A Ugandan cabinet minister has said that President Yoweri Museveni’s government is behind a spate of killings in which high-profile personalities, including government officials, have been killed in recent years.
The “truth is that the killers are within security and government,” Idah Nantaba, the Minister of State for ICT, is quoted by Ugandan newspaper, Daily Monitor, as saying.
She was reportedly addressing a congregation at Bukolooto Seventh Day Adventists Church in Kayunga Town over the weekend.
The masterminds, Nantaba said, were highly-placed government and security officials who are “untouchables,” a moniker in Uganda’s politics for individuals who orbit in the highest circles of government and state, according to the report in Monday’s edition of the Ugandan paper.
“As Ugandans, we have more than 10,000 questions on who is choosing which Ugandan to kill like chicken. I was going to be the next, but God saved me,” the paper quoted Nantaba as saying, in reference to the March 24 incident in which police shot dead a one Ronald Ssebulime on allegations of trailing the minister.
The Ugandan police later recanted its earlier narrative that the deceased was armed and killed in firefight, admitting that its officers killed the 40-year-old widower, then a resident of Wakiso District, in cold blood.
Amid bursts of tears, Nantaba, a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) repeatedly choked on words and gasped for air, the publication said.
“I was shocked when a highly-placed person in security, who was trying to hatch a plan to have me assassinated, was promoted,” Nantaba is quoted as saying in the story.
‘When they kill me, I’ll go to heaven’
She added: “I have come here to tell you the truth because I have been in hiding and my enemies have been using the media to distort the information about how Ssebulime wanted to kill me.
“I have decided to come here for prayers because I know when they kill [me], I will go to heaven.”
Ugandan ICT minister was however unable to complete her remarks, with another cabinet minister coming forward to restrain her midway through her remarks.
Tourism minister Geodfrey Kiwanda had to intervene and talk her out of further revelations, according to the Ugandan newspaper.
Uganda has in recent years been rocked by high-profile assassinations of individuals within and outside Ugandan government circles, including high-profile army and police officers, a high-ranking prosecutor, an NRM parliamentarian, and several Muslim clerics, as well as killings that have particularly targeted women in and around major urban centres.
Among prominent Ugandans whose killings remain unresolved include Assistant Inspector General of Police Felix Kaweesi, Chief Inspector of Police Muhammed Kirumira, MP for Arua Municipality Col (Rtd) Ibrahim Abiriga. Others include former Assistant Prosecutor General Joan Kagezi and Major Mohamed Kiggundu, several Muslim Sheikhs, among others.
Nantaba’s claims add to previous accusations by particularly opposition figures who have blamed the Museveni government for the killings.
In October last year, Opposition leader Kiiza Besigye told a news conference that Ugandan regime had plotted to kill MP Robert Kyagulanyi, a musician-cum-politician who is best known as Bobi Wine, during parliamentary by-election chaos in West Nile in August, and blame his death on opposition politicians.
“Efforts have been made to cause conflict within the Opposition which would be the launch pad for assassinations. This nearly happened in Arua and they targeted to kill Honourable Kyagulanyi and arrest Besigye for murder,” Besigye told the media at the time.
He added: “We lost someone in Arua who was sitting where Bobi Wine sits and nobody has been arrested for shooting Yasin [Kawuma] (Bobi Wine’s driver), but we know what happened to the killers,” Dr Besigye was quoted in the Daily Monitor as saying.
“The plan to eliminate political opponents has been there all along but has always sought to do so through subtle means, poisoning and all kinds of undetected ways. Quite a number of our colleagues have retired in that kind of way.
“But I think because of the mounting crisis, that [covert elimination] has shifted to a more radical way and the plan has been to ferment, choreograph and manage what appears to the public as serious disagreements between the forces that oppose the regime,” he added.
The Kampala establishment has since rejected both Besigye and Minister Nantaba’s claims, with Uganda Media Centre and Police officials challenging the latter’s assertions, while ICT minister Frank Tumwebaze dismissed Besigye’s claims, saying he was only looking for relevance.
“It doesn’t help her by talking in tongues. She has access to the President, Inspector General of Police and Army Commander, she (Nantaba) cannot tell us that the entire army wants to kill her,” Ofwono Opondo, executive director at Uganda Media Centre, was quoted as saying by Daily Monitor yesterday, in reference to Minister Nantaba’s damning revelation.
‘Order to kill people are Museveni’s’
Allegations of Museveni government-sponsored assassinations date as far back as 1980s. One of the alleged high-profile early victims is Dr Andrew Kayiira, a former Energy minister and leader of the then Uganda Freedom Movement, who was murdered in cold blood on March 6, 1987.
Commenting on these assassinations allegedly masterminded by the government, exiled Ugandan physician-cum-politician Dr Aggrey Kiyingi, told The New Times last month that “orders to kill people are Museveni’s.”
“There is no other explanation. It is clear that he masterminds these things, and then blames other people…
“He blames “neighbouring countries” even before any investigation. He blames everyone else, and uses Uganda’s corrupt press for his blame games. He is an expert at evading responsibility,” Kiyingi said in reference to the 74-year-old who will be seeking a sixth term in office come 2021, having already ruled for 33 years.
Ugandan government has in recent years attempted to link the murders to alleged security operatives from Rwanda in what observers see as an effort to deflect attention from the real cause of the current frosty relations between Kampala and Kigali.
The Rwandan government has accused Uganda of arbitrarily arresting, torturing and irregularly deporting Rwandan nationals; harbouring and actively supporting armed Rwandan dissident and genocidal forces with a view to destabilise Rwanda, and breaching East African Community protocols through restrictions that amount to economic sabotage.
Kampala has impounded containers of Rwandan exports transiting through Uganda, including minerals and dairy products, resulting in a loss of billions of Rwandan Francs.
While the Ugandan government continues to downplay Kigali’s grievances – including during last week’s statement by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa to diplomats in Kampala – President Museveni has admitted to hosting Rwandan dissidents at State House.
In March, Museveni, in a letter to President Paul Kagame, finally admitted to holding talks with RNC leaders at State House in Kampala, even as he claimed that that the meeting was “by accident”.
It later emerged that one of the RNC officials Museveni met, Charlotte Mukankusi, had been facilitated with a Ugandan passport, apparently to ease her travels around the world as head of RNC’s diplomacy.
RNC was co-founded by, among others, fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa who was in 2011 sentenced in absentia to 24 years in jail and stripped of his military ranks after he was found guilty of forming a terrorist group, threatening state security, undermining public order, promoting ethnic divisions, desertion from the Army, among other charges.
Several UN reports have linked RNC – blamed for a spate of grenade attacks in Kigali and other parts of the country about 10 years ago – to DR Congo-based FLDR militia, largely made up of remnants of the forces responsible for the slaughter of the over one million people during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The latest UN report that linked Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC to FDLR and other anti-Rwanda subversive groups was published December last year.
A midterm report by the UN Group of Experts on DR Congo to the UN Security Council, dated December 31, 2018, named South Africa-based Kayumba Nyamwasa as the de facto head of an amalgamation of subversive Rwandan groups operating under the name ‘P5’, with a training base in DR Congo’s South Kivu province.
The UN report cited Uganda and Burundi as major sources of recruits and supplies for the armed group – an account that has since been corroborated by high-profile leaders of some of these groups who are on trial in Kigali.