In the mind of Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Henry Tumukunde, if it was possible to be Rwanda, he would support all people opposed to President Yoweri Museveni and topple his government.
For Uganda Police, this statement made by the former Spy Chief means that indeed the General has officially waged war against the Kampala establishment.
Police, in a joint operation with Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Counter Terrorism agents, last month arrested Tumukunde and charged him with treason. He is still being held at an undisclosed location.
While in detention, Tumukunde has since assembled a team of 40 lawyers to prepare for what they believe is going to be a protracted legal battle against the treason charges subject to the penal code act.
“When we were at Kibuli Police station, they played out a video to the General and to us; his legal team. He was asked about the issues of Rwanda he said while appearing on an earlier TV show,” his lead lawyer, Alex Luganda, said.
According to his lawyers, there is a disagreement on interpretation of the General’s statement.
While under interrogation, Gen. Tumukunde told Police and security agencies that what they understood of his statement to mean is not what he said.
Gen. Tumukunde told the interrogators that what he said was very clear and that the audience that watched the TV show understood what he meant.
He told the security operatives that he knows the circumstances under which he is operating, adding that the charges are trumped up as a means of intimidating him against his interests in the Presidency.
The lawyers are not sure whether their client will be court-martialed or arraigned before the civilian court, but either way, they want court processes to be respected. According to them, their client Lt.Gen (Rtd) Tumukunde is a civilian.
However, according to other provisions of the Ugandan law, retired soldiers automatically belong to the Reserve Force which is an entity within the Uganda Peoples Defence Force.
Analysts argue that the accusers of Lt.Gen (Rtd) Tumukunde have the power to choose which court they will drag him to.
“As lawyers we are being intimidated by different people. If you have a problem with somebody, you don’t go attacking their doctors, barbers and gardeners. We as lawyers should be left to practice our profession,” Luganda said.
Uganda is scheduled to hold Presidential elections in 2021, but politicking has been intense from as early as 2017. Politicians, both in opposition parties and independents, are increasingly walking out of their shelves and expressing interest in the highest office.
“Those who think that we are going into elections in 2021 and declare themselves presidential candidates and think can willfully breach the law, we shall deal with them,” Ofowono Opondo, the government spokesperson, says.
Opondo argues that Lt. Gen. Tumukunde is a security threat because he infringed on aspects of the penal code.
According to opposition politician Salam Musumba, the trajectory of 2021 is about preserving the status quo and securing a transition from within the present power block.
“If nothing is done, you have a full-blown autocratic rule that will be based in western region while the rest are political pendants,” she says.
She argues that the ruling party, NRM, has refined the theft, e-rigging and that Museveni will use every tool available to retain power and muzzle dissent.
Barnabas Tinkasimire, a NRM Member of Parliament representing Buyaga West, says his party boss has been in office for 35 years and should account for all that time.
“Museveni has done his part but still thinks that he can hoodwink Ugandans to add him an extra 5years. What will he use these 5 years for? It is open fraud,” Tinkasimire says, adding that all Museveni wants is “to have state power, control the treasury and patronize every Ugandan.”
Government and Lt.Gen. Tumukunde are expected to resume the legal battle after the Covid19 lockdown under which court proceedings have been banned including gatherings- the measures are aimed at stopping spread of the deadly coronavirus which has infected dozens in Uganda.