Just days after Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima faulted Kizza Besigye’s brutal arrest last week, another UPDF general has weighed in blaming police for its high-handed crackdown on walk-to-walk demonstrators.
Gen. David Tinyefuza, the coordinator of national intelligence agencies, said whereas Dr Besigye is “provocative”, the police officers deployed to stop his disputed drive to work through Wandegeya suburb made mistakes because the operatives are “young and inexperienced”.
Gen. Tinyefuza speaking for the first time about the arrest of the Forum for Democratic Change leader, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Monitor acknowledged that mistakes were committed by a young and inexperienced Force.
He said whereas police could have committed mistakes, Dr Besigye and his group were bent on causing violence and terror in the city. Over the past three weeks, police and other security organs have engaged opposition leaders who organised a walk-to-work campaign against what they say is the scourge of rising food and fuel prices in the country.
“These young people in the police don’t have experience to handle a man who claims to be a peaceful demonstrator. And this is what has made them to make these mistakes like shooting people,” he said.
Detailed interview with Tinyefuza
You are the Coordinator of Intelligence agencies in the country. How do you view the situation?
The security situation has been turbulent in the last one or two weeks but really I don’t think Ugandans should worry. When you listen to these radio stations and read newspapers, people are worried, but this government will handle this situation and I can assure you this is not impossible to handle.
I am sorry for those who lost their dear ones. I want to assure the people that this is a strong government and it will contain the situation and our people should settle down and go about their businesses.
Why was Col. Kizza Besigye treated so badly by a government that has just won an election by a landslide?
Col. Besigye is not a threat to government and I want our people to understand that Besigye is an agent of all these other forces who feel threatened by the resounding defeat the opposition suffered in the just-concluded elections. And I think their mentality says it is like “now or never”. But there is no way anyone can gain through illegitimate means what you failed to gain legitimately and these ideas that those groups are a threat are not much.
But do you support the manner in which he was treated?
On how our police handled the situation, yes there could have been mistakes but that is Besigye’s plan to provoke the State to make mistakes so that he gains political capital. These mistakes of the police which I am talking about should be put into perspective. Uganda has been peaceful for the last 25 years and our people know how to handle armed insurgents like Kony or violent demonstrators.
However, these young people in police were not prepared for the cocktail of the two and this is to say violence sugarcoated as peaceful. But again, you see Besigye and his group posed as peaceful demonstrators, while at the same time they use violent means.
What does that mean?
Yes, they started their walk to work as peaceful demonstrators but they engage in acts of terrorism, threats, violence and the like. For instance, on terror acts we have arrested several of them who had fuel and wanted to burn the headquarters of MTN and petrol stations including buildings. They are targeting non-Ugandans like investors but even Ugandans of Indian race, wanting to burn their businesses and you hear them talking about it openly.
But they haven’t burnt anybody yet?
You remember in 2009 riots they targeted Indians and in places like Bwaise, they burnt a factory belonging to Indians. Even when you want power, we don’t want you to come after destroying our country by destroying its economic base, its social harmony and political progress. This doesn’t mean that there are no mistakes made by the government. Therefore, these young people in the police don’t have experience to handle a man who claims to be a peaceful demonstrator but at the same time using terror and violence. And this is what has made them to make these mistakes like shooting people.
So who is to blame?
The judicial system; policemen arrest these people who cause mayhem and take them to Court. They are released the same day and tomorrow they repeat the same acts. This is frustrating to the security forces and if you are not experienced in how to handle these matters, you are bound to make mistakes. So the problem still begins with rioters who are basically not peaceful and go on committing acts of terror.
Why don’t you allow Besigye to walk?
If Besigye was a peaceful demonstrator, I have no doubt that he would have been allowed to walk like they allowed Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu and others. Why not, you can be allowed to walk but if you have followers who are looting, who want to torch buildings and who want to kill foreigners, how can a serious government allow you to pass through streets so that you kill and burn people? It’s not possible.
So if Besigye wants to walk, he must discard acts of violence and advice his followers to be peaceful. You saw the saga when he was being arrested by police, of the hammer and pepper. Yes, those young police people could have made errors but look at the behaviour of Besigye. He didn’t only refuse to obey police orders of using that road but he goes ahead to disobey police orders to get out of his vehicle.
You saw him handling the hammer in the vehicle and for me it’s not important like they are arguing whether it was his hammer or government agent hammer, I am happy that Ministry of Internal affairs and Parliament are handling this issue. But the point I am making is, Besigye is a national leader aspiring to be our president; why should he threaten police?
But police was too confrontational
Besigye should know better as he is a retired Colonel; he should know that confronting police is irregular and unacceptable. So while it’s unfortunate that some of those acts were committed by our people, it doesn’t give Besigye a license to misbehave and break the law.
There is talk that you are under house arrest
[Prolonged laughter] Why am I under house arrest? Did I commit robbery? I don’t know who is bringing that rumour and for what purpose. Just dismiss it; it’s nonsense.
But you have not been near the recent events…
This situation is being handled by the police force; and once the ministers of Internal Affairs, the IGP and others are talking, there is no reason for me to come to talk. This is not such a very huge problem yet.
So the people of Uganda should know that the state is secure and that their security shall be guaranteed to the maximum as we give the politicians time to resolve their issues peacefully.
One thing that we shall not accept is this situation to continue to hurt and injure our innocent people. It must stop and it will be stopped.