June 25, 2014 (KAMPALA) – The main opposition leaders in Uganda have warned president Yoweri Museveni not to continue to rely on the army to intimidate his political opponents and entrench his rule in the run up to the next presidential elections, saying they are now capable of using the same army against him.
- Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni (Photo: Carl Court/AP)
The president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, General Mugisha Muntu, who is a retired general in the Ugandan army, issued the stern warning on Sunday while addressing a public rally in Mukuno, Ugandan media outlets reported.
“Museveni must stop thinking that the army will help him in 2016 because we can as well use this army he calls his to get help,” he said, adding that “time was running out for the head of state.”
Uganda opposition factions have in the past accused president Museveni of allegedly deploying security forces during elections to intimidate their supporters and also participate in electoral malpractices, resulting to rigged elections.
General Muntu, however, vowed that this time would be different, saying the opponents have the ability to use similar drastic measures to remove the president should situation dictate it.
“We have the potential of using gunfire but we are not going to do it,” he told thousands of his supporters who cheered the remarks.
“We want to beat Museveni psychologically and turn him into a ‘second phase NRA’. We are going to send him away through the same route that brought him,” Chimpreports quoted him as saying.
The ‘free and fair elections’ rally was also addressed by Kizza Besigye, another leading opposition rival who in the past lost heated presidential contests against president Museveni.
In his statements in the rally, Besigye vowed that the opposition would possibly use military language against Museveni.
“Generals will deal with General Museveni,” he told the crowd.
“We want to first show Museveni that we can do away with his corrupt electoral commission psychologically before we deal with him as Generals,” he warned, saying Museveni understands only two languages - "the gun and people’s power."
Majority of the leaders who addressed the public event portrayed Museveni as a leader in crisis who was losing control of his centre of power – the army.
However, army spokesperson, Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda said “the army will stand with a President who is elected by the people.”
He further warned the opposition forces against attempts to grab power by force, saying the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) would crush such schemes.
Also, the presidency minister, Frank Tumwebaze, further warned the opposition parties not to imitate the recent uprising in the Egyptian Tahrir Square.
“They fail to understand that by spending so much time only dreaming of a Tahrir Square uprising in Kampala and struggling to lure youth to engage in street protests, only serves them to capture short lived media headlines,” he said, downplaying the opposition threats.
Another former presidential aspirant and leader of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA), Olive Betty Kamya, criticised the opposition for putting their efforts towards removing president Yoweri Museveni, saying "he is not Uganda’s problem".
“Our colleagues in the opposition are focusing so much on removing President Museveni, yet he is not the problem,” Uganda’s Daily Monitor, quoted Kamya as saying on Tuesday.
“If you single out Museveni as the problem, he will go away but Uganda’s problems will not,” she further stressed while addressing a media briefing at UFA’s headquarters in Rubaga, Kampala.
The opposition leader also cautioned that targeting electoral reforms will not do much as it will leave Museveni with over 200 institutions to do whatever he wishes with the country.
“For me the most important institution is Bank of Uganda because that is where the President gets the money he splashes around, and therefore fighting the EC [Electoral Commission] is [like] trying to hit a tiny end of the snake and leaving out the larger part,” Kamya said.
The tough warnings by the opposition parties come days after a commander of the presidential unit in charge of protecting president Museveni defected along with 16 other officers, allegedly to join a new rebellion to overthrow the president.
Ugandan senior defence officials confirmed what they said was “serious” growing indiscipline and discontent among the army as “countless” soldiers are believed to have died in South Sudan’s mission against anti-Salva Kiir rebels as well as in other places, coupled with low pay in salaries and poor systems for promotions.
Many Ugandan MPs have also been agitating for withdrawal of the Ugandan army from South Sudan.