General David Sejusa, the coordinator of intelligence services (is he still in charge after the raid on his office?), is the man of the moment.
The moustached military man is arguably the most controversial army officer of the Museveni era. His knack for facing-off with higher authorities dates back to the guerrilla bush war days in Luweero. Right in the middle of the NRA war against Obote’s government, he was detained in an underground ‘jail’ for a year, only to be freed right in time to lead one of the major fronts in the grand finale and the capture of power in Kampala.
Yet even with his controversial and unnerving demeanour, Sejusa has largely been at the centre of the Museveni establishment. His attempt to retire from the army in 1997 triggered a protracted court battle all the way to the Supreme court. In the end, he ate a bit of his words and was persuaded, if not compelled, to return to the status quo.
This raises a curious question: is Sejusa indispensable to the Museveni regime? Museveni always emphasises the rationale of ‘okubejjako’ (getting rid of them), the most recent purging of dissenters being that of the famous ‘rebel MPs.’ Will Sejusa be purged this time round? Most unlikely, and here is why.
Sejusa is indispensable to the current establishment in a critical way but he also carries a badly - damaged name. Thus there is a mutuality of interest and reciprocal coexistence between him and Museveni.
He is by far one of the most intelligent army officers, with an irreplaceable understanding of statecraft. If Museveni was looking for a genuine and objective, intellectually grounded yet pragmatic assessment of a key security-political question, Sejusa is likely to be the president’s first point of call.
But Sejusa’s first - rate grasp of state affairs is easily matched by his deeply-involved role in the flagrant abuses and heinous deeds of the current regime. Here, one is tempted to draw parallels with the late Brig Noble Mayombo.
The public credibility of Sejusa is as appallingly spectacular as his contribution to sustaining the Museveni regime. In this lies the rationale for mutual coexistence between Sejusa and the Ssabalwanyi (the chief fighter) who is President Museveni. It is likely that the two will always swim or float together albeit through a hate-love relationship!
For one, Gen Sejusa was reported as the behind-the-scenes architect of the infamous siege on the High court in Kampala on November 16, 2005. His name also featured prominently in the deadly September 2009 Buganda riots.
What is more, for a man highly schooled in law, in addition to his role in attacking the ‘temple of justice,’ an act the then Principal Judge, James Ogoola, called ‘the most naked and grotesque violation of the twin doctrines of the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary,’ Sejusa did something worse.
After the first High court siege, a public interest litigation case No. 1 (2006) was filed in the Constitutional court, challenging the simultaneous trial of PRA rebel suspects in the High court and General Court Martial. In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional court held that the GCM is subordinate to the High court and that the double-trial was unconstitutional.And guess who fired the first salvo against the judges? General Sejusa!
In attacking the judges, Sejusa was picking a leaf from his boss who, a few years earlier, castigated the same court after its ruling annulling the Referendum Act, 2000. While Gen Museveni accused the judges of trying to usurp ‘the powers of the people,’ Sejusa condemned the judges for undermining national security!
But Sejusa did not stop at castigating the judges. He was party to something even more reprehensible: the continued illegal detention of PRA treason suspects, including a young brother to opposition politician Kizza Besigye (Sejusa’s bestman!). Besigye’s brother (Musasizi Kifefe) died a few months after leaving jail. It was at one of the failed attempts to free his brother that Dr Besigye, a man hitherto seen as defiant and courageous, broke down in tears for the first time in public.
Fast forward to last Friday, The Observer reported that Gen Sejusa had cancelled his expected return to Uganda. Apparently he ‘was not ready to be arrested like a cockroach!’ So, generals too fear unfair, if illegal, arrests?
In his most recent statement in The Observer (on Wednesday), Sejusa says a spy was planted in his office, to spy on the chief of intelligence! Isn’t that how things run?
Assuming The Observer’s report was accurate, and if Sejusa returns to Uganda, as his lawyers have insisted he will, he is likely to face the same abuses he presided over. The old adage will ring loud: what goes around comes around.
Recently, Brig Henry Tumukunde protested his endless appearance before the General Court Martial. But was Tumukunde also recalling the infractions at his behest when he was spy chief at ISO and CMI? Unfortunately, the current ‘chiefs,’ especially the Inspector General of Police, Lt Gen Kale Kayihura appear unbothered by these trends!
The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago-USA
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