This could have been President Museveni’s last seen photo had his bodyguard’s shot found its mark. The shot was fired shortly after this photo was taken. Here he chats with (L-R) Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa at Parliament yesterday. (Photo by Geoffrey Seruyange – Daily Monitor)
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni yesterday narrowly escaped death when one of his bodyguards “accidentally” lost possession of his automatic weapon which fell to the ground and fired as the Ugandan leader was about to get into his car.
Unconfirmed reports say the bodyguard suffered gunshot wounds after one of his colleagues shot at him believing he was trying to assassinate Museveni who has been in power for the last 27 years. The bodyguard was part of an elite specially-trained military unit of commandos that is commanded by Brig Kainerugaba Muhoozi, the president’s only known son.
Gen Museveni, whose tenure has moved from one time being the darling of the West to uneasy relationships not only with Western leaders but also with those that he started a protracted guerrilla war against the then Milton Obote government with in 1982 that culminated in his seizing power in January 1986, had just addressed the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) at parliament in Kampala last evening and after posing for photographs outside parliament, he was heading for his waiting car at the parliamentary park yard when a shot was heard clearly emanating from within his security guards.
The security guard was dressed in a black suit and was travelling in the third pick-up escort truck that is part of a long presidential motorcade that follow the president wherever he goes while inside the country. At first it was not quite clear what had happened. There was pandemonium as the legislators who had come to see off the president took to their heels as the president was being quickly bundled into his bullet-proof car that then sped off at high speed. The bodyguard was bundled into another truck that also took off at high speed followed by scores of other vehicles that form the at times -20-vehicle presidential motorcade. These include an ambulance, a truck that serves as the president’s mobile bathroom and several cars in which scores of heavily armed and specially trained marine commandos that form part of the brigade that Brig Muhoozi commands travel.
It is not yet known if the shot was an assassination attempt or an accident, but inner circles in the security say it is quite unusual for such a close guard to have a gun with the safety catch off and ready to be fired. The London Evening Post was at the scene as we had been covering the President’s speech to the EALA. The last thing we saw as everybody took flight was Gen Museveni seating calmly in his car at it sped out of sight.
Last month, a letter written by Gen David ‘Tinye’ Sejusa asked the chief of military intelligence to investigate claims that there was a plan to assassinate senior army officers opposed to what has since become known as ‘the Muhoozi Project’, a plan allegedly hatched by Museveni to have his son succeed him when he finally steps down from the country’s leadership. Reproduced in the country’s largest broadsheet, the Daily Monitor and the country’s biggest-selling tabloid, the Red Pepper, the letter caused Gen Museveni to have both media houses that included two radio stations to be closed for nearly two weeks by police who claimed they were there to search for the letter. They did not say whether they had finally got it when the media houses were allowed to return to the streets before last weekend. Gen Sejusa has since fled to the United Kingdom and unconfirmed reports say he has sought political asylum in London. But the now renegade general has since denied he has sought asylum in the UK and has dismissed those reports as being ‘trash’.
The Presidential Guard Brigade is an elite, well trained brigade and believed to be far better equipped than any other brigade in the country. The Commander, Brig Muhoozi, graduated in 2000 from the elite British Royal Military College at Sandhurst and has also attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Texas where he graduated from in 2008. He joined the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) in 1999 and his rapid promotion by his father who is the Supreme Commander of the UPDF has raised eyebrows and caused tensions within the army hierarchy.
Speaking to The London Evening Post immediately after the shot had been fired and on condition he was not named, one of the country’s legislators said: “It was unfortunate for the young man who was just boarding a military pick up when his pistol fell from his waist and let off a shot.” An attempt to get a word from the Sergeant-at-Arms at Parliament House who saw what had happened, proved fruitless when he simply walked off without a comment.
In London, several Ugandan exiles expressed “disappointment” that the shot missed “its target”. “What a pity! I wish he had got him. It won’t be long before they do,” one Ugandan told us after being reassured she would not be named. Another one told us: “I don’t want him dead but I want him out of power.” Another Ugandan speaking to us from North America said: “They are probably going to implicate Gen Tinye and will arrest many people tonight. This could be the beginning of absolute chaos and that much will depend on what tribe the bodyguard comes from. Hopefully he is not a Muganda or Acholi.” Another Ugandan speaking to us from South Africa soon after the incident said: “We have missed a chance. Who had helped us to remove him? Now we will never get rid of that ka-man.”Most people contacted in Kampala had no idea anything had happened and many were shocked when we told them. Many expressed sadness that the bullet had not found its target. While the incident happened in broad day-light and in the presence of reports from all the main Ugandan and Kenyan newspapers, none of them has dared come out with the story. Since the closure of the above-named media houses, newspapers have sought to hide behind self-regulation for fear of suffering the same fate. The Nairobi-based Nation Group of Companies owns the Daily Monitor in addition to the leading Nairobi daily, the Daily Nation.