December 14, 2014 / 11:54 AM / 4 years ago

Exiled Ugandan general allowed home to keep army on side

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan general who fled into exile last year saying he feared for his life after criticizing President Yoweri Museveni’s reported plan to hand power to his son, returned home on Sunday in a move analysts said was designed to keep the army on side.

David Sejusa, who had long been seen as a staunch ally of the president, fled to Britain early last year after alleging there was a plot to kill officials opposed to a plan aired in the media for Museveni to hand power to his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi. Museveni himself has denied any such plan.

Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said Sejusa arrived early on Sunday aboard a British Airways flight and was welcomed by his family, his lawyer and the head of the country’s internal security organization.

“He negotiated his return. The government facilitated him with a ticket. For now we consider him a free man as his cases are being looked into,” the spokesman said by telephone.

Opondo said the general would likely be made to answer for his desertion of the army among other possible charges that the state could bring against him.

Sejusa fought in the five-year guerrilla struggle that brought Museveni to power in 1986 and is from the same clan but military sources say he and some other army officers have criticized the rapid promotion of Muhoozi to the role of brigadier general in charge of the army’s powerful elite unit.

Muhoozi, who joined the military in 1998, jumped two positions from 2nd lieutenant to major in 2001, feeding suspicions he was being groomed to succeed his father.

Museveni, 70, is widely believed to be intending to seek re-election for another five-year term in early 2016 when the country holds a general election. He has not yet declared his intentions.

In recent years opposition to his rule has mounted, with his opponents accusing him of failing to curb runaway corruption, using security forces to suppress dissent and seeking life presidency. Museveni denies the allegations.

Charles Rwomushana, a Ugandan political analyst, told Reuters Museveni’s calculation was that Sejusa’s military credentials made him too valuable an asset to be allowed to join opposition ranks.

“The public’s eye has concentrated on the feud among politicians but there are cracks in the military,” Rwomushana said.

“Those cracks are a bigger vulnerability for Museveni than anything else... this (return) is to take care of that vulnerability.”

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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