By Andrew M. Mwenda
Intelligence information reveals the extent of the renegade general’s fallout with the president and how the security bosses want to deal with the situation
On April 30, 2013, President Yoweri Museveni summoned four top trusted aides to State House for an emergency meeting. Among them was the Inspector General of Police, Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura; the Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima; the Commander of the Special Forces Command (SFC), Brig. Muhoozi Keinerugaba and the Chief of Military Intelligence CMI), Brig. Charles Bakahumura.
According to sources at State House, the generals did not wait long as is usually the case. They were immediately ushered into for audience with the president. They found Museveni in a tough mood. Sounding impatient, he immediately kicked off the subject without any pleasantries: Gen. David Tinyefuza.
Do you know what he has been up to? Taken by surprise and before they could forge answers (Kayihura was about to leap to his feet to say something), the President laid his case on the table.
I have been receiving reports about some activities by Tinyefuza – some of them political and dangerous but many of them military and quasi-military and actually criminal, Museveni said. First, the president went on, he has been trying to mobilize politically within NRM.
From the information I have been getting, he wants to be a contender for leadership inside the party. Secondly, he has also been doing something in the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defense Forces]; mobilizing veterans, Iraq returnees and some elements within the army for actions that could amount to subversion of security and treason.
Although he changed his name to Sejusa, throughout the meeting he was being (and therefore throughout this article will be) referred to as Tinyefuza. Kayihura was the first to respond. The police, Kayihura reportedly said, had also been following some activities of Tinyefuza, which they considered ‘subversive.’
However, the IGP added, the problem was that a lot of what the renegade general was doing was being orchestrated using his office as Coordinator of Intelligence Services. This, Kayihura reasoned, was making it difficult to separate what may be official work from unofficial activities.
I have been suspecting him of being up to something fishy, Kayihura is said to have told the president, I was only holding back only for a while wondering whether I should bring my concerns to your attention when my information was still premature. What you have told us confirms my initial suspicion.
“The president was quick and decisive,” an aide inside State House told The Independent, “he immediately ordered that the officers in the meeting go and form a committee, study the situation and put in place measures “to stop Tinyefuza in his tracks.”
I want all the people he has been using arrested immediately and interrogated, Museveni is said to have instructed the generals at the meeting. Once we have all the facts, we can call in Tinyefuza for questioning on what exactly he has been up to. For now, monitor all his movements to ensure that he does not run away, the President reportedly said.
With that instruction, the meeting ended. As Aronda, Kayihura, Bakahumura and Muhoozi got out of the meeting, another general was ushered into audience with the president. It was Gen. Salim Saleh a.k.a Caleb Akandwanaho. Saleh had been the person behind Tinyefuza’s rehabilitation. After he fell out with the system in 1996, it is Saleh who reconciled him with the president and the UPDF High Command. Saleh was up till this time unsure what the meeting with his elder brother was all about.
“Saleh,” Museveni is said to have called out even before the general had taken to his sit, “This Tinyefuza of yours. He has not changed. He has gone back to his old ways.” Saleh was still trying to establish what was going on when Museveni laid the facts he had on the table: political mobilization and military subversion – that is what Tinyefuza is involved in. Saleh reportedly listened in stunned silence and only gasped two words: Jesus Christ!
Museveni said many NRM mobilisers were coming to him saying Tinyefiza was holding meetings with them directly or through his appointed agents. Tinyefuza, Museveni is said to have told Saleh, had not informed anyone of this political mobilization. Amama Mbabazi, the NRM Secretary General, did not know. The chairman of the party, Museveni did not know.
As coordinator of Intelligence Services, he had not informed the heads of the International and External Security Organisations (ISO or ESO), which are under him. Instead, he reportedly instructed NRM cadres using official funds to his office to go and mobilize people for 2016 but also telling them to omit the name of the president.
Museveni is also said to have told Saleh that to some mobilisers, Tinyefuza directly instructed them to leave Museveni’s name out. To a few others, he directly asked them to mention him as a ‘potential presidential candidate.’ Some of our people are saying he asked them to suggest his name to weigh how the public can treat it if he was to run, the president reportedly said.
Of major concern, the president went on telling his brother, was that Tinyefuza had bulldozed the intelligence organizations under him to allocate Shs 300m a month to his office as coordinator of intelligence – a kind of monthly stipend. He was thus drawing on this money to run his mobilization activities whose purpose was personal political promotion. In effect, the intelligence services have inadvertently been financing treason.
Briefly, Museveni added, Tinyefuza has been organizing deserters, Iraqi returnees and civilians with military potential under the guise of intelligence operations. According to Museveni, Tinyefuza would send those guys around to collect information on strength, combat readiness and morale of UPDF with special interest in Special Forces Command (SFC), especially armored brigade, mechanized units, air defenseetc, which are strategically critical. Some of the people he was using are said to have reported back to Museveni about these incidents.
On hearing that, Saleh was said to have got furious. Sources close to him say he felt a deep sense of betrayal. I’ve given up on that man, he is said to have told the president. Saleh, his friends say, told Museveni that Tinyefuza was not looking at a political struggle. He must be calculating that his actions would precipitate a military uprising inside UPDF.
But this is a nonstarter since he has been out of the mainstream UPDF for almost 20 years and is therefore no familiar with the young commanders in charge of units and brigades, Saleh reasoned. So what exactly is driving him? Madness!
By this time, it seems Tinyefuza had smelt a rat, sensing that someone was on his heels. Information had leaked to him that Museveni was following his activities. Or some of the people who had been informing the president of his activities seem to have also double-crossed the president and told Tinyefuza about it.
It seems that on the basis of this, the renegade general took advantage of a pending trip abroad to go away and watch the developments from a distance before he decides whether to return and face the music or stay away in exile completely.
The Independent has been unable to reach Tinyefuza to verify these allegations against him. Did he travel out of the country on a planned trip? Or had he smelt a rat and escaped just in time? Did he author the letter on a possible ‘Muhoozi project’ before Museveni ordered an investigation into his activities or did he author it afterwards to win public sympathy? Until Tinyefuza speaks and both sides of the matter are represented, it is difficult to judge.
Analysts wonder whether it is possible for Tinyefuza to have begun such political mobilization or even security subversion. Was he so reckless as to attempt a military uprising inside UPDF by using the accusation of a ‘Muhoozi project’? If a military uprising is difficult, did he ever think he has a chance to precipitate a political uprising inside NRM?
Tinyefuza’s allies inside Uganda blame his woes on Kayihura. They accuse the inspector general of police of witch-hunting him because of some “dialectical wounds” the now renegade general has inflicted on Kayihura. However, in an interview with The Independent, Kayihura denied any personal hostility towards Tinyefuza, saying that in fact the reverse is the case. “Tinyefuza has always had a grudge against me,” he said, “And I don’t know why. I have always treated him as a comrade.”
Apparently, intelligence reports seen by The Independent are conflicting. One of them claims that Tinyefuza went abroad but when he heard that security organizations were raiding his office, he sent an email to a Daily Monitor reporter, one Richard Wanambwa, with the now famous letter addressed to the DG of ISO, Col. Ronnie Balya. The other intelligence report claims that Tinyefuza gave the letter to Wanambwa when he was still in Uganda with instructions to print it immediately he was out of harm’s way.
Whatever the truths in these reports, sources say immediately after the meeting with Museveni, Kayihura, Bakahumura, Aronda and Muhoozi left State House. As instructed, they are said to have formed a joint committee comprising the Police Flying Squad, CMI, ISO and SFC.
The committee was mandated to raid Tinyefuza’s offices, apprehend individuals who had been named consistently as working with him and interrogate them for more information. The first question for the committee to answer was: How long did Tinyefuza spend on this Tinyefuza-for-president project?
According to current intelligence reports, it is hard to know when he began. Some of the information shows it begun in January, others date it to as far as February while most of them say March 2013. What is clear from intelligence information The Independent has seen, is that the first signals to the president and to police began in January.
However, it seems key people in the system had advised the president to ignore Tinyefuza when he began writing a couple of letters to the press regarding current developments in the politics of the country. Tinyefuza may have seen this as a signal of weakness. So he upped the ante.
Search for attention
But why had Tinyefuza, hitherto occupying a senior and sensitive job, begun to turn against the system? Sources say that since 2011, Museveni had progressively sidelined him from the decision-making process. Sources say Tinyefuza had realized that his letters to the president were not being answered.
His calls were not being returned. Feeling increasingly isolated and ignored, intelligence analysts say Tinyefuza sought relevance. Was this really a desperate act to gain the attention of the president? Most unlikely, but also to take a jab at Muhoozi and Kayihura.
Towards the end of 2012, Kayihura allied with Muhoozi to launch probably the most far-reaching corruption crackdown in the history of NRM. The suspects were civil servants working in the ministry of public service. They were accused by a police investigation of stealing up to Shs 340 billion.
Muhoozi felt this level of theft had national security implications. What if the accused used this ill-gotten wealth to finance a rebellion or political movement against the government? During the investigation that followed, it was alleged that the leading person in the theft, the Principal Accountant in the Ministry of Public Service, Christopher Obeyi, was a close friend of Tinyefuza. Intelligence sources alleged that Obeyi was being protected by the general. Kayihura took note.
Meanwhile, after Museveni’s meeting with the generals at State House, the joint intelligence committee had moved forth and apprehended four key persons who had been working with Tinyefuza. One of these is James Karuhanga Nayebare a.k.a Kariite. He had been working in Tinyefuza’s office as a security officer.
Apparently, intelligence reports say, he is also a relative to the renegade general, a nephew of sorts. He was the leader of the team that Tinyefuza had detailed to carry out recruitment within the army and gathered information about troop strength and readiness. Nayebare reported directly to Tinyefuza and from the reports, he seems to have been the most critical person in the general’s political and security schemes.
The second person arrested was a one Abel Twine’matsiko aka Kachwagire. He is reported in intelligence reports as a deserter from UPDF who left in 2003. After that, he went to Iraq to work as a security guard and returned to Uganda in 2008.
He was arrested for desertion, tried and sentenced to two years in prison, which he served in Luzira. He was released in 2010 and began a construction company called Kats Ltd. Intelligence reports say this company was building valley dams in Ngoma, Sembabule and Kyankwanzi.
Twine’matsiko is said to have been contacted by Nayebare in March 2013. Nayebare told Twine’matsiko that Tinyefuza wanted some “boys” to do some work for him. According to Twine’matsiko’s revelations, he thought this meant doing guard duty at Tinyefuza’s home. However, after joining he was informed it was aimed at gathering information on some UPDF units. He was also tasked torecruit some soldiers from these units.
The third person to be arrested and interrogated was Moses Nuwagaba. He said to have been recruited by Nayebare and employed by Tinyefuza in the office of the Coordinator of Intelligence. His duties were to act as an officer in charge of civil military relations.
He holds a BA in Education. He was working at a coffee factory in a Kampala surbur. According to the report The Independent has seen, he was employed as a secretary. This was in February 2013. When he went to work, he was told that he would not be a secretary but a civil military relations officer with tasks for political mobilization of the masses.
In his testimony to intelligence, Nuwagaba claimed that he attended meetings with Nayebare and Kachwagure in which they discussed getting information from UPDF soldiers on the number of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and air defense pieces deployed in different strategic locations.
The fourth suspect is Frank Ninsiima. He is a deserter from the UPDF. He was arrested for desertion in 2009, served a two year jail term after which he was dismissed with disgrace from the army. He was recruited in March 2013 by Nayebare and given a job in Tinyefuza’s office as security officer.
He was also sponsored to attend a driving school fully paid by the office of coordinator of Intelligence Services. Nayebare briefed him to start recruiting his former friends from the units in which he served for “future plans,” which the report claims meant staging a coup.
After interrogation, the testimonies of these four key witnesses produced evidence that shows both attempts at political mobilization and military subversion. Intelligence reports are filled with details of attempts by Tinyefuza to infiltrate army units and secure sensitive information.
However, these reports are thin on one critical issue: who was Tinyefuza working with? There are no top names of army officials who seem to have been working with him on such a plot. So if he had wanted to use this information to stage a military coup, who were going to be his allies? Was this to be a one-man coup? Is Tinyefuza so stupid as to plan something like that alone?
However, although The Independent has seen copies of interrogation reports, it has not interviewed the accused persons or Tinyefuza. Did they reveal all this? If yes, was it on their free will devoid of duress or torture? Could they have been bribed by security to pin Tinyefuza?
With the general still abroad and unable to speak, it is difficult to independently confirm allegations against him. What is certain is that government is building a case against him. Should he return to Uganda, he will certainly have a lot of questions to answer.
Just before going to press, The Independent got information that a meeting of security chiefs agreed that Tinyefuzawill not be arrested upon arrival at the airport. This decision has reportedly been approved by the president. However, measures have been put in place that once he returns and settles down, he will be called to police for questioning.
Will government proceed to charge him and try him in the civilian courts of law or a Military Court Martial? What would be the implication of such action? Will Tinyefuza not turn the court into a political rostrum? If yes, how much damage will he cause the regime if he decides to spill security secrets or even make wild political allegations? And what will be the effect of his trial on his political standing?
Will it cause his star to raise and help him to emerge as a hero who sacrificed jail or even a death sentence to defy the system? Or will he sink into political oblivion? For now, it is not easy to find ready answers to these questions but what is clear is that how each side plays its cards may have powerful implications on the future of the Museveni presidency.