Museveni reveals plan to deploy troops in DRC, wants Guinea coup plotters out

President Museveni during the interview with France24’s Marc Perelman on Tuesday. PHOTO/COURTESY. 

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni says Uganda is ready to deploy troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo to flush out Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels once Kinshasa gives the greenlight.
  • In an interview with France24’s Marc Perelman on Tuesday, Mr Museveni condemned the ouster last week of Guinea’s long-serving President Alpha Condé, arguing that staging a coup is “backwards” and that the plotters should “get out”.
  • Our reporter Andrew Bagala transcribed the interview in which the President explained Uganda’s decision to host Afghan refugees and the Somalia nightmare.

Mr President, I want to begin with the situation in Guinea. Just a few days ago, the coup [plotters] overthrew the elected president Alpha Conde. What is your reaction?

That is unfortunate. It is a step backwards. Those military coups are of low value. We had them in the 1960s, they were part of African problems. So, I condemn the coup. We don’t accept the idea of coups. Those coups aren’t a solution.

Should they be sanctioned against the authors?
They should get out. They should be told to go away because they are not a solution to the problems of the country.

The US asked and you have accepted to resettle temporarily some 2,000 Afghans here on Ugandan soil. The operation is ongoing. Why did you make the decision?
It was [on] humanitarian [grounds]. Those are human beings. Their country was messed up by so many actors and now they have nowhere to go. So, when we were asked for them to transit [through Uganda], we agreed. We welcomed it. It is a duty.

Some [people] are saying this might be a security threat. What is your response? Can you give assurance that they are properly vetted because you don’t know them, obviously?
The Americans are handling them. We are also working with them. We don’t think they can be a security threat. We can handle them. We have handled security threats bigger than this one.

What [message] broadly does America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan send to terrorists? According to many, it is a [boost] for terrorists, including in Africa because they see the world’s most powerful country withdrawing and leaving the country to the group that has often been qualified as a terrorist group?
There has been a mistake of trying to fight other people’s wars. This is a mistake. A country shouldn’t fight other people’s wars. If people want to fight, they should fight for themselves. Because these external interferences distort the entire picture. We fought here. We have fought many wars, but we fight by ourselves. We don’t invite any person to fight for us.

Let us take, for example, take Somalia. Your troops have been involved for years [in fighting al-Shabaab] in Somalia. Do you think because of the chaos in Somalia, things might turn for the worst for that country?
The issue of Somalia is where the internal forces don’t come up to show their responsibility. If they did, the problem would be solved long time ago. We can’t have grafted situations. We must have organically developed situations. The body must be able to defend itself. Because if the body can’t defend itself, that means you are suffering from political Aids, like Aids when the defence system of the body cannot defend itself.

If the situation doesn’t improve, what you are describing, would you consider pulling your troops out of Somalia because you say it isn’t worth it?
Of course, if the internal forces don’t come up, because you see external support, first of all, I don’t believe in external military presence. I don’t. But where it must happen, it must be for a very limited time.

But you have been there since [March 2007] ...
Actually, we wanted to withdraw, but people prevailed on us.

But you want to do it now?
We can ... We have to discuss with African Union. But for us, we think people should defend themselves.

Turning to another potential terrorist hotspot, Mozambique. We have seen Jihadists groups take control [of] an oil-rich region. We have seen the South African Development Cooperation (Sadc) considering sending troops. Rwanda has already sent troops. Do you think this could become the biggest terrorist threat in southern and eastern Africa, and would you consider sending Uganda’s troops over there?

Yes, because the problem of Mozambique is linked to [the] problem of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Those terrorists who eventually showed up in Mozambique have been here in eastern Congo for the last 20 years. They have been maintained here in eastern Congo. So, the issue of eastern Congo should be handled together with the issue of northern Mozambique. And we would contribute any time.

But are you ready to send Ugandan troops [to] Mozambique like Rwanda has done?
We would like to start with [the Democratic Republic of] Congo first. Because you will not solve the problem of Mozambique if you don’t deal with the issue of Congo.

You, for instance, have warned about [the] so-called Allied Democratic Forces (ADF rebels) in eastern Congo. You recently said you were inching closer to sending your troops to eastern Congo to deal with the issue. Can you tell us more exactly what you are planning to do?
We have always been ready, if the Congo government agrees to help in that problem.

 So, have they asked you to come?
We are talking to them.

But are we nearing a decision?
That is for the Congo government to announce. But we are discussing with them.

I want to get to your relationship with your neighbour, Rwanda. The border crossing [at Katuna] has been closed for [almost] two years now. Is there any hope that it will reopen any time soon now?
You go and ask the one who closed the border. I am not the one who closed the border.

But are there discussions to settle this issue?
We had discussions long ago [under] the mediation [of] Angola

It hasn’t worked?
I haven’t seen the border being opened.

[Rwanda] President Kagame told me in a recent interview and others that he sees you as a bit of a bully, the master of the region and Rwanda can’t accept this. And this might explain the tension between the two of you. 
Well, a bully, how? A bully how? By doing what?

You disagree with him?
I don’t agree with it. He should tell you how we are bullies.

Why has the relationship soured, the two of you? You were very close for years. Do you have an explanation for that?
I don’t want to go into that because Mr Kagame isn’t here. You aren’t a court; so, I am not going to justify my position towards you against Mr Kagame.

[It] was reported in the press [in July this year] that Rwanda spied on very senior Ugandan officials - your prime minister, your then foreign minister - using an Israeli monitoring mechanism, Pegasus. What is your reaction to those very serious allegations?
I didn’t follow it up. I saw it, but I didn’t follow it up seriously.

Are [is your comment] about Rwanda spying on the top [honchos] of your government?  
It is a waste of time. Spying to do what?

To know your secrets.
 But if [you] want secrets, you will not know because the secrets are in my head. They are not in the microphone.

[Ugandan] authorities have announced that they would halt activities of 54 civil society groups, including non-governmental organisations, for essentially improper filings. International groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are saying this is a way to stifle dissent in this country. Is this what is happening, Mr President?

The problem with these groups [is that] they don’t seem to understand sovereignty and they should not interfere in our internal politics because our politics is sovereign; we are sovereign people. We should make our own mistakes or no mistakes. We don’t want groups, which are sponsored groups, by in fact foreign governments.

They defend human rights, don’t day? And what is wrong with that?
What human rights? Who knows more about human rights than myself? I have fought for 60 years for human rights. So, how can they be having a programme which is hidden from me?

Speaking of mistakes, I noticed that a few weeks ago, you gave a televised address in which you said some security forces, and I quote you, are “lazy and undisciplined” in the way they handle prisoners. And you said that here is a problem, essentially of mistreatment, torture. Why did you fear/feel that you needed to address this issue?
I noticed that some of the young new people who joined the security forces seemed not to have --- because of the foreign training they get, they get some training from groups I don’t know where, from outside --- they don’t absorb our culture of the resistance movement, which was pro-people.

So, I was explaining [to and] educating them, but also educating the public about the dos and dont’s … because violence is like surgery. A surgeon uses a knife, but at the right place and in the right way. You can’t use violence and force indiscriminately, [otherwise], you become a butcher. That was what I was explaining.

But in the end you are the [commander-in-chief]. If there is torture, mistreatment by the security forces, you are the person [the buck stops with].

Yes, that is why I was educating them, but also the public.

What about prosecuting them?  
They will be prosecuted. But you see, for us, we … believe in being the police of the mind, not just a policeman of the body. We always believe in educating, explaining. Even if you are to enforce, enforce to people who have some exposure to the right and the wrong.

I want to go back to what happened last November: Protests happened, people were killed, over 50, you promised a probe would be conducted and [the findings] made public.
It will be made public.

Where is that probe?
I will check. It was done. I will check why they did not publicise it. Certainly, it was done.

It was an internal probe of the security forces [by the security forces]?
It was.

[The findings] showed that most of the people were killed by stray bullets. So, this country takes the narrative given by the government at the time [that majority of those shot dead were rioters]?
I don’t have the details [of the findings], but it is good it should be published.

And will people be prosecuted for those killings?
Of course, they will be.

No one has until now.
 No, they will be.

Those protestors, you described them at the time as Western agents. Would you still say the same today?
 Yes, they were definitely. The political actors who were misusing those young people were definitely agents of foreign interests.

Would you say that your main challenger at the time, [Robert Kyagulanyi] Bobi Wine, is a foreign agent?
Well, originally, they started off as an internal group because of our own internal issues. But then they got recruited by external actors and then that is how his movement failed; that is how he was defeated.

He said he lost because you cracked down on him and his movement.
No, he was defeated. You must have heard the word “defeat”.  He was defeated in spite of cheating, in spite of what [else]…

Were you afraid of his challenge to your [grip on power]?
No. Not at all. I was not afraid at all because we know where the issues are and how to handle them.

How about dialogue with him? Is it [something you would consider]?
We are always dialoguing with those groups, including Bobi Wine, if he wants.

Have you offered him to do so?
We have invited them to what we call IPOD [Inter-Party Organisation on Dialogue], an inter-party group.

You are hoping he will respond very [positively]?
Others have come. I didn’t see Bobi Wine. Others have come.

Some [people] are saying you are grooming your son [UPDF Land Forces Commander Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba], who is now the Number Three of the [Uganda People’s Defence Forces], to succeed you. What is your response to those allegations?
They are not serious. Why should I groom my son? The people of Uganda are there [and] they will select whom they want [to be their next President].  

You have been in power for 35 years. Obviously, some people are wondering if you want to be [a] President for life or if you might decide one day [that] ‘I have done enough and I want to leave the stage’.

You see this is not a theatre for acting ‘Scene I’, ‘Scene II’. This is a struggle for the destiny of the people of Uganda, of Africa. So, we have reasons why we had to fight and why we had to be in the politics.

And it is those reasons that determine what we do; do we need all the cadres or the actors or can some retire and others come up? That is what determines, not that I want to be in government. I don’t need to be in government.  

On November riots
Qtn: I want to go back to what happened last November: Protests happened, people were killed, over 50, you promised a probe would be conducted and [the findings] made public.

Ans: It will be made public.

Qtn: Where is that probe?
I will check. It was done. I will check why they did not publicise it. Certainly, it was done.

Qtn: It was an internal probe of the security forces [by the security forces]?
It was.

Qtn: [The findings] showed that most of the people were killed by stray bullets. So, this country takes the narrative given by the government at the time [that majority of those shot dead were rioters]?

I don’t have the details [of the findings], but it is good it should be published.

Qtn: And will people be prosecuted for those killings?
Of course, they will be.
 

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