Uganda’s succession drama that sent a general into hiding

By Jeff Mbanga in Kampala

Posted on July 24, 2013 07:03

Media clampdown after general squawks about assassination plots.

Political temperatures were running high in June after the publishing of an explosive letter authored by a top army general.

The missive called for investigations into supposed assassination plots against those opposed to a purported plan by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son succeed him.

General David Sejusa’s letter led to the government’s most aggressive clampdown on the media.

But it has succeeded in opening the door for debate on whether Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba should succeed his father.

It also calls into question the unity of the army.

“There is a lot of panic in the country, and it has not spared Mr Museveni either,” says retired Major John Kazoora, who is in the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change.

The police laid siege to the premises of the Daily Monitor, the country’s only independent daily newspaper, and the boisterous Red Pepper tabloid, for 10 days in late May.

The government claimed it was looking for Sejusa’s letter and other related documents, but now there is growing self-censorship among independent outlets.

There is also a fear of what might happen if the criticism of the regime or any talk of a succession plan continues.

“When you are the head of the house and you hear a lizard walking on the roof and then you get a spear to kill it, one wonders what will happen when a lion attacks you,” Kazoora said.

Many in Uganda were surprised by the conspicuous silence of the international community.

The European Union and the United States issued brief statements on the merits of media freedoms.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim visited during the media siege but did not make any public statements about it.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda says everything has been “overplayed by the public and the press […]. He [Sejusa] is not foreign to controversy”.

Sejusa is still the coordinator of intelligence services and an MP representing the army.

“He attempted to create a view that there is a rift in the army. The military is still cohesive […] there is no big deal,” Ankunda said.

He insisted that “there is no Muhoozi project”.

Sejusa has done very little to quell fears of a potential upheaval.

He has extended his stay in the United Kingdom, where he was travelling. He is expected to be arrested and arraigned before a military court if he returns.

The government has already reshuffled the army. Kale Kayihura, the inspector general of police, who Sejusa lists among those behind the alleged plot to bump off anyone against making Muhoozi the next president, is now a general.

He therefore becomes one of the frontrunners to try Sejusa, if the need should arise.

Military laws require that an army official be tried by someone of the same rank.

There has been very little public sympathy for Sejusa though.

Many people believe he has played a crucial role in shaping the system that governs Uganda today.

To a wide section of the public, he is simply a lone wolf with no political ideology to rally mass support.

Analysts see Sejusa as an example of the growing divergence of views within the ruling party.

The National Renaissance Movement has already kicked out four of its members of parliament largely because of their criticism of government.

Museveni still enjoys the support of the army, parliament and the rural masses. ●

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