By Henry Mukasa
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has rapped the Constitutional Court ruling stopping the Court Martial from trying civilians arrested with guns.
Speaking during the silver jubilee celebrations of Tarehe Sita to mark the day the National Resistance Army (now UPDF) launched its armed struggle, a tough talking Museveni said he would fight the ruling.
â€œThe ruling of the Constitutional Court that the army canâ€™t try civilians with guns is something we canâ€™t agree with. This means the methods we have been using in Karamoja to court martial warriors with guns should be stopped. I donâ€™t agree. The government has appealed to the Supreme Court but we shall also fight it politically,â€ he said.
He added, â€œThere is no reason why civilians should acquire guns for illegal purposes. Once a civilian acquires a gun, he becomes a voluntary soldier. We shall fight the decision legally and politically. We may also call for a referendum so that Ugandans can decide.â€
In its ruling on the petition filed by the Uganda Law Society, the Constitutional Court said only civilians who jointly commit offences with soldiers could be tried by the army court.
Court Martial chairman Gen. Elly Tumwine and a critic of the ruling, Gen. David Tinyefuza, were present at the celebrations.
The function at Guluâ€™s Kaunda ground was also attended by 1st Deputy Premier Lt. Gen. Moses Ali, security minister Betty Akech, defence minister Amama Mbabazi and permanent secretary Brig. Noble Mayombo, state ministers Dr. Nsaba Buturo for information and Henry Oryem Okello for international cooperation.
Also present were the Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kaleh Kayihura and the commissioner general of prisons, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija. Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania sent representatives.
President Museveni had earlier inspected a guard of honour by the 4th Division.
Dressed in military fatigues, Museveni laughed off talk that Forum for democratic Change (FDC) leader Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye had a â€˜Plan Bâ€™ if he lost in the February 23 elections.
â€œBesigyeâ€™s plan is zero. He has neither plan A nor B. He will lose elections and if he goes to make trouble he will lose even more. This army can guarantee order,â€ he said.
Tinyefuza was recently quoted by the media as saying Besigye had â€˜Plan Bâ€™, should he lose the elections. But Besigye denied the accusations.
Talking about the LRA rebels led by Vincent Otti who fled to the DR Congo, Museveni said the UN had disregarded his offer for the UPDF to help hunt down Kony and his rebels.
â€œHow can somebody come from Uruguay and deal with these characters? I donâ€™t want to interfere in the affairs of the UN but they should really be serious,â€ he said.
He said the UN used the same methods to send observers to Rwanda in the jamboree style prior to the genocide and that when the killing started they could not defend the Rwandese.
â€œUruguay, Uruguay, oh my God!â€ Museveni exclaimed but was reminded by his ADC that the soldiers in Congo are from Guatemala.
Museveni caused laughter by saying Guatemala was even more exotic. He said he mixed the two because there was no different.
He urged the UN to use regional armies or others from Africa, which are used to fighting like Ethiopian and Eritrean armies.
He said Kony was defeated and that eternal peace was imminent in Gulu.
â€œI want to tell you the people of Gulu that peace is coming,â€ he said as people holding banners announcing their support for the army and the government, cheered.
Museveni paraded former Kony fighters, six boys, two girls and two babies, abducted between 1995 and 2002 but were rescued by the army.
The dirty-looking ex-rebels in tattered clothes included George Kilama, who said he was part of a group led by Odhiambo in Palinyonga and that the group had 12 guns and two pregnant women.
â€œThe biggest problem was water. We were sent to collect water and the UPDF captured us at the water point,â€ Kilama said.
Asked to tell the crowd where Kony was, Kilama said he did not know â€œbecause I have spent a long time without seeing him.â€
Museveni said the function was a climax of the evolution of the NRA into the UPDF, which he said initially fought with only the infantry but now had armoured cars, fighter planes and choppers which can maneuver during the day and night.
He launched a book written by one of the original fighters, Col. Pecos Kutesa, who participated in the February 6, 1981 attack on the Kabamba barracks.
Museveni said he had read the manuscript of the book titled How I saw it, but that he did not make corrections and contributions.
â€œI hope he published it with corrections. I recommend it to you all. I launch this book,â€ he said after shaking Kutesaâ€™s hand. He wished the army good celebrations and good elections on February 23. He said he would not take lectures from foreigners on how to defend the country.
Nyakairima said the UPDF would guarantee a peaceful transition.
He warned politicians who are sounding war drums, saying, â€œWe take exception to careless remarks by some politicians. Some characters are talking of raving youth brigade, raving armies or outright war. The UPDF shall not allow anybody to subvert the peopleâ€™s hard-earned peace,â€ adding that the army would observe all electoral laws.