The Andrew Mwenda of 2005 was so fiery and enthusiastic about the truth that he gave the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, sleepless nights.
In an archive unearthed by Martha Leah Zesaguli, a Ugandan social media critic based in the diaspora, we bring a KFM radio talk show in which Mwenda accused Museveni of causing the founding father of South Sudan, Dr John Garang’s death.
In late July 2005, Garang died after the Ugandan presidential Mi-172 helicopter he was flying in crashed.
He had been returning from a meeting in Rwakitura with long-time ally President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
Friday August 12, 2015 KFM talk show
Mwenda who was then working as an editor at Daily Monitor, hosted then Presidential Assistant on Politics, Moses Byaruhanga, Mr. Reagan Okumu, an opposition Member of Parliament and ex-intelligence chief David Pulkol, at the industrial area based KFM radio.
As the debate raged, Mwenda turned attention to Museveni who had reportedly asked media houses to cease writing about the ugly incident.
“These newspapers, (Monitor esp) I am the elected leader of Uganda. I therefore have the ultimate mandate to run their affairs. I will no longer tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture… I will simply close it.”
“I have been seeing this young boy, Mwenda, writing about Rwanda, writing about Sudan, writing about UPDF, he must stop. He is an expert on SPLA, he knows the minutes which took place where… he must stop,” Museveni reportedly directed.
He turned attention on The Observer accusing it of unearthing everything “being said in the army. This is not how a country is run…”
As for Red Pepper, he “thought those were confused young boys busy with naked girls… These newspapers must stop or we shall stop them. If they want to continue doing business in Uganda, they must stop interfering in security matters of the region…”
Mwenda strikes back
In a charged debate, Mwenda queried: “If he (Museveni) was elected, does that mean that other actors do not have views? Does it mean that when people elect him, those who disagree with him should keep quiet?
You go and tell him to listen to this show, then he can get some wisdom, because all of you guys sit at State House and say, yes sir, yes sir. Here we say no sir… I can tell you, his little threats are completely ignored…
Mwenda should not discuss security in the region, how can you say something like that? I don’t want… we run a newspaper and pay taxes which buy his suits, does he know that? You see these African presidents.
This man went to University, why can’t he behave like an educated person? Why does he behave like a villager?
But, how can he insult me like that? Museveni has no monopoly of irrationality, do you know that? If he wants to behave like Saddam Hussein, let him go to Iraq… Peace and security is a public good… I think I understand security better than Museveni…
That is what I think. I am a security expert… Oh, Jesus Christ! You really think laying the whole northern region, a third of the country, in waste, 20 years of war, is how you bring security into a country?
Let him resign today, let me become President and you will see what I will do. This country will be better managed and there will be security all over the country. Security will no longer be a tribal good enjoyed by the Bantu in the south. Everybody in Uganda will be entitled to security.
Museveni can never intimidate me. He can only intimidate himself… We are willing to pay Museveni a handsome pension if he decided to go home and rest and stop mismanaging this country.
Why does he call me a boy? Listen to me and you will get the correct security analysis. Listen to the President you will get the wrong one… The President is becoming more of a coward and everyday importing cars that armour plated and bullet proof and you know moving in tanks and mambas, you know, hiding with a mountain of soldiers surrounding him, he thinks that that is security.
That is not security. That is cowardice… this one’s security is Jurassic security. Why does this one move with mounted anti-aircraft guns, AK 47 assault rifles, tanks and mambas, buffels and katyushas, Jesus Christ?
Actually Museveni’s days as a President are numbered if he goes on a collision course with me… I wish I was 35, I would have contested the next election… you mismanaged Garang’s security. Are you saying it is Monitor that caused the death of Garang or it is your own mismanagement?
Aah what caused Garang’s death? Garang’s security was put in danger by your own government putting him first of all on a junk helicopter, second at night, third passing through Imatong Hills where Kony is… Are you aware that Garang died in Imatong Hills where you have always complained that Kony is?
Are you aware that your Government killed Garang? … I would say the Government of Uganda, out of incompetence, led to or caused the death of John Garang. They put him on the plane when it was already late.
That plane the President said it has the capacity to detect bad weather 100km away. Why couldn’t they detect the bad weather 100km away?
Let me challenge you. When a plane is taking off from place A going to place B, it is supposed to establish weather at place B. If the weather at place B was bad, why didn’t your people here decide not to go?
Maybe you don’t recognize that the Government of Uganda is responsible for the death of Garang. Whether it is by commission or omission, the government of Uganda cannot run away from that responsibility.
Mwenda is arrested
The journalist was picked that same evening and detained on charges of sedition.
The Ugandan government defended his arrest saying the debate could have sparked genocide at a time of extreme tension in Sudan.
“I cannot plead guilty of exercising my liberty guaranteed under the constitution,” Mwenda later told court and was freed on bail.
He not only won the case but made sure the Constitutional Court declares the sedition law unconstitutional.
He later wrote that the “judgment marked a major and symbolic watershed in Uganda’s democratisation process”.
“For almost a century, the law of sedition has been used by successive regimes in Uganda to stifle free speech. The NRM government and President Yoweri Museveni specifically should celebrate too. The sedition law was bad law because it was arbitrary, literally making criticism of government a crime. To remove it from our statute books is therefore an important step in promoting democratic debate.”