Besigye vs Museveni: Bellicose arguments
Posted Thursday, February 21 2013 at 02:00
SFG is a service provider- it protects the President, his immediate family members, special installations etc.
Depending on whom you talk to, Walk to Work the “citizens” movement to express anger and dismay at the status quo and its close relatives is either a long-term strategic non-electoral initiative or a very viable commercial enterprise. Now that Monday belongs to the Black Monday movement and mid-week belonged to walk to work, there may only be two days left in the week for the rest of the country to protest meaningfully.
The political space in 2013 continues to be occupied by President Museveni and his former surgeon and NPC, Col. Dr Kizza Besigye. Both seem oblivious to the winds blowing in their faces. Absent change at the top, neither the Legislature nor the Judiciary can properly function. Parliament has shown for its part that it will remain a glorified talk-shop ready to be maligned and manipulated by the Executive if need be. And while some blame may be put at the Speaker’s doorstep, the conduct of a fairly representative sample of MPs, who participated in withdrawing their signatures from a petition to recall Parliament, shows that the rot in the system is well distributed. Devoted to history will be remarks by an MP from Kiruhura District who told shocked scribes that her mental faculties had taken a hike; due to recent medical complications, one wonders why the MP has not taken leave of the House to take care of herself.
In the Opposition, Dr Besigye continues to show that he is not ready for political retirement any time soon. After all, he is only 57; many years more junior than his mentor President Museveni. But Besigye seems to have forgotten that his political party FDC just went through an important election to bring about new leadership. At FDC’s helm is Gen. Mugisha Muntu who has chosen a new style of parsing his public comments and refrained from making impossible promises. Muntu’s may not be a rabble rouser but most of his statements are likely to remain memorable because they are not one liners intended to jump from one day to the next.
Last week, in a wide ranging interview, Dr Besigye appeared to stick it up to his mentor by addressing the sensitive subject of President Museveni’s son, Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi’s meteoric rise in the army. In two weeks, the former, Gen. David Tinyefuza, Brig. Kasirye Gwanga and others have gone public with their disillusionment.
It is not a mundane concern that the Special Forces Group has slowly risen into a shadow army within an army. Larger militaries embrace the concept of multiple armies. The American military has designated prestigious command units that are the equivalent of national armies; In the Navy, they are called Fleets, in the Army they are called Armies, the 5th, 6th, 7th Armies and so on, and the others are integrated commands that rotate among all the services.
It is doubtful though that UPDF has the capacity to run multiple -semi autonomous “armies”. Even rich US relies on “tribute” from Japan, Korea and NATO hosts to sit its forces. Rich US has not yet found, for example, an appropriate partner in Africa to house its African Command- Africom. However, across the world, there are hybrid situations with varying degrees of sophistication that have been around like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, that is the nerve centre of the Iranian military machine.
SFG is a service provider- it protects the President, his immediate family members, special installations, etc. In the war on corruption, it seems to have assumed the role of final gatekeeper, officers who arrested periodic troublemaker Hassan Basajjabalaba announced to him- the “President has agreed to arrest you.” The IGP Kale Kayihura has been reported to consult with SFG on similar matters even though SFG’s rise to this point is not reported out of any parliamentary committee; and no statute has been enacted by Parliament to regulate its activities which may portend chaos in the future.
For Besigye, it would be easy to simply shoot down SFG from a legal point of view than individuals deployed to it. If UPDF still stands vulnerable to criticisms of lack of diversity, SFG is even more restrictive in its cadre content. The problem is that officers like Besigye tolerated this state of affairs for too long in UPDF even while their comrades were vilified for political missteps and independent minds. Only after they fell victim to the “master plan” now in its 50th year to liberate Ugandans did they jump ship.
Besigye came very close in 2006 to registering a political upset over President Museveni and this grudge is likely to last for a lifetime. But the President has proven himself a deft operative willing to go into full battle to fight his opponents. Even where his policies have gone overboard and promise more of the same he has his best ally in Dr Besigye. By running in 2011 for a record 3rd term against Museveni he mostly inoculated his nemesis from arguments of overstay in power. Infact by continuing this missives which can ably be lobbed by Muhoozi’s own peers, Besigye plays into Museveni’s hands as he so efficiently has done in the past.
Mr Ssemogerere, an attorney and social entrepreneur, practices law in New York.