General wanted over Ugandan memo leak now hiding in Britain
Sejusa’s lawyer is sceptical his client could receive a fair hearing when he goes home
Patience Akumu is a Features writer with the Observer newspaper in Uganda. She is the winner of the David Astor Journalism Award 2013 and is on a fellowship programme with The Independent. She was nominated for her work on human rights, ranging from women’s rights to lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Thursday 13 June 2013
A senior Ugandan general has gone into hiding in Britain after the leaking of a secret memo he wrote implicating the East African country’s government in an alleged assassination plot against him and other leading officers.
David Tinyefunza Sejusa, who is Uganda’s co-ordinator of intelligence, told The Independent that he intends to return home to face accusations of subversion and spreading harmful propaganda, despite warnings that a court martial could place him in legal limbo for years.
The manhunt for Sejusa has been seized upon by opponents of the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni – who has received extensive political and financial support from various British governments – as evidence of an increasingly autocratic leader. Mr Museveni also faces claims that after 27 years in office he is grooming his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, as his successor.
Publication of the leaked memo, in which Sejusa ordered an investigation by Uganda’s security service into claims of a plot to murder army officers opposed to Museveni’s son, led to raids on the offices of the Ugandan newspaper which ran the story, The Monitor.
The paper was shut down and its offices declared a crime scene during an apparent search for the memo. Two sister radio stations were also taken off the airwaves and another newspaper was ordered to cease publication.
Both the newspaper titles and the broadcasters have since re-opened but Sejusa has in the meantime fled the country, amid growing speculation he might consider entering Ugandan politics. He has not been seen in public since publication of the memo.
His lawyer denies that he has applied for asylum in Britain, insisting he is “finishing some business in the UK” and will soon return to “fight like a general”. Joseph Luzige said his client was seeking to spend three months in Britain to organise his defence against the court martial he expects to face when he returns home. Mr Luzige added that he was sceptical whether the general could receive a fair hearing, citing the example of Brigadier Henry Tumukunde, another army officer who voiced opposition to Mr Museveni. His case took eight years to be heard.
Mr Luzige said: “There is no justice at the court martial. He asked me to extend his stay in the UK by three months. He has hired a very expensive team of lawyers to defend him.”
Sejusa is understood to have privately said that he has been targeted by the Museveni government to force him to abandon any political ambitions. A Ugandan government source told The Independent that while officials believe Sejusa to be in London, he has not contacted the Ugandan High Commission there. “You are only a General when you have troops under you,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Is he going to lead the country from London?”
The UK Foreign Office said it had had no contact with Sejusa.
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