check on Dr Kizza Besigye who was incarcerated there.
After I came back to my home, at around 11pm,I found it surrounded. I knew it was the routine siege but in the morning they requested to come in and conduct a search. Because I had no sinister reason not to allow them in, they came and searched wherever they wanted and found nothing. The next morning, they came back and carried out a second search which really scared me because I thought they had planted something the previous day, which they came to recover just like they did in 2012.
What did they discover in 2012?
They alleged that they discovered magazines, uniforms and police knives. But that was on the third attempt. They had searched twice in my presence and discovered nothing but after I had been remanded to Luzira, they came back alone with the media and that was when they allegedly discovered some items from the places I had seen them search twice. They discovered well-oiled and well-protected items.
If these items were actually buried there, I don't think they would be as neat as they were when they were recovered. So, when they were carrying out a second search, it scared me a bit because I knew they had planted something, which they would then purport to have recovered.
Good thing is that the lord mayor [Erias Lukwago] and MP Moses Kasibante were here and kept an eye on them to see that they don't plant anything. After the second search and nothing was recovered, I was taken back to the Special Investigations Division offices in Kireka where I was to later be released on bond.
When I signed the papers, they bundled me in a van and brought me back here and said I was not allowed to move. They heavily deployed in my compound and outside with policemen in all sorts of police gear. I was driven out every morning to Kireka where my bond would be extended to the next day for the 21 days I was under house arrest.
The other place they took me to was Nalufenya police station in Jinja where they intimidated me into signing some papers. They threatened to get physical and I knew that that this was not my statement and I would make my case in court. So,I didn't want to go through beatings because I know what those guys are capable of.
When I looked at those who were arrested with me, much as I didn't know them, and I saw how badly beaten they were, I didn't want to go down their route. I signed the statement. In that statement it was alleged that Gen [David]Sejusa was involved in subversive activities and that I was aware and didn't take any steps to inform the minister as the Penal Code Act says.
When I signed the charge and caution statement in Nalufenya, the charges were treason, concealment of treason and terrorism. And the particulars related to Gen Sejusa. I wondered why I was arrested yet the real person they say was planning the plot is out there.
After signing the statement, I was brought back here (my home) and the following day I was taken to the Kibuli police surgeon and eventually to Makindye magistrate's court. In about 30 minutes, the military picked me up and said I was to be charged in the General Court Martial.
In the dock, there were so many soldiers. I asked who they were. They said that they we were on the same file with me. I asked them how and whether they knew me. They said they were also wondering why they were there. I was eventually remanded to Kigo prison where I have been for four months.
To take you back to mobilization, why are you interfering with the president's work yet according to the 2016 results, he defeated your FDC presidential candidate?
As you all know, the 2016 election was rigged. He holds the fort for the presidency not that he [Museveni] won the election but because he controls the instruments of coercion in this country; the guns and the money. However, it's not true that I'm trying to subvert his activities. I'm only trying to teach him how to do things formally.
As I said, we do not believe in under-the-table activities. We are not in the habit of being invited to State House informally for a cup of tea and lectures. We are not NRM members that he can bully us to State House for some tea and cakes and five million shillings for transport to support his line of thought. We have independent minds. We have brains and we don't operate like robots. So, we are not engaging in tea talks.
You mean to say the president can sanction treason charges simply because you have mobilized councilors to boycott his meetings?
I'm not saying that is the reason because that would be making it trivial. The reason he did that is because he thought that we were going to engage in activities aimed at removing his government. It was a party position that the 2016 elections were not free and fair.
We had clearly told this country that we were going to engage in a defiance campaign. It was only me who swore an affidavit in support of the defiance campaign and I was the chairman of the FDC elected leaders in Kampala. Therefore, I held sway over those leaders. They charged me for wanting to overthrow this government by force of arms but there were no arms recovered.
Is overthrowing Museveni's government by force of arms an option for you?
Definitely not. We do not want to go full circle to where this country has been. We do not wish that to happen in this country. We have always said both privately and publicly that we will use peaceful means to remove this rotten regime and I stand by that.
The president said you went to Kisozi with intent to assassinate him.
That I went to Kisozi to kill him; that would be really brave! I read in the papers that a snake attacked his farm and wanted to eat only one cow; it was shot dead. If a snake that wanted to eat a cow was shot, what about me who had dared to kill him?
Did he really see me and say yes I have seen you but you are free to go? I find it absurd that the whole head of state would engage in; for lack of a better word, silly talk. If he had evidence, he should have produced it in 2012 but for four years they even failed to commit me for trial in the High court.
So, how can he go on talking about things he has no idea about? For heaven's sake, he is supposed to be the fountain of honor in this country and by that title it means you cannot engage in reckless talk. I think he has brought himself so low when he engages in wishful talking.
Why would he accuse you of something so serious like that? You are not the only opposition leader in the country.
That was a veiled attempt to influence the panel at the court martial. That was not a message for the public, but for his soldiers; the ones that he has appointed to try me in the general court martial.
That was a veiled order to them to make sure they convict me. I wonder why the president would even utter particulars of a case he has failed to even commit to the High court for trial.
Is there a link between your defeating Freddie Ruhindi and the current charges against you?
The two are one and the same. I know Ruhindi publicly accepted that I defeated him but he never took it nicely. He has continued to engage in activities to ensure that he brings me down. I have been incarcerated in Kigo prison but I know that he; not they, continued to engage in activities visible and invisible to bring me down.
Shed more light on which activities and the 'they'.
They know what I mean when I say "invisible" and Ruhindi in particular knows what I mean. He engaged in invisible activities to ensure that I don't get out of Kigo prison.
Ruhindi will shed more light, I will not do his work for him. By the grace of God, I'm here alive and kicking and I want to tell him that I will live very long irrespective of what he does.
Ruhindi is currently out of government, how can he influence your continued stay in prison?
What you see is not what you get. Looks can be very deceptive.
Why are you opposed to being tried in the General Court Martial?
Have I ever applied to be part of the military? Have I ever been part of the military and do I wish to be? I don't think that, I being a civilian, I should be tried in the general court martial. There are other competent courts that could handle that kind of offence I'm charged with.
I don't know; is the evidence only sufficient for the general court martial? Why are they dying to have me arraigned in the court martial? If they have evidence like they say, why don't they present it in a competent court? The court martial is a kangaroo court where I don't expect to get a free and fair trial. None of the people who sit on that panel is even fit to be a magistrate of any grade.
So, how can they consider getting involved in a case whose maximum penalty is death? We know the kind of training judges get but those in the army court have not got any training that would put them in a position to interpret the law.
You can appeal the judgment of the military court martial if you are not satisfied.
Why should I subject myself to an illegal entity, then appeal later? That would be madness.
Will you appear before the General Court Martial if you lose your appeal against being tried there?
I will not accept to be tried by the General Court Martial. Because I know it is partial. It is under the direct command of Museveni. I know I can't lose at both the appellate courts. The judiciary is not so bad although, yes, some have sold out. They have already swum with the fish and they smell like fish.
But I know there are still competent judges out there and they will do what is right. What is right is that I should not be tried in the general court martial.
What impact are these cases having on the people you represent in Nakawa?
My people are very understanding. They know that I'm fighting for their rights because it might be me today but tomorrow it could be you. You could be arraigned in the Court Martial for no reason. I will continue fighting to ensure that what has happened to me does not happen to any other person.
The law needs to be streamlined so that we know whether the court martial is competent, let alone a court. We need to understand the legal framework in which it was established because we have looked at the constitution and clearly we have failed to establish why parliament established a court martial. It should have been a tribunal like what the police have.
We think that the UPDF should just have an internal tribunal to try members of the UPDF and for limited offenses. But for cases that carry death as the maximum sentence, they cannot be tried by that tribunal. So many militaries across the world have got tribunals but they don't behave like ours here.
When I go back to parliament, I will challenge the UPDF Act that establishes the court martial. It is an absurdity that such provisions were put to grant the military court such jurisdiction.
I'm also going to appeal the ruling of Justice Patricia Basaza, which was not very carefully thought out. I think the court of appeal will be more sober and I believe there are still judges who are going to help this country. Those who don't want us to go back to the past where we have been. We also want to go to the Constitutional court to make a raft of applications all aimed towards changing the legal framework that puts the court martial in its place.
Do you believe that there is a court that can side with you, especially after the president said you wanted to kill him?
As I said, not all judges have swum with the fish. I remember it was The Observer that reported that the president said that 'we will not release Kabaziguruka' but as you can see the courts have released me because in those courts there are judges who love this country.
How has life been in Kigo prisons?
Kigo is not an isolated case, it is almost in all prisons that prisoners are fed on very poor meals. If you look at the quality of posho and beans that are served, they are not what a normal human being should be served.
Was it the same food you were eating?
Prisons of course don't provide a special diet. If for any reason you need a special diet, you would provide it yourself. So, my relatives and friends kept on bringing me food which I have been feeding on for the duration I have been in prison. Otherwise, if I were to feed on prison food, I wouldn't be the way I'm now.
Now that you are out, are you going to further the defiance campaign you swore an affidavit in support of?
Absolutely, there is no way I will turn my back on something I strongly believe in. For all intents and purposes, this regime is finished. It is a rotten regime that has nothing left to offer the people of Uganda.
Yes, they might have done a few things in the past but they are now a liability that we need to write out of our books. Watch the space, we will move forward.
Some people feared that you were an NRM mole within FDC.
In any struggle, those accusations and counter accusations will always be there. As I said, we are dealing with people who are so keen on doing things from under the table.
We expect such things to happen. However, those challenges will not stop the push for change. They may engage one or two people but those few people cannot subvert the will of millions of Ugandans. So, whether I or a few other individuals decide to fall out, that is our problem but we will not stop the train because it has already left the station.