Ugandan MP in court over military chief's coup remarks

Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Uganda's Chief of Defence Forces, talks to the media as minister for Defence Crispus Kiyonga pays attention. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR 

Uganda's Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, has been dragged to court over a statement he made, warning that the army could be forced to take over power if politicians do not change course.

The petition filed at Nakawa Magistrates Court is based on an affidavit sworn by Luweero Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya, who wants Gen. Aronda charged with three counts of treason.

The General faces charges of treason related to contriving a plot, by force of arms to overthrow the Government of Uganda as by law established contrary to Section 23(1)c of the Penal Code Act. The general is also accused of treason through intimidating and inciting the military against the institution of Parliament, contrary to Section 23(2)a.

He is further accused of inciting officers and men of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces to commit an act or acts of mutiny and treachery.

Gen Aronda stands accused of having committed the said offences during a press conference at the Ugandan Army Headquarters, Mbuya, on January 23.

Ms Nabukenya avers that she has been advised by her lawyers that the general’s comments amount to criminal offences, including inciting the army to commit a crime, treason, offences against the State, concealment of treason and terrorism.

“We think there was an act of treason committed by the Chief of Defence Forces,” said the lawyer who filed the case. “This is an elected government, you cannot as army commander talk of a takeover even if the President has spoken. The President cannot overthrow himself but the army can.”

Ms Nabukenya said she was compelled to petition the court following an outcry from her constituents in Luweero.


“It is a fact that I have filed a case. You know I represent the people of Luweero, the area that suffered most under the war that brought this government to power, and my people have been complaining to me, saying they fear a return to conflict. Beside the feelings of the people, it is against the Constitution to talk of [overthrowing] the government,” Ms Nabukenya said. “There was a need for someone to come out and account.”

The petition is the latest twist in a growing dispute over the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of Parliament, which goes back to arguments about corruption during passionate debate on the oil sector.

This dispute escalated following the death of Butaleja MP Cerinah Nebanda on December 14, 2012.

In an affidavit accompanying the petition, Ms Nabukenya tries to establish a link between the death of Nebanda, the subsequent fall-out between the Executive and Parliament after a section of MPs questioned government handling of the investigation and its own role in her suspicious demise.

Ms Nabukenya’s lawyers said they plan to serve Gen Nyakairima through the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence but it was not clear whether the petition had been delivered by press time.

Treason is a capital offence and attracts a maximum sentence of death upon conviction.

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