Top Uganda General, After Falling Out, Says Museveni's Could Be 'Removed' In BBC Interview
A top Ugandan general has suggested in an interview with the BBC that his boss, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, who's ruled for almost 30 years and with whom he's had a falling out could be "removed" from power.
Implying that Gen. Museveni had abrogated and subverted the constitution he said he could be resisted by "all means necessary" as the constitution itself called for."We are beginning to have a new narrative in the country. We are beginning to discuss other options," the general, David Sejusa, said, responding to a question from the BBC interviewer about how change could come about in Uganda. While not directly saying the Ugandan ruler would have to be removed by force, his responses to questions from the interviewer for the BBC on Tuesday seemed to rule out the ballot box.
It's a sharp escalation of an open duel between the two generals that has many citizens of the east African nation searching feverishly for any news. This was the first interview Sejusa has given in recent weeks.
The general, who once went by the last name Tinyefuza is still officially Gen. Museveni's advisor. As coordinator of Intelligence Services, and Senior Adviser to Gen. Museveni, it's believed Sejusa may know many uncomfortable secrets.
Sejusa's been exiled in London in recent weeks after a firestorm erupted in Uganda following publication by media there of a letter Sejusa had written to Uganda's intelligence chief asking that he investigate an alleged plot to kill top politicians and military officers opposed to a project to install Museveni's son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to succeed him. Sejusa learned that he too was on the alleged assassination list of what's been referred to as "The Muhoozi Project."
In Uganda, The Daily Monitor newspaper and other private media outlets such as The Red Pepper and a few radio stations were surrounded and closed for several days after they published the Sejusa letter, which was reportedly leaked. Security forces also searched the media houses premises and computers, reportedly in search of copies of the Sejusa letter. Gen. Sejusa's offices and home were also searched.
In the BBC interview Sejusa made it clear where he stands with Gen. Museveni who is legally still his commander in chief. He told the BBC that Museveni ran a "decadent" and "perverse" system and that after nearly 30 years in power, he had started "playing God."
He said the Ugandan ruler had "destroyed" institutions such as the country's Parliament which are meant to hold him accountable to the country. He said Museveni also checked the political ambitions of officers such as himself by preventing them from retiring from the military.
Gen. Sejusa said Gen. Museveni uses the military "as an institution which is not ordinarily used; as a prison. Nobody would suspect it."
He denounced pervasive corruption in Uganda and asked the interviewer: "Who gave Mr. Museveni the right to rule over us forever?"
When asked whether he was ruling out presidential ambitions for himself Sejusa said: "Why should I? A four-star General without ambitions; you must be in the wrong place."
"I don't see it," Sejusa responded, when the interviewer, Paul Bakibinga, wanted to confirm if he saw little room for change. "We have tried for the 27 years almost 30 years. But every safeguard we put he has subverted. We are beginning to have a new narrative in the country. We are beginning to discuss other options."
When the interviewer asked him about options, Gen. Sejusa retorted, "The solution is simple. What do you do with dictators? That is the unfortunate thing."
When the interviewer pressed on for details, and wondered whether Uganda could plunge back into violence, Gen. Sejusa said: "No, no, no. We were very clear. Our constitution, Article 3. First of all, Article 1 says 'Uganda belongs to all of us.' To all the people. That's a very, very fundamental Article. Now anyone who subverts that must be removed. But Article 3 says anyone who abrogates, subverts, or in any way threatens this constitution, should be resisted using all means; all means necessary."
Gen. Sejusa once fought as comrades arm-in-arm with Museveni in the bush war against the government of Milton Obote that brought the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to power. He too has now seems to have fallen out with Museveni.
Dr. Kizza Besigye, who also fought alongside Museveni and was once his personal physician broke off in 1990s after publishing a manifesto outlining how Museveni had instituted a dictatorship in place of the democratic ideals for which they had gone to war. Dr. Besigye has been a leading and well-respected opposition leader for years. He has also faced official harassment, beatings, and multiple arrests by the regime's security forces.
A Uganda government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, denounced Gen. Sejusa and called him a "coward" in his reaction, to the BBC. "There is no project by president Museveni to have his son replace him as president of Uganda," Opondo told the BBC, adding that in addition to presidential elections in 2016, there would be an internal NRM election to determine the party's standard-bearer.
He said Sejusa had never raised any of the grievances he now does while he was inside Uganda and that as a member of parliament he has a forum where he could do so, in addition to through the courts. "And therefore if he is not a coward, that he is, I think he should return."
"He's a safe man; he's a free man, until he does otherwise," Opondo noted, referring to the possibility that Sejusa was implying that the constitution's Article Three gave him the right to use "unconstitutional means" to unseat Museveni.
"However if he chooses to define the way he seems to be, that he can use other means, perhaps unconstitutional then it is at that point that the government of Uganda will respond to him," Opondo says, referring to Article 3 of the constitution. "The government of Uganda as he knows very well has appropriate machinery, has capacity, has the will, has the popular support of the people. We shall deal with general Sejusa as we have dealt with all the others who he has been part of resisting."
Unofficial Transcript of Gen. Sejusa's interview:
Gen. Sejusa: This project should not be personal. It should be taken away from the son. Really the son is a tiny factor. The central issue is a political monarchy. A life presidency and then transition on a political monarch. You know really. Terribly; terribly common African story.
There is nothing strange about it. So people should not seem as if they are hearing this for the first time. They are scattered everywhere. Once a system is decadent and perverse and a person who has been in power for 30 years they start playing God.
BBC: But you've been a part of that system for nearly as long -- nearly those 30 years.
Gen. Sejusa: Yes, I have, I have, but you see this is the point. This is the point of saying enough is enough. Because you see in a system like that you are never allowed to leave. Because you are virtually a captive. If you follow my history I have tried many times to leave. I have stood up this system. In 1994 because of the subversiveness nature of this president he undermined that process.
BBC: But why wouldn't he want officers to retire?
Sejusa: He can't because he uses the military -- he uses the military as an institution which is not ordinarily used -- as a prison. Nobody would suspect it. It's very difficult to get unless you are there --
BBC: But his ambition was to professionalize the army. Isn't this part of it?
Sejusa: No, no, no. You see this is the tragedy of it. But what happens is once you are in the military and you think you have the capacity to be anything else you are never released from the military. So we have a situation where we have everybody going in; nobody goes out. Assimilation without rejection. It's a very dangerous process.
So we are clogged up with old men. We are clogged up with people who are not useful. Uganda is a country where we have something called Akatebe -- Akatebe means sitting on a chair with no job but being paid for it. And why? So that you are kept there, contained by military law.
So he is using it for political purposes. He is using it for as a political weapon like he is using other institutions which he has destroyed. Like Parliament; Parliament which is supposed to stand up and make sure he is accountable to the people. But he has subdued the Parliament. It does not matter how he perpetuates himself. Whether through himself or his son--
BBC: But the government has denied that --
Sejusa: He hasn't denied that. He hasn't' come up. Since this whole debate came up he hasn't come up to say 'this is a lie.'
BBC: But basically you are saying there is very little room for change in the country.
Sejusa: I don't see it. We have tried for the 27 years almost 30 years. But every safeguard we put he has subverted. We are beginning to have a new narrative in the country. We are beginning to discuss other options.
BBC: What other options would you? What other solutions do you have?
Sejusa: No, no, but before I come to the options, what are the dangers? Because the options must come from the dangers we are facing as a country. If you look at Uganda as it is because of the corruption and so on if you hear about the economy and so on, court middle class is so tiny -- they say private sector is the engine of growth; there is nothing. Because of the corruption and so on there is no job coordination. Agriculture which employs 89% of the population gets 4%.
BBC: You have laid out a litany of problems in the country but some government officials are sayings you are someone who s distort titled because u have presidential ambitions.
Sejusa: Yeah, but how many times have I enumerated when I have stood up to Mr. Museveni? If they can, my presidential ambitions, if they can stop Mr. Museveni and his unconstitutional project, so be it. I have no regrets for that. And in any case, really, seriously speaking a four star General--
BBC: So you are not ruling it out?
Sejusa: Why should I? A four-star General without ambitions; you must be in the wrong place. Who gave Mr. Museveni the right to rule over us forever?
BBC: He argues that he has the mandate from the people?
Sejusa: How many Presidents have you heard who have been impeached in the middle of their presidency?
BBC: But let's say if the situation is not conducive for elections then what is the solution?
Sejusa: The solution is simple what do you do with dictators? That is the unfortunate thing.
BBC: There is a fear of taking Uganda back to what people went through a few years ago.
Sejusa: No, no, no. Our constitution. No, no, no. We were very clear. Our constitution Article Three. First of all, Article 1 says 'Uganda belongs to all of us.' To all the people. That's a very, very fundamental Article. Now anyone who subverts that must be removed. But Article Three says anyone who abrogates, subverts, or in any way threatens this constitution, should be resisted using all means; all means necessary.
Unofficial Transcript of Reaction By Ofwono Opondo:
Ofwono Opondo: First of all what general Sejusa is saying is not new. The accusations are empty accusations. There is no project by president Museveni to have his son replace him as president of Uganda.
Because the constitutional framework is quite clear and elaborate on that. There will be elections within the NRM and within the country. Two, General Sejusa, as you rightly asked him, has been part of this process.
He is a member of Parliament representing the Army; member of the high command; member of the army council; member of the security council; he's the presidential advisor on intelligence services. He has not raised all these matters he is raising in London back in Uganda --
BBC: But he says he is unhappy that the army or president Museveni has refused to let him resign from the army; in order to curtail his political ambitions.
Opondo: Well as you know general Sejusa decided in 1997 to unilaterally leave the army. He went to court. Government followed him in the constitutional court; and up to court of appeals. Court rejected his resignation. It was not President Museveni who rejected his resignation. It was the supreme court of Uganda. Since that time there is no evidence on paper to the Army's Commission Board that general Sejusa has made another attempt.To the contrary he has been a prolific high handed officer in this government holding many people to ransom.
The fact that he has chosen to leave Uganda and rant from London - the safety of London implies he has either mischief; when he does try to implement that mischief--
BBC: He is saying he's ready to use all means possible as per Article 3 of the constitution.
Opondo: Well that Article, it's not up to general Sejusa to define the meaning of the Articles in the constitution. It is up to the constitutional court.
However if he chooses to define the way he seems to be, that he can use other means, perhaps unconstitutional then it is at that point that the government of Uganda will respond to him.
The government of Uganda as he knows very well has appropriate machinery, has capacity, has the will, has the popular support of the people. We shall deal with general Sejusa as we have dealt with all the others who he has been part of resisting.
BBC: He's obviously in London. He doesn't have immediate plans to return home. So what charges is he facing or is he a free man to return?
Opondo: Well perhaps when he declares his intentions to use unconstitutional means -- as of now he's a free man to return to the country if he is not a coward. He should return because he has all the platforms to raise these things.
If he fears the president he can raise it in Parliament where he enjoys a lot of immunity. He can raise these things in the courts of Uganda where he has again immunity. And therefore if he is not a coward, that he is, I think he should return. He's a safe man; he's a free man, until he does otherwise.