Uganda general faces arrest for politics talk

May 13, 2013, 8:04 AM EDT
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni closes his eyes as he listens to opening speeches at Lancaster House in London, on May 7, 2013, during the London Conference on Somalia.
AFP/Getty Images

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A general who asked questions about President Yoweri Museveni's succession plans faces charges stemming from the alleged breach of an official code of conduct, a spokesman for the military said Monday, the latest twist in the unfolding saga of a senior army officer accused by some of harboring presidential ambitions.

Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandan army spokesman, said four of Gen. David Sejusa's aides are now in police custody for offenses he didn't specify.

"We are waiting for him," Ankunda said, referring to Sejusa. "We are not intimidating him. But he has to come back, especially if he thinks he has no case to answer."

Police and the military have deployed at Uganda's Entebbe International Airport in anticipation of Sejusa's return from a trip to London. Joseph Luzige, a lawyer for Sejusa, said his client could be arrested on arrival and has told the general to "prepare for anything."

"Certainly they want to arrest him, so we have to prepare for that as well," he said.

Sejusa last month wrote a letter to the internal security service calling for an investigation into allegations that high-ranking officials could be assassinated for opposing plans for Museveni's son to succeed his father as president. Sejusa cited himself and the country's prime minister among those in danger.

The allegations have sparked calls for an inquiry among lawmakers who believe Sejusa knows what he's talking about. A decorated hero of the bush war that brought Museveni to power almost three decades ago, Sejusa sits on the army's high command and directs the country's foreign and domestic intelligence services. He is also a qualified lawyer who represents the military in the country's parliament.

Frank Tumwebaze, a government minister who speaks for Museveni, said in a letter published in the local Observer newspaper Sunday that Sejusa has "clear presidential ambitions" and wants "to create a false wave on whose crest he intends to ride" to the presidency.

"With the international community standing on the side of political dissent, who would dare touch a presidential candidate? This is a trend so ugly that comrades of our political generation must shun and despise," Tumwebaze wrote. "To oppose Museveni or the (ruling party), one need not first allege how he or she is being targeted for murder when it is a known fact that the (ruling party) does not eliminate opponents."

The official army hierarchy has ruled Sejusa out of order, saying he is spreading propaganda that undermines unity in the army. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the top commander of the Ugandan military, said last week that Sejusa's leaked letter to the internal security service promotes the "agenda of the radical and anarchic political opposition."

Museveni's son, an army brigadier named Muhoozi Kainerugaba, has been rapidly promoted over the years, leading some opposition politicians and analysts to believe he's being groomed to take his father's job. Kainerugaba is now in charge of the country's special forces, an elite unit that protects the president and guards the country's assets such as oil fields.

Museveni is "clearly attempting to ensure" that Kainerugaba or someone from his ethnic tribe becomes his military successor, according to a report in February by the the global intelligence think tank Stratfor. The report predicted that "Kainerugaba will almost certainly be promoted to general within the next two years."

"This places Uganda on another trajectory toward a split —or at least toward significant tensions — between the political leadership and the army," Stratfor's report said. "There are many fault lines where this could erupt."

Museveni, who has held power since 1986, has never said publicly that he sees his son as a political heir.