Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president and leading opposition figure Kizza Besigye has for the first time revealed details of his meeting with UPDF renegade Gen. David Sejusa.
According to the retired Colonel, among other things, the two bush war heroes discussed plans to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni’s government during their dialogue in London in July. Nicholas Mwesigwa interviewed the man who has on three occasions unsuccessfully attempted to dislodge Museveni from power. Below are the excerpts.
RP: What is this hullabaloo about your alliance with Gen. David Sejusa and Prof. Gilbert Bukenya?
KB: There is a common cause and this is the strand that unites us now. Sejusa just like us, now believes the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is on the wrong path and that the country needs change. And our approach is that we should work with everybody who wants change and is moving in the same direction with us for that change. We obviously need to agree on what type of change we want. We need a common understanding on the change. So far in broad terms Sejusa says he supports democratic change in the country— a change that will bring institutional governance and rule of law; and not personal rule as is the case now. On that basis we welcome Sejusa and Bukenya on the frontline in the struggle for change.
RP: Who will head this alliance if at all it exists?
KB: The preoccupation now is not who leads what. The concern is to remove the dictatorship for an environment of free and fair contestation because today it’s not possible for Ugandans to determine. What we should agree on among the three of us is to work for change that delivers democratic dispensation and a new leadership is established.
RP: But Doctor I see different ideologies; Sejusa is an army officer, you’re an opposition politician and Bukenya is in the ruling regime. How basically are you going to forge a way forward?
KB: In this phase of the struggle there are only two sides— dictatorship and anti-dictatorship. It’s not about ideology. The point is to remove the dictatorship. In any case we were once NRM. I was in NRM like them, what binds us is the zeal to fight for democratic dispensation.
RP: You have never explained to Ugandans what your meeting with Sejusa in London was about. What exactly transpired?
I met Sejusa for one purpose— to find out whether he really wants change. Two, what type of change he wishes our country to have. And as I have just said, he wants change that delivers institutional governance based on the rule of law and democratic practices.
RP: Did you advise him to return and fight from within, and how ready is he to liberate and lead Ugandans because he has been serving the regime he is now against…
KB: This country won’t be liberated by Sejusa, Bukenya or Besigye. This country will be liberated by the people of Uganda who will bring about the change by themselves. The role of leaders like us is to make the rallying call, it is to be the organisers of people interested; but we are not the ones who will bring change. I can’t tell you that the task of Sejusa is to lead Ugandans; it will be upon him to decide whether he wants to be a leader and whether Ugandans will accept him. I think it will be diversionary to start talking about who will lead Uganda after Museveni. The issue now is how the transition will be managed.
RP: President Museveni retired you so fast from the army, but he has refused to let go of Sejusa and others. Give us a raffle on how the man gauged you; maybe he thought you were not a threat?
KB: He didn’t, I had for a longtime applied for my retirement. My retirement was negotiated after they wanted to court martial me, but he realised it would backfire. I asked him why he didn’t want to release me. Now these officers are getting a difficult time. The obvious fear is that he doesn’t want these officers to enforce what I am doing now. Museveni knows that most of the seniors who were with him in the bush are unhappy; that’s why he is holding them hostage yet they are not deployed. He even has no excuse that maybe they are doing important work.
RP: In his latest letter, Gen Sejusa claims that he knows who killed former Energy Minister Andrew Kayira. His death occurred at a time when you were the junior interior minister. You owe Ugandans an explanation on what exactly happened. And besides, where is the report because investigations were done by the best police in the world….
KB: I am not government. Government needs to publish the report. You’re right; maybe what could help is the Scotland Yard Police to publish the report itself. In 1997 I had some people raise this issue. First of all I was under Dr. Kawanga Ssemwogerere and if there was anybody to know, obviously Ssemwogerere would know. Secondly, by the time the investigations and report were done, I had been transferred. I have no personal knowledge on the outcomes of the report but I believe the people of Uganda are entitled to know in light of assertions made by Gen. Sejusa. But we all know what killed him— he was killed by bullets but I don’t know who fired them.
RP: Tell us your personal successes in the bush war and Museveni’s weaknesses?
KB: I wouldn’t want to discuss individuals in this struggle. If I am to do that, I will at a later time, in my own writings. But to answer you, all of us were united for one purpose and we made similar contributions where they were needed.
RP: You claim Ugandans are fed up of the regime but they vote the same face in elections. Why?
KB: Museveni leads this country with guns. They were guns that brought him to power, captured and installed him and it’s still guns that are leading us. Elections are only availed to cover the military regime. It’s a curtain to hoodwink some people to think that there is a democracy.
But as you know, we challenged him in court and we have findings of court which are on record. It’s not an allegation but evidence of court saying that the elections are not fair and free. Therefore it’s unequivocal that elections are not fair yet it’s the only way that allows someone to be President.
RP: Why then do you participate in such elections?
KB: I do so because it’s a struggle that has helped Ugandans to realize and understand that the regime is undemocratic. We have gone to court, we have gone a step further to challenge the regime in Courts of law and Courts rule that the election wasn’t free but the Museveni still influences courts.
That’s why our priority now is to remove the regime with appropriate means but not an election.
RP: If not an election, then what else can it be?
KB: There are two ways a military dictator can be dislodged— by using guns like we did in the 1980s, or use of peaceful popular defiance against the dictatorship. And popular defiance means action by the majority in rejecting the authority of the dictatorship over them. A people power that can be used to dislodge the establishment— and this is our preferred method in dealing with Museveni. The reason we prefer it is because it empowers people in an irrelevant kind of way.
Once people see the potency, no one can take it back. When you use guns it remains change of guards as is the case now, even though Museveni says it’s a fundamental change.
RP: But the method has failed; in fact President Museveni said that he has silenced you…
KB: Quite obviously dictators say the opposition can’t win. When we were in the bush the leaders then said the bandits (NRA rebels) can’t take over power but the leaders ended in prison and the bandits were in government. That war took five years and caused 500,000 deaths. We started protests just yesterday (in 2011); how do you start celebrating a failure in 2 years.
RP: What have you achieved?
KB: Clearly one can see the objectives. More and more people are assertive, demanding rights through defiant actions. In fact as we talk now bodaboda cyclists have taken over Kampala, teachers at Makerere are demonstrating— the same as traders. This is a new and unstoppable expression of people’s power. It’s a new realisation in our country. I think you also know that A4C was formally banned through laws in parliament; they couldn’t take that extraordinary step if they didn’t realise the powers A4C possessed.
Three, we now have more people breaking away from the regime and swelling up the ranks of those protesters. Do people abandon a ship and join a sinking one or it’s the contrary? That’s why we are confident change is coming— although not through an election or war.
RP: You alleged that the 2016 elections are already rigged, attributing it to the Electoral Commission. But it (the commission) has challenged to tell Ugandans how they intend to that…
KB: The EC is completely irrelevant under this regime. In fact Mr. Kiggundu would do well reading his predecessor’s files— particularly a letter which we tendered in court. In that letter the EC chairman Kasujja was writing to the President saying the military had disintegrated the process and that he had nothing to do.
Unfortunately, the Kiggundu commission is not well intentioned; it colludes with the military regime and as we talk, the commission says it’s in the process of demarcating polling areas. But how can they demarcate when they have no registered voters! So you can see that the current Electoral Commission simply adds salt to an injury.
RP: let’s briefly delve into the FDC. Did you embrace Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu as your successor? A section of officials claims you’re clandestinely working to fail him…
KB: Whatever the conflict is in the FDC, there is no contest about who is the party leader. He is Muntu and that is not contested. He is recognised but there has been discussion on how long his tenure is or should be and that became a contentious issue because it was never expressly pronounced at the time of election. So people who were in the election have a different understanding on whether he is finishing my term— and he is serving completely 5 years. That is the matter which the party is discussing. But I am sure there is no big problem in the party. I think that for obvious reasons, it’s NRM’s propaganda through its papers New Vision and Bukede that have been trying to depict that there is a problem. They want Ugandans to think that other parties are the same as NRM.
RP: When are you retiring from politics?
KB: I wonder why any citizen retires from politics. Just voting is a political decision. My preoccupation has been simply to help our country get a transition from military dictatorship to democratic dispensation and once that is achieved I hope my activism will end and I will continue the politics of every Ugandan— of voting at an appropriate