Friday February 5 2016

Arresting Sejusa today is a bad idea

By Karoli Ssemogerere

Gen David Sejusa was taken in by UPDF last week on a number of charges related to his second falling out with the establishment. Sejusa’s acrimonious relationship with his bosses has marked his entire history with NRA/UPDF.

During the Bush War, he was detained to prevent an internal falling out of ranks. During the insurgency where people were “fried” alive on hot coals in a number of places in the north and eastern Uganda, Sejusa, then minister of State of Defence, was accused of high-handedness.

The 18 northern politicians who were produced in court on treason charges - some of them could barely stand and still had blood-stained clothes on - when they appeared before the late Justice Joseph P. Berko, the Ghanaian was taken aback in shock.

In the Constituent Assembly, Gen Sejusa dissented with the political line, voting against entrenchment of the Movement in the Constitution.

Soon after the presidential elections in 1996, for reasons that he has given, he faced what became an eventuality this year - a trial in a general court martial for a host of charges (mostly related to speech and beliefs, making him a prisoner of conscience).

Sejusa battled the system first in the Constitutional Court where a five-judge panel labelled him an individual being forced to work against his wishes, he was being hounded to court for, among others, frank comments on the UPDF effort in northern Uganda.

The State appealed. The Supreme Court found for the State in a majority 5-2 decision. Sejusa was left to go back and negotiate with his masters again and soon found himself back in favour with the system.

The second coming of Sejusa in a shadowy State office in charge of intelligence never reached his first coming of age in the late 1980s but was not short of its own spectacles - one of which was reinforcement of extra-judicial methods of work.

The entrenchment of paramilitary forces like the Black Mambas and their descent on the High Court in 2006.

It is said at the time that the former deputy Chief Justice, whose chambers were at the same court, took the toughest line to keep the courts closed until an apology came from government.

Fast forward to 2013; Sejusa, an Army MP, falls out again with the system and bolts to exile for nearly two years.

Army MP is a good warehouse for a number of officers whose job is to smile in public and provide good PR for the army but more critically, provided the government a safe cushion on contentious matters.

Many MPs who play their cards well- avoid responsibilities of command for a long time on a good salary. This is not again a Sejusa cup of tea - working in silence and obscurity is not his strong suit.

Without going into details, he returns home, meets the President and goes home to Sembabule. This time he floats a trial balloon that of popular politician but it fails to take off because he remains a serving political officer.

The politician Sejusa, in his latest reincarnation, is faced with a number of charges related to his beliefs.

Unlike in 1996 when he was a middle-aged flag officer, the General of 2016 or 20 years later turns 62 this year.

Only in Uganda is the conventional wisdom that military officers out of command for more than two decades are retained on active duty!

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Advocate.