Tuesday January 29 2013

US warns E.A armies on undermining democracy

State Minister for Regional Cooperation Asumani Kiyingi (R) with US ambassador to Uganda Scott Delisi at the opening of a four-day workshop in Kampala yesterday

State Minister for Regional Cooperation Asumani Kiyingi (R) with US ambassador to Uganda Scott Delisi at the opening of a four-day workshop in Kampala yesterday. The workshop seeks to improve the regional response to transnational threats in eastern Africa. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA 

By John Njoroge

The United States government has expressed concern that there could be a threat to democracy if some regional militaries abdicate their functions of upholding the rule of law.

“Strong, professional militaries are essential to regional security. Security, in turn, is essential to development as it allows economies to prosper and democratic institutions to grow,” U.S Ambassador to Uganda, Scott Delisi said yesterday.

“If, however, those militaries threaten that prosperity, if they do not support the democratic institutions they are meant to uphold, then the foundation of our efforts crumble, and East Africa risks falling back into the bloody cycle of revolution and counter-revolution,” Ambassador Delisi added.
The ambassador made the observations while opening a four-day workshop on improving regional responses to transnational threats.

The appeal
He noted that the U.S did not want regional nations to “descend into morass of problems generated by poverty, infectious disease, and unchecked conflict.”

The remarks come a week after both the Chief of Defence Forces General Aronda Nyakairima and Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga said the Ugandan army could re-insert itself in the country’s politics.

The US government representative did not make any direct reference to the current debate about the possibility of the army staging a coup d’tat in the face of the stand-off between the Executive and Parliament.

The two arms of government have been at loggerheads over the anti-corruption fight. Commending President Museveni’s efforts in the regional war on terror and the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ambassador Delisi also warned that such progress was “fragile.”

“As nations move forward to address threats to peace and stability, they must also ensure that the tools they use to combat these threats do not become the threats themselves,” Ambassador Delisi said.

Intimidating Parliament?
Following the comments by Gen. Aronda and Dr Kiyonga, political commentators have criticised what they consider is a ploy to intimidate Parliament.

Others have suggested that the coup talk which Mr Museveni was also quoted hinting on amounts to a direct attack on the Constitution and may constitute an incitement to commit the offence of treason.
However, Deputy Police Spokesperson Vicent Ssekate yesterday said the Force has seen no offence in the statements of the two officials.

“We see no offence hence there is nothing to investigated,” Mr Ssekate said last evening.
At State House, Presidential Spokesman Tamale Murundi insisted Uganda’s military was entitled to its opinion on political events in the country.

“That is why we have 10 military MPs in Parliament and not police officers or prisons officers. The army is simply telling Parliament that they too have a role. Let the politicians not think this is a one-man-show,” Mr Mirundi said.

“Why is the opposition afraid of a military headed government? They have been saying that the current government is incompetent and corrupt. They should be jubilating,” Mr Mirundi added.

Parliamentary summons
The Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs has been quoted saying it will summon the two officials to clarify their reasons for suggesting a possible overthrow of the government by the army.

Deputy Attorney-General Fred Ruhindi yesterday told this newspaper his office had not received any formal communication or complaint over the matter.

“I have only been reading those things in the media. Nothing has been directed to me in my official capacity,” Mr Ruhindi said.