Ugandan General Threatens Presidential Candidate

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[Letter To The Editor]

I read an article in Uganda's The Daily Monitor with considerable dismay "Tinyefuza warns Otunnu: We will crash you," referring to threats by a Yoweri Museveni's army general to a Uganda presidential candidate Olara Otunnu, who had called for an independent investigation of civilian killings in Uganda's Luwero region in the 1980s.

The Monitor reported general David Tinyefuza saying: “Tell Otunnu that he should not start to play with the blood of our people. There is politics and treachery and we hope he does not cross the red line.” He also reportedly said: “We know what Otunnu has been involved in and I can assure him that if he thinks that he can be a beachhead for Kony in Kampala, he will be crushed and therefore we advise him to stick to his political struggle.”

The reference is to Joseph Kony, leader of The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Perhaps the General should care to explain what he means and to go even further to elaborate just why and how he intends to execute this "crashing."

General Tinyefuza is supposed to have a law background combined with bush war experience culminating into the coordination of Intelligence work in the country. He is also reputed to have been a commander of the Northern Region Brigade during whose time a lot of human rights abuses were meted in the region.

Is the General’s remark of a personal nature or is it representative of the voice of darker and more sinister forces lurking behind the grimacing picture of pipes, machetes and kalashnikovs that we are not yet aware of? Is this what the General has to show for all the years he has spent in the bush, law school and other Training Institutions over the last 23 years?

Would he therefore still proudly identify with the widely acclaimed NRM disciplined soldiers at the beginning of the NRM struggle to liberate Uganda from oppression? Either way if there is a yes to any of the answers above then God helps us all Ugandans.

My recollection of what was reported as Otunnu’s remarks at the press conference is that he said … “I don’t care whether the person who committed the atrocities bears the name of a Muganda, Munyankole or an Acholi; we must have the inquiry done and chips fall..” This is the most reconciliatory statement of a statesman or any human rights activist in a civilized society of which I take the present Uganda to be by all accounts. I find it impossible to interpret the statement otherwise, let alone justify the kind of apparent venomous and vitriolic response that it has attracted from a whole General worth his status.

On record Otunnu was one of the people publicly ridiculed and implicated in the Luwero killings by none other than a whole head of state, Museveni, who has always been Tunyefuza’s boss. In May 2006, while touring the mass graves where victims of the Luwero were buried, Museveni reportedly told foreign dignitaries that one of the people responsible for the killings was nearly appointed the UN Secretary General, a reference to Otunnu. He went on to say as reported …"I talked to Nelson Mandela and we blocked him, however, he was made Under Secretary General..”

Indeed there was no one other than Otunnu who fit that description. In his shoes I would move the earth to clear my name at the earliest possible opportunity given the severity of the accusation.

A closer perusal of Otunnu’s impeccable credentials which is now for public consumption does not show anywhere that he worked in Luwero let alone held a gun in his entire life.  It is therefore a puzzle how his alleged killing spree in Luwero would have incensed a whole head of state to involve a statesman like Mandela to contribute in destroying another citizen’s  career.

Otunnu’s only evident sin during this period of Luwero killings is that he diligently served his country at an away duty station in New York as a civil servant. If that makes him an accomplice to the Luwero killings then it must mean that all the Ugandans including Acholi, Baganda and Banyangkole who were civil servants in that period should have been culpable for the same crime.

How come then that none of them have been associated with the same crime? As if that is not enough, Tinyefuza goes on yet again without actually substantiating his claims to insinuate that Otunnu is a "beachhead" for Kony. Are these casual remarks excusable in a civilized world? Why don’t the powers that be use appropriate platforms such as a court of law or commission of inquiry to test these matters?

It is most unfortunate that after 23 years our leaders are still engaged in ad hominem attacks using unverifiable rumors full of distortions, half truths and lies in order to tarnish opponents’ images. Accordingly Tinyefuza should stop intimidating Otunnu and using smear campaign to harass him.

Is "crushing" Otunnu the best you can do with your intelligence? Is that why the military tried to "crush" Otunnu at Minakulo in a botched "road accident" in December?

Why don’t you take to the real task of "crushing" corruption and other upheavals that have beset our country?  Where are the banks, schools, hospitals, railways, industries, etc., most of which were "crushed"?

Just who does Tinyefuza think he is? Does he realize that he is not the first and not the last general Uganda has or will have? Tinyefuza must realize that the very instrument he purports to use to "crush" Otunnu can equally be used to "crush" him instead?

This is 21st Century Uganda where bush war can be fought with cutting edge technology like cybers or other alternative appropriate civilized wars. Ugandans have had enough and we are not going to sit back and let our inheritance goes to the dogs. We shall take back the country that rightfully belongs to us. Meanwhile everybody including Tinyefuza and Otunnu has the right, individually and in association with others to know, seek, obtain, receive, publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to draw public attention to those matters as the needs may arise.

Aggrey Suit is a former Uganda government minister and United Nations diplomat.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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