Towards the end of the bush war in Luweero Triangle in the mid 1980s, David Tinyefuza (now renamed Sejusa), spent at least one year in detention.
Sejusa had challenged the order of the National Resistance Army (NRA) leadership that commanders must not have girlfriends in the rebel camps, which he saw as unjust, considering that some of the top commanders who had passed this order kept their women.
For his protest, he was accused of spreading malicious propaganda and put under detention.
However, as the war continued, the NRA faced an emergency situation and was forced to release Sejusa to embark on combat duties he was obviously good at. Soon, he was a victorious commander in Kampala, as the NRA/M captured power. The outspoken — and no stranger to controversy — General Sejusa has written two politically loaded letters since October 2012.
The latest, published on Saturday, is hugely critical of the coup talk, and attempts to give guidance on how government should manage the prevailing complex political challenges. Sources familiar with Sejusa’s office say, the general is a bit frustrated and out of touch with President Museveni. This, the source says, forms one of the general’s lowest moments in his military and political advisory career and leaves him with one option –to advise the presidency in print.
Though many senior army officers have been critical of the coup talk, Sejusa’s 1,149 word statement on the matter is the sternest so far and has taken the debate a notch higher. Sejusa has gone as far as suggesting that the NRM must reflect deeply on what political direction the country should take after 27 years.
“When a government has been in power for 27 uninterrupted years, it becomes inevitable that people will start asking questions about service delivery, about accountability, about crime, etc, and ultimately will start demanding for change of some sort. It’s only natural,” Sejusa, coordinator of Intelligence Services, wrote in a statement sent to the media on Friday and first published by Saturday Monitor.
He advised today’s leadership to find a way of confronting the changes and desist from the tendency of keeping their heads down while trying to deny reality.
Sejusa’s letter is not the handiwork of a happy man. Our sources say the general has not recovered from the “humiliation” he suffered when he was evicted from his Kololo office by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in 2011. Sejusa had vowed not to leave the house and even threatened to arrest Jennifer Musisi, the KCCA executive director.
However, after President Museveni’s intervention, the general backed down and left the building. The same sources told us that Sejusa is also unhappy with his inability to meet and advise Museveni despite several requests. Through media statements, the source said, he could be sending an important message.
“It is a way of saying I am still around,” the source said. Other sources told The Observer that his frustration could be a deeper reflection of the frustration amongst other senior army officers who unlike him, fear to speak their mind.
According to these sources, Sejusa and other senior army commanders feel left out, with President Museveni opting to run the UPDF using younger officers, leaving the old guard in the cold. Indeed sources in the intelligence community have told us that Sejusa is particularly unhappy that his reports to the President are at times first channeled to the head of the Special Forces Command, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the President’s son, for advice before being addressed.
Sejusa may not have realised all along that he was not appointed to do anything, a political analyst told us. He now realises he is not as influential as he thought he was, and that can he hard to take for a proud man like him. The analyst adds that the likes of Tinyefuza, who were almost indispensable after the war, now have to play second fiddle to the President’s two main lieutenants on matters of security – the police chief, Lt Gen Kale Kayihura, and Museveni’s son, Brig Kainerugaba.
Realising that they have been sidelined, the analyst said, historical army officers like Sejusa are trying to position themselves for the post-Museveni era.
“They are trying to be relevant in a future political order given that the current one has almost disowned them,” our analyst explained, citing Sejusa’s colleague, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire who used the occasion of ‘rebel’ MP Theodore Ssekikubo’s graduation in Lwemiyaga, Sembabule, to also warn against soldiers seeking to overthrow the constitution.
The analyst also named Brig Henry Tumukunde, who recently told the General Court Martial where he is bring tried for spreading malicious propaganda, that he is fed up with the military court process. However, the President’s Press Secretary, Tamale Mirundi, said not much should be read into Sejusa’s letter because he is not in charge of the army.
“Generals remain at decision making level but the real people who run the army are the majors and the colonels,” Tamale said.
He added that if Sejusa is frustrated by his inability to meet Museveni, it is because the President is busy.
“If Museveni was to meet each MP, every RDC, every army leader, he would not have time for other things. Even some of us who work with him have to go through the Principal Private Secretary (PPS) if we want to meet him,” he said.
He advised Sejusa to go through the army council or through the heads of External Security Organisation and Internal Security Organisation (ISO). Sewava Mukasa, an aide to Sejusa, told The Observer on Saturday that like any Ugandan his boss was free to express his opinion on any matter.
Col. Felix Kulayigye, the army spokesperson concurred with Sewava.
“He is not a mere army MP like Brig [Henry] Tumukunde was [when he made controversial statements about the government in 2005]. He is free to speak his mind,” Kulayigye said by telephone at the weekend.
He, however, said the on-going controversial debate about a possible coup d’etat was not necessary because no one in the army has talked about it or even contemplated it.
In his statement, Sejusa says the turmoil we see today, especially among the political actors and between the different state institutions, is an inevitable consequence of maturity (coming of age) of a system which requires a clearly set out ideological and political framework.
He said this is the ideological issue, the core question of our time. And how we handle this central issue will determine how Uganda as a country and the Eastern African region will be, not in the next 20 or 30 years, but may be three years or less, Sejusa said.
He added that this reality must guide us in the choices we make today because it will influence the behaviour of the international community and determine the economic situation in the country and the long term stability of the state and the region.
“These are the issues facing us as a country not these coups or counter coups. For in the long run they are not sustainable politically, socially, ideologically not even plausible in the geopolitical setting,” he concludes.
Yet whatever repercussions his latest statement will attract, Sejusa has a reputation as someone who never shies away from speaking his mind. In October last year, Tinye warned leaders against acting with impunity and arrogance after the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) demolished part of Centenary Park amid protest from the business community operating there.
“Therefore, this is a call to all those involved in the management of public affairs to reflect and pull back a little to make sure they fully understand where the country is going, the current forces at play and the challenges that face us,” he wrote.
In 1996, Sejusa broke ranks with the army and President Museveni when he sharply criticised the handling of the war in northern Uganda while testifying in a committee of Parliament. During the committee hearing, Tinyefuza had berated the army leadership as corrupt and inefficient, arguing that this is why the war was not coming to an end.
He also complained that he was a military advisor, who essentially never advises the President. When he was threatened with disciplinary measures, Sejusa resigned from the army, saying he had lost faith in the institution.
His resignation was rejected by the UPDF, which said he had not complied with the army’s conditions of service. Sejusa petitioned the Constitutional Court in 1997, claiming he had ceased to be a soldier when he was appointed a presidential advisor on military affairs in 1993.
He won the case, but in 1998 the state appealed to the Supreme Court, which declared that he was still in the army. He was later ‘rehabilitated’, reportedly with the help of his colleague General Salim Saleh, and became part of the establishment again. Now he sounds like he is not part of it anymore – again.
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