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Spokesperson Defends Ugandan President's Role East African Community

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, president of Uganda, speaks at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 24, 2013.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, president of Uganda, speaks at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 24, 2013.

A spokesman for the Ugandan government says there would not be an organization called East African Community had it not been for the efforts of President Yoweri Museveni and two other east African leaders to revive the organization.

Spokesman Ofwono Opondo was responding to criticism by an official of the newly-formed Freedom and Unity Front (FUF) of Uganda that President Museveni was out to destroy the Community.

General David Sejusa told VOA earlier this week that Museveni attempted to isolate Tanzania and Burundi by not inviting their leaders to recent regional summits.

But Opondo says there are some issues within the community that are bilateral as well as tripartite and do not affect regional cooperation.

“First of all, we don’t know that organization – Unity and Freedom Front – we don’t know them and we have not seen their report. But there has not been an East African Community to speak about until President Museveni restarted it about 12 years ago together with President Daniel Arap Moi and Benjamin Nkapa. And so you cannot be the same person trying to destroy,” he said.

He dismissed criticism that President Museveni tried to isolate Tanzania and Burundi by not inviting their two leaders to recent East African Community summits.

“There regional issues that are bilateral to Uganda and Kenya; there are issues that are bilateral for Uganda and Rwanda, and there are issues that are tripartite for Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. So, we don’t think that bilateral issues of Uganda and Kenya should in any way jeopardize the regional cooperation of the East African Community,” Opondo said.

The FUF describes itself as a “new liberation platform to unite different liberation forces, political organizations and individuals to free Uganda from Yoweri Museveni.”
One of its leaders is General David Sejusa, the former Coordinator of Uganda’s Intelligence Services.

Sejusa fled Uganda in April this year after writing a letter, alleging that there was a scheme to assassinate senior government and military officials perceived to be against an alleged plot to have Mr. Museveni’s son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba succeed his father as President.

Opondo describes the group as “fictitious” and said the Ugandan government does not know of the group’s existence.

“I am hearing it from you for the first time. So it must be a fictitious organization. First of all, Sejusa is a renegade fugitive who has previously been a member of parliament of Uganda representing the army. He has run out of what to say, and I think this announcement of a fictitious organization that does not exist, at least not here in Uganda is an attempt to create a profile to you, the international media who may not have all the facts about Uganda back home here,” Opondo said.

Opondo also rejects the FUF’s criticism that President Museveni has been a sponsor of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo and cannot be the one to mediate peace talks between the government and M23 rebels.

“President Museveni and Uganda was asked by a committee of African Union states in November of 2011 to be the mediator and we have been conducting that mediation for the past 11 months. It has never been raised by the DRC delegation the biasness of Uganda until when we hear accusations via the media,” Opondo said.

First founded in the mid-1960s, the East African Community collapsed in 1977 due to disagreements among its founding countries – Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. It was revived in 2000 by leaders of the same three founding countries.