By Haggai Matsiko
Maj. Gen. Pecos Kutesa blames fights for money
Outspoken UPDF Maj. Gen. Pecos Kutesa says the ongoing tiff between President Yoweri Museveni and parliament shows the danger of politics motivated by money.
Gen. Kutesa who was one of the fiercest commanders of the war that brought the NRM government to power was commenting about the never ending rifts between the executive and parliament.
Even as concern mounts from every corner of the rifts, Gen. Kutesa says, together with corruption and other leadership problems, they show that the government has veered off the track of `fundamental change’ that they promised in 1986.
“It brings a lot of tears to me,” he said, “People died fighting for what we thought was a noble cause and now, we have got a group of people who think they are the authority on why this war was fought.”
Kutesa, in an exclusive interview with The Independent said that he is as more concerned about these problems because of his role in the history of this country.
“I feel as concerned as you and even much more because I feel like I am betraying my real comrades that I lost in the bush,” he says, “where did those people go and what do they feel about me?”
Renowned for his fighting charisma in the 1981-85 Museveni-led rebel war, captured in his celebrated book, Uganda’s Resolution 1979-1986: How I Saw It, Gen. Kutesa is the Director of Doctrine in the UPDF.
“That book you read, I call it the book of the late because it is full of the late, the late,” he says, “We did our job, in my book you can read and see what we hoped for but now it is your turn to come and say ‘where are we going as Ugandans?’.”
He said Ugandans need to “wake up now if they want to liberate their country from the problems it is facing”.
He adds: “Everybody is blaming the leadership. President Museveni will not rule for ever but before we write off this gentleman [President Museveni], what preparations have we made, how ready are we to take over the mantle.”
He says that unlike when they were in the bush and had a common enemy, today it is hard to mobilise people because the enemy is not easily identifiable.
Kutesa blames the politics of money, external influences, and the rush to democratise and introduce multiparty politics.
“You cannot have democracy when people are still earning a living as politicians, you cannot lie to me that you can have a democratic hungry man,” he says.
He says the MPs fuelling the conflict between Museveni and parliament are merely struggling to remain relevant.
“When you keep quiet, you become irrelevant, what happened to Kawanga Ssemwogerere when he kept quiet? That is why you see this hullabaloo in parliament, people have to stay relevant,” he says.
Kutesa says that he believes the country lost a gem when it hurriedly introduced multiparty politics. In his view, under the movement system Uganda moved as one and people were looked at as individuals. When people embezzled funds, they were ashamed and they resigned, he says, but today society glorifies those who steal money and the NRM party protects them.
The situation, he says, was worsened by commercialization of politics—creating a scenario of willing buyer, willing buyer between leaders and the voters.
“So, if you sell your vote,” Kutesa asks, “how do you stop people from leading you the way they want? The same applies to corruption, whom do you ask and whom do you arrest? If your vote was bought, how better off are you?”
For him, everybody is to blame and instead of accusing each other, Ugandans need to work together on solutions.
He said accusations by some MPs that the government had a hand in the death of Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda, and the subsequent rifts that have emerged between parliament and the executive, show that `Uganda overshot in its attempt to democratise’.
Army generals speak out
Kutesa is not the first top army official to comment publicly about these issues. Gen. Elly Tumwine, a former army commander, Gen. David Sejusa, the coordinator of security organs and Gen. Salim Saleh, the President’s brother and presidential advisor on Security, and Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, have all spoken out.
Elly Tumwiine, who fired the first bullet in Museveni’s NRA guerrilla war made headlines last year when, during the heated parliament debate , he said `enough is enough’ and voted with other MPs to have three suspected ministers including Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi resign for allegedly taking bribes from oil companies.
Gen. David Sejusa, the coordinator of Security Organs. Sejusa, formerly known as Tinyefuza, wrote a scathing letter in the press noting that the country was witnessing a lot of violence, disruption of social life, and insecurity, which he said was “a complete reversal of the feeling and belief which our people had when they defeated dictatorship”.
He warned against the “creeping lawlessness, impunity, primitive arrogance and insensitive behaviour, increasingly being exhibited by some actors who manage the affairs of the state”.
“The poor people who are being beaten and flogged, women undressed in front of their children and cameras, are the ones whose poor parents fought the war of liberation,” Sejusa noted, “They are the people who housed us, gave us food, provided us with intelligence and offered their all to create a better future. Nobody has a right to abuse them.”
More recently, Gen. Saleh, the President’s brother and also one of the most celebrated commanders of the NRA guerrilla war urged government to end corruption by weeding out all “blacklisted” individuals who are, as proved by various unfortunate cases, likely to swindle national resources.
The army censures its officials from making such statements in the public or media, and the statements when made are viewed as voices of defiance.
In the past, senior army officials have been punished severely for such actions. When Former FDC President, Kizza Besigye penned a critique of the NRM in 1999 indicating it had lost its broad-base, President Museveni ordered for him to be dealt with in the Court Martial.
Another soldier, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, a former head of intelligence services was put under house arrest and still has a case before the Court Martial for allegedly criticising the government.
Tell Museveni directly
The army leadership has so far not reacted about the public statements by its generals.
The Ministry of Defence and Army Spokesperson, Col. Felix Kulayigye, said he could not comment about the general’s views.
“I do not know what they meant,” he said, “and I do not speak for them because some of them are outside the UPDF chain of command, some of them are presidential advisors.”
But Dr Fredrick Golooba Mutebi, a researcher and political analyst says instead of the generals complaining in the media, they should tell Museveni directly.
“These people should tell the President himself because you know that if the President is not interested, this talk about corruption won’t have any impact,” he said when asked about the likely impact of the army top brass’s comments.
“They have been part of the impunity and corruption and for certain wrong things that they have never been punished for,” he said, “So at what time did they realise that things were going wrong?”
He says that although what the army generals are saying is right, it is impossible to reform government with them still in power.
“The system is so rotten, it is so dominant,” he says, “the best these people can do is quit the army and join active politics, maybe someone would listen to them or quit and give way to those that can bring reform.
“If you are talking commercialisation of politics, it is the NRM that spends lots of money buying people.”
But Kutesa says that when the Uganda constitution was made, clear roles of soldiers were put in place, the same applies to other players but nobody knows what the job of a politician is.
He adds that the situation is worsened by external forces. In his view, the discovery of oil drew a lot of interest from international players who are now out to influence Uganda’s politics.
Gen. Kutesa warns that these superpowers, which are interested in Uganda’s resources, are looking to stir a storm by boosting dissenting views. He says they want the government to move to suppress them with armed forces, then the superpowers will have a legitimate excuse to come and “rescue Ugandans but mainly their resources”.
According to Kutesa, the confusion in government sometimes is due to lack of clearly demarcated roles that lead to uncoordinated troop movement.
“For instance, who makes a statement, who talks on behalf of the government?” he asks. Although, he did not point fingers, sources say that his peers in the army have a bone to pick with the Inspector General of Police, Lt Gen. Kale Kayihura about the way he deals with sensitive issues that have pitted the public against the government including the death of Nebanda.
Kayihura was the first to announce that Nebanda had died of drug overdose. When tests were carried out and confirmed it, questions were asked about Kayihura’s role.
Kutesa’s comments are very critical because he has physically contributed to Uganda’s political revolution since 1979 when as a senior four finalist; he was forced to join anti-Amin forces. His decision followed an incident where Amin soldiers forced him out of a car at an army road block and ordered him to roll in mud.
He joined the forces that ousted Amin, trained in famous Monduli army training facility in Tanzania and trained UNLF soldiers at Nakasongola before joining the NRA rebel group in 1981.
Kutesa served in several positions before he was relieved of any serious deployment for about 20 years—he only got recognized for his bush role in 2009 and was deployed in his current role recently.
Despite his long spell without deployment, veterans say Kutesa was very critical in Museveni’s bush war. In one of its famous battles known as Kabamba III, the rebels who had failed twice were on the verge of failing a third time when Kutesa stepped in. Museveni who was commanding from the rear had instructed a force of 700 commanded by Gen. Saleh to withdraw. Kutesa insisted to Saleh that the attack had a good shot at succeeding. Saleh agreed and the battle turned out the rebel’s biggest victory.