Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga has emphasised the possibility of the military stepping back into political control should the politicians continue “not showing seriousness that they can solve the problems” facing the country.
Dr Kiyonga re-echoed the comments he recently made to the Parliament’s committee on rules and privileges and a day after President Museveni was quoted to have made similar comments at the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus retreat at Kyankyanzi.
Dr Kiyonga, who first joined Parliament in 1980, told the Sunday Monitor in a wide-ranging interview that he had made the comments in Parliament not knowing that some of those in attendance worked for newspapers or that there were journalists but in confidence to colleague MPs and in the right forum of a committee of Parliament.
“I told my colleagues that, you know friends we are building democracy so that our country’s stability will not be challenged again in future, we have to give confidence to the population that democracy is good, that democracy will work for them, that we, the leaders are serious.”
“If, on the other hand, the population feels that there is no hope in the politicians, that in itself can generate a dynamic where the military could intervene in an attempt to refocus the country,” he said.
But he warned that “for us to go back to a military government will be very unfortunate and all of us should do everything possible (to avoid it). we must not generate a situation to give excuse to the military to take over power”.
Dr Kiyonga’s and the President’s comments come at a time when the country has been facing a fluid political situation with increasing dissent in the ruling party and back-to-back incidents, a mysterious death and arrests of prominent politicians that have put the army back into focus.
“We are working to consolidate democracy but we must also not create situations which can complicate the democracy and throw it over board. You must be careful that you can create a situation which justifies the overthrowing of democracy,” he said.
“The challenge to democracy is that politics of Uganda appears to be veering back to populism not principle-based,” Kiyonga said, “the danger is that the population could lose faith in democracy… will know that it is just mchezo,” Dr Kiyonga said.
When asked about whether this did not represent a contradiction of the UPDF as a professional and modern army, Dr Kiyonga said: “What we have built is first a revolutionary army; first forget about this issue of modern, but first revolutionary.”
“Revolutionary army means that they know the conditions of their people, they know that the country needs to be transformed, they know that the country can be overrun by foreign forces; they know that sovereignty can be lost.”
He said because of that the army continued to sacrifice living in grass-thatched huts and earning low pay even after 27 years of NRM rule.