By Andrew M. Mwenda
How Gen. Sejusa has, through a series of letters, proven to be much less than what I always expected of him
I read with disappointment a letter allegedly written by Uganda’s former coordinator of intelligence services, Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza, in late August in which he alleges that President Yoweri Museveni killed many of his political “enemies” – real and suspected – James Kazini, Andrew Kayiira, James Wapakhabulo and Noble Mayombo.
Initially I thought the letter was a fake because the Tinyefuza I know is so much more intelligent to write such a crappy piece of nonsense. However, that he has not come out openly to deny it makes me suspect he could have authored the letter.
Secondly, the glee in the tone of those who interviewed him, especially Henry Gombya and Vincent Magambo, adds to the impression that this was indeed Tinyefuza speaking. Unfortunately, their uncritical embrace, not just of Tinyefuza’s allegations, but his current political posturing shows part of the problem common among our elites on the continent.I suspect that Tinyefuza could be right that government had a hand in the death of all the people above.
This is because I think governments kill to protect what rulers call “national security” even when it is their whims and fancies. So the allegations themselves are not surprising. But if Tinyefuza felt this is an important national issue, he needed to present evidence rather than make assertions.
He may be addressing emotional and not substantive issues. They may make news headlines but they do not fundamentally address the core problems of Uganda.
I don’t think a head of the CIA can flee America and begin “revealing” how the government killed Patrice Lumumba in Congo or overthrew El Salvador Allende in Chile and is taken seriously. Since Sejusa fled Uganda, I have been waiting for him to write an account of his disagreement with the government that he served for many years – even though he at times disagreed with it – on matters of policy.
This is in fact what he did in 1996 when he appeared before a parliamentary committee to testify on the war in northern Uganda. He gave a sound analysis of the ills that bedeviled the army, the weaknesses this had endangered and proposed what was necessary to solve them.
But the Tinyefuza of 2013 is angry, emotional and abusive. His letters and interviews now are a litany of personal attacks on Museveni for killing or theft which seem to be inspired by only one overriding concern, the welfare of David Tinyefuza. There is very little reflection on the problems facing Uganda and proposals on how he thinks they can be addressed.
I have many disagreements with Kizza Besigye but I respect (most especially initially) his motivations. When he first penned his criticism of “the Movement” in 1999 in a document to parliament, he was focused.
He refrained from making it personal to Museveni although the president responded by making it so. He made it clear that there was growing and unabated corruption, nepotism, privilege and dictatorial tendencies and proceeded to demonstrate how. He ended his critique of the system by suggesting how the “revolution” could be “re-directed” to exhibit greater reform.
I have always considered Sejusa one of the most thoughtful persons in Africa. During our many conversations in private meetings, telephone conversations and radio talk shows, Sejusa struck me as a man of exceptional intelligence and insight on the problems of Africa and their geo-political dynamics.
I used to spend hours listening to this great man and even more telling everyone who cared to listen how smart he is and how lucky Uganda is to have him. But the Sejusa from London, if he is the one writing these letters, comes across as petty, parochial, angry and unintelligent.
It is apparent that through his interviews and letters, Sejusa may have been able to irritate and embarrass Museveni deeply at a personal level. But I do not think that such positioning he has adopted builds a political base to effectively oppose the president and the NRM.
His rants and recriminations may appeal to the extremist fringe of Uganda’s opposition but they cannot win over the vast majority of people in the country who are searching for an alternative to NRM’s increasingly tired, corrupt and incompetent rule.
From the word go, Sejusa began his campaign on the wrong foot. Instead of positioning his struggle as one against poor governance, he has positioned it as a struggle against Museveni and family. He may appeal to a loud group of some Ugandan elites who mistake their personal obsessions with popular feelings.
But these are a small constituency. Secondly, rather than his struggle being one to liberate Uganda from all the ills it faces, Sejusa appears to be looking at it as one aimed at liberating Sejusa from the clutches of Museveni. I have not confronted such a parochial approach to politics from him before.
When he authored his first letter to the Director General of ISO, I was willing to give him some limited benefit of the doubt. Sejusa argued that Museveni has a plan to install his son, Brig. Muhoozi Keinerugaba, as president of Uganda.
I felt (or hoped) that that was not his major point since Museveni has a right (and I think a parental obligation) to help his son win the presidency. The real point I felt Sejusa had brought to the table was that Museveni wants to achieve this objective by unconstitutional means. He alleged this involved plans to assassinate the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, the Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, and him – Sejusa.
Of course the assassination allegations were wild and not backed by any evidence. It was unclear why Sejusa felt they were substantial enough to merit his attention. They had previously appeared on Facebook as one of the many rumours in Kampala.
I was therefore surprised that he, a senior general in the army, a presidential advisor and coordinator of intelligence services would take them seriously enough as to recommend to his subordinates – in writing – to investigate them.
Even when he appeared on BBC and VOA, Sejusa failed to make a strong case for need for reform. This shows he needs to address national questions Uganda is facing now; like how do we organise politically to fight for improved governance away from the current politics that is increasingly corrupt, nepotistic, incompetent and protects the privileges of a few over the many?