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Is a military coup Museveni’s last line of defence against NRM rebels?

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President Museveni inspects a guard of honour by the UPDF during a flagging-off ceremony for soldiers to Amisom. Photo/FILE

President Museveni inspects a guard of honour by the UPDF during a flagging-off ceremony for soldiers to Amisom. Photo/FILE 

By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, January 26   2013 at  18:15

In Summary

  • Observers and political actors alike say this complex web of political jostling, grandstanding and now the army openly sniffing at power is directly linked to his long stay in power and his fear of transition.
  • Mr Muntu said the president’s warning was intended “for purposes of intimidating parliament and intimidating the public so that everybody is gripped by fear and therefore, we cease to do what is right.”
  • According to Peter Walubiri, a constitutional lawyer, there is a case to be made that the threats of a military takeover could amount to treasonous acts.
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As President Yoweri Museveni begins his 27th year in power, his warning that the army will take over his own elected government has added a new dimension to growing speculation about the deep internal rifts within both his ruling NRM party and the army.

Observers and political actors alike say this complex web of political jostling, grandstanding and now the army openly sniffing at power is directly linked to his long stay in power and his fear of transition.

Observers say that, over the years, the president has lost the aura and charm that captivated his admirers and won over his critics during his first decade in power, and replaced them with tough talk, incessant threats and sabre-rattling.

“The ability to listen, his modesty and his gift of persuasion, which were overriding characteristics of President Museveni at the beginning of his presidency, are no longer what define him today,” a retired professor of history told The EastAfrican.

“What is happening in the NRM is destabilising for the country. When the ruling party cannot organise itself, how can one expect others to? You get a sense there is a kind of vacuum in the country,” he added.

Two weeks ago at a party caucus retreat, Museveni warned the MPs in attendance that the military would not allow what he termed “confusion” in parliament to persist.

Invoking the army is a trick the president has perfected and fallen back on many times whenever he has faced a vigorous challenge.

The retreat came in the wake of the death of the 24-year-old legislator, Cerinah Nebanda, who, in spite of being a first term NRM MP, had quickly become an outspoken critic of the government’s excesses.

The cause of her death was hotly disputed by parliament and the state, which invited suspicion on itself by the way the police and the president rushed to intervene and assert that her death was drugs-related, even before investigations had been completed.

The retreat, then, was ostensibly to whip MPs into line as has happened at such retreats before.

But, perhaps more importantly this time, it was also to derail attempts by a section of MPs to recall parliament over what they saw as the president’s attacks on the independence of the legislature.

Museveni had warned of dire consequences if they insisted on recalling the House.

The clash over Nebanda’s death came just two weeks after the executive forced through the oil Bill that vested authority over oil matters in the minister of energy; a feature parliament had contested and actually struck out in preference for such absolute powers to be vested with the yet to be established petroleum authority.

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