LETTER FROM JAIL: General Sejusa says talk of coups is being peddled by government to divert country from discussing demands of change
In Luzira prison, Gen David Sejusa has refused to be forced into silence; he is loudly making his controversial views heard, writes SIRAJE LUBWAMA.
In a letter from prison sent to The Observer, Sejusa, the former coordinator of Uganda’s intelligence services, says talk of a coup d’état being peddled by some government officials is diversionary, meant to hoodwink the country.
He said NRM’s failure to manage the country democratically has created a standoff. The press has been awash with coup d’état stories, claims and counter-claims.
This talk, however, is diversionary and masks the real fundamental issues facing us as a country; indeed, the coup talk is potentially disruptive and counter productive,” Sejusa said in his latest letter.
Sejusa is in prison, accused by the army of a range of transgressions. Below is the letter in full.
Suffice to state that the long and arduous struggle of NRM has been to move Uganda from dictatorship to democracy; however imperfect it may be, democracy it is all the same. A coup, therefore, would be to move Uganda from democracy back to dictatorship. What would be the implications of this gigantic reversal of the political course?
By the way, people should not confuse a people’s uprising with a coup. A popular uprising is a legitimate struggle whereas a coup is an illegitimate anti-people activity.
This is, however, a discussion for another day in which I have covered the nature of the outgoing parliament and executive and showing the inevitability of it in ideological terms.
MANAGING NEW FORCES
The central issue, however, that is facing us and indeed staring in our faces, which I think is causing all this friction, is how to manage the different political forces that are taking centre stage in the country.
When a government has been in power for 30 uninterrupted years, it becomes inevitable that people will start asking questions about service delivery, accountability, and crime and so on and ultimately will start demanding for change of some sort. It is natural.
The central role of leaders, therefore, is to confront, head on, the complex issue of how to manage these changes on demands. Many failures often, result from the tendency of the people who are in charge, to keep their heads-down in denial of this fact.
Oftentimes, precious time and opportunity is lost in this procrastination and dilly dallying. So, all this 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 new, clearly set-out ideological and political framework. This is the ideological issue and the core question of our time.
And how we handle this issue will determine how Uganda as a country and the East African region will be, not in the next 20 or 30 years, but maybe in five years or less. This is what faces us and must guide us in the choices we make today.
The other issue that must be confronted and resolved is what I may term generational gridlock! This basically refers to generational roles and positioning of the different generational political/military actors in the management of the politics of the country. Simply put, their roles in the political dispensation now and in the future.
There are four generations, which can be said to be active in the current political life of the country. The first is that of the independence struggle era. These are people who participated in the independence struggle or were part of the political process immediately after independence. This group is represented by elders like our wazei, Kintu Musoke, [Ali Kirunda] Kivejinja, [Henry] Kajura, Bidandi Ssali, Moses Ali, late Eria Kategaya and others.
The second category is that which cut its political teeth, so to speak, during the turbulent post-independence years. This group is led by His Excellency the president, with elders like Tarsis Kabwegyere, Sam Kutesa, [Kahinda] Otafiire, Amama Mbabazi, [Edward] Ssekandi, Fredrick Ssempebwa, John Katende, Richard Kaijuka, Amanya Mushega, Tumusiime Mutebire, Ruhakana Rugunda, and others.
The third category is the generation of those who were still in school until the overthrow of Idi Amin. This group comprises majority of the current corporate class like Dr Simon Kagugube, Onyango Obbo and others.
It also includes; generals [Elly] Tumwine, Sejusa, Julius Oketta, Katumba Wamala and people like [Miria] Matembe, [Mike] Mukula, Musa Ecweru, Kassiano Wadri, Mugisha Muntu, Dr [Kizza] Besigye, Richard Buteera and many of the middle-aged professors, MPs and military generals you hear of today.
The fourth active category is the post NRM/NRA bush war. These, I can safely term as the children of the revolution. Though this has two segments, they can be joined, for their political and social outlook has been determined or influenced by the same circumstances.
These include; the late [Noble] Mayombo, Andrew Mwenda, [Robert] Kabushenga, Norbert Mao, etc. To this group we can add the many young professionals in many fields today. People like the young Kampala lawyer Erias Lukwago, Theodore Sekikubo, [Abdu] Katuntu, Frank Tumwebaze, Richard Todwong, etc.
The reason I am raising this rather unfamiliar subject is the centrality of the generational positioning, which may have a profound impact on the whole equation of any change management. The leaders must start focusing on this question if they have to avoid friction and discontent by failure to appreciate the generational gridlock.
This is however, a different subject altogether, which should highlight the crucial importance of the matter on the orderly functioning of society in the process of management of change.
THE MILITARY ROLE
The third component that we must confront is the role of the military in the management of the state, especially during this period. Will it remain an embodiment of the power or will it try to subvert the power of the people and by so doing, lose its historic pro-people position, which would of course result in its defeat and, inevitable collapse?
For the people always win no matter how long it may take. This is in fact why that coup talk is dangerous.
The other point concerns our opposition politics. Have they discussed or do they even know what part to play or even how to position themselves in this inevitable national process? Do they have the ideological depth to manage constructively the rather complex dynamics of moving a system from democratic centralism to liberal democracy without disrupting the social and political cohesion of the state?
For instance, what is the ideological foundation of “walk-to-work” campaign? What is its end state as we say in the military? Is it revolutionary in intent or evolutionary?
That is, does it aim at sweeping away the current government or reform it? I hope they fully understand the mechanisms of political warfare vis a vis strategy and tactics. These are some of the key challenges that the opposition must tackle and resolve for the good of the country.
THE ROLE OF THE MASSES
The last component and perhaps the most crucial of all is the role of civil society and the population at large. With the political and quasi-military (Mchaka mchaka/cadre training, etc) empowerment they have attained in the last 31 years of NRM rule (1981–2016), how will they behave if their power is challenged by the political class, be they politicians or the military? I hope all the leaders understand this reality on the ground.
All the above will influence the behavior 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 this talk of coups and counter coups. For the long run, they are not sustainable politically, socially, ideologically, not even plausible in the geopolitical setting.
Therefore, this talk about coups should not be allowed to divert us from the real issues confronting our country. It is neither helpful, nor desirable or sustainable. The power lies with the people, period!
General David Sejusa (a.k.a. Tinyefuza).