Ugandan army wades into raging coup debate

Gen Aronda Nyakairima, Uganda's Chief of Defence Forces (left) and Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the minister of Defence, at a previous press briefing last year. The two have warned Uganda's Parliament that the army could intervene in the country's politics. YUSUF MUZIRANSA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Uganda's military leadership has weighed in on an ongoing debate about the likelihood of the army staging a coup as recently suggested by top regime figures.

President Yoweri Museveni and his Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga have said the army could step in if the country's parliament continued an unprecedented assertive streak that has seen it challenge the executive including over rampant corruption.

Regime critics claim the ground is being prepared for a 'palace coup' that would see the current democratic order replaced with an overt military government.

Dr Kiyonga recently said that the army was watching and there was a possibility that it could re-insert itself should politicians in Uganda's parliament continue "not showing seriousness that they can solve the problems facing the country".

He said such intervention would be to "refocus the country's future".

President Museveni, in power since 1986, was later quoted at a retreat of ruling party members that if the "confusion" in parliament continued, the military would not stand for it.

At a media briefing over plans for the country's Army Day set for February 6, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, the Chief of Defence Forces, said the military would not allow "bad politics" to return Uganda to turmoil.

"We are going about our normal business. I can’t do more than what they said. The message was well taken for those to who it was intended. Stand warned. Stand advised. Should you not change course, other things will be brought into play. Let no one return to the past. We have seen enough, almost 25 years of turmoil."

Gen Aronda was responding to a question by a journalist and when pressed for clarification on the coup talk, said, “the message was deliberately sent out and we leave it at that.”

The comments by President Museveni and Dr Kiyonga have drawn swift condemnation from regime critics who have asserted that the east African country was a democracy with an elected government.

Others have pointed out that the military was already an intimate part of the country’s political landscape with serving army officers deployed in non-traditional roles, and ten representatives sitting in parliament as army MPs.

Uganda’s present army evolved from a guerrilla force (NRA) but is today applauded by Mr Museveni as a professional law-abiding force unlike past armies that were notorious for committing atrocities and overriding legitimate civilian authority.

The country has suffered a bloody history associated with military rule which President usually alludes to whenever he talks about what he calls the “peace and stability ushered in by the NRA/M”.

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