On Tuesday, Dr Kizza Besigye appeared on CBS radio’s Kiriza oba Gaana talk show. He revealed that he has been meeting the exiled Gen David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza and discussing strategies to bring political and democratic change in Uganda. Gen Sejusa has been living in exile since last year after falling out with the NRM government over what he called President Museveni’s scheme to groom his son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to succeed him as president. He is now wanted for treason. The Sunday Monitor followed up Besigye’s remarks on the talk show and asked him in an email interview to tell us more about his dealings with Gen Sejusa and how the two intend to work together to cause the political change in Uganda. Below is Dr Besigye’s answers.
You said just like you, Gen Sejusa is interested in bringing change in Uganda, what change are the two of you planning?
The change our country desires is one that empowers Ugandans to freely and equitably participate in and influence decisions that affect their lives, provide equal opportunities to all, and that respects and protects basic freedoms and rights of all citizens, including minorities. This is a struggle for a transition from dictatorship to a democratic dispensation. I consider anybody who supports such a change as an ally.
From your discussion with Gen Sejusa, without going into specific, what is his strategy to bring that desired change in Uganda?
Gen Sejusa believes in using all possible channels of confronting and disintegrating the Museveni dictatorship. He believes that this includes political (non-violent), diplomatic and military (violent) means. I believe that all these means are legitimate. I however, believe that political (non-violent) means must form the vanguard of the struggle for democracy. Whereas military means can dislodge a dictatorship from power, as the NRA did in 1986, it doesn’t, by itself, offer any guarantee for ensuring a transition to democracy.
Moving forward to 2016, does Gen Sejusa intend to play any role in the 2016 electoral race? What part does he intend to play?
Gen Sejusa is best placed to answer this. My own impression is that, like me, he doesn’t believe that there can be credible elections under Museveni’s watch. He has been helpful in exposing what happens in elections, especially, the role of security organisations in manipulating the process and its outcomes. As such, I do not consider that his plans and actions would be influenced by the 2016 electoral calendar.
What is the nature of his cooperation with the Opposition? Is he forming and coming with his own party or does he want to join one of the existing Opposition parties?
Again, I am not in a position to speak for Gen Sejusa or the “Opposition”. The struggle at hand, as I understand it, is a liberation struggle, one that aims at liberating Uganda (and freeing the country) from the shackles of a vicious dictatorship. It has on one side, all formations that seek freedom; including “Opposition” political parties, Civil Society Organisations, political pressure groups, liberation movements, etc. An individual, like Gen Sejusa, may even subscribe to several formations. It’s the objective that brings all on one side. Cooperation and coordination amongst these formations is a continuous process.
In light of your reservations that the 2016 poll is “an election already stolen”, how will the two of you bring change?
Ultimately, all the struggles I’ve talked about have, as an important milestone, the change of the electoral management. The success of achieving this is not pegged on 2016 timeline. It’s desirable for that change to happen before 2016; however, if it doesn’t happen by then, the struggle will continue regardless of what the Museveni/ Kiggundu Electoral Commission would be doing.
You lived in exile in South Africa and returned to lead the struggle for change from Kampala, is this a proposal you have shared with Sejusa and what is his position on returning to Uganda?
Political activists face differing challenges at different times and need to position themselves in a manner that allows them to function in the most effective way. If it’s very risky to function from inside Uganda, it’s reasonable to do so from outside. If, circumstances change, locations of activists can change too. I am sure that Gen Sejusa would like to return to Uganda at the earliest opportunity. When he tried to do so, the military was mobilised to Entebbe airport with open threats of his arrest. He has to evaluate the threats and act accordingly. Recklessness is not an advisable way to struggle.
Gen Sejusa oversaw operations that fomented torture on you and Reform Agenda/FDC members such as when the Black Mamba military squad raided the High Court in 2005 to re-arrest your co-accused on treason. He also participated in the election rigging that possibly denied you victory, what faith do you have in him now that he is committed to democracy and freedom in Uganda?
I have no way of assessing Gen Sejusa’s commitment to democracy presently. It’s not even possible to be certain of anybody’s commitment until it’s demonstrated in practice. The guarantors of Uganda’s democracy must be the citizens themselves. This is why it’s critically important to have an informed, empowered and engaged citizenry that can challenge anyone veering from the democratic path. Sauls can transform into Pauls and vice versa.
From your interaction with him, have you talked to him about these incidents? If yes, what does he say or feel about them? Have you forgiven him personally?
Gen Sejusa has publicly regretted and apologised for his role in activities of the NRM/Museveni dictatorship. He says that some of the abuses or atrocities were wrongly assigned to him and that he acted under orders in others. I don’t consider that it’s the right time to inquire into who has done what in the past. All effort needs to be focused on working for a democratic transition.
It’s under a democratic dispensation that any previous abuses and/ or offences can be properly inquired into and disposed of. Personally, I hold no grudge against anyone who may have mistreated me in the course of our struggle. I promptly forgive and move on.
Sometime back, in an interview with this newspaper, exiled Col Samson Mande doubted Gen Sejusa’s commitment to the democratic cause and change in Uganda and expressed reservations that Sejusa might be a government decoy to trick the Opposition into a false political alliance. What is your view on these reservations about Sejusa?
Gen Sejusa’s (or any other person’s) commitment to the struggle can only be ascertained by his actions. The starting point is to welcome everyone who professes support for the struggle for democracy in Uganda. Then, whoever acts in support of the struggle is considered a friend and whoever acts against the struggle is considered a foe.
As I’ve already pointed out, even previously committed activists of the struggle can defect and work against it and vice versa. Unless he acts otherwise, I think that Gen Sejusa should be welcomed by all activists. In any case, Gen Sejusa brings a wealth of information and experience to the struggle.
SEJUSA IN A STATEMENT
Sometime back, I warned the country about Uganda reverting back to a catastrophic war. I did this far back in 2012, following the rampant murders in villages which were being stage managed by criminal state agents in order to frame some political leaders.
Those who have short memories, however, tend to gain nothing from the lessons of history.