On Wednesday, Gen David Sejusa was among the top generals of the UPDF who were formally retired from active service of the Ugandan army.
On the list, Sejusa was the second most senior officer, second to the late Gen Elly Tumwine, whose official retirement came a day after his burial.
This meant that the former spymaster was the most senior among those present at State House in Entebbe for the retirement ceremony.
“I am proud to belong to NRA/UPDF, which has made incredible strides. I thank the people of Uganda from all regions for their sacrifices. We all know there was a phase in our struggle when our civilian population was the vanguard. They were our eyes, the ears, our protectors. They fed us and this phase took a bigger part of 1981. They gathered intelligence, they carried out reconnaissance missions for us to acquire small arms and so on. If we did not have the population on our side, then there would be no NRA/UPDF and certainly NRM,” Gen Sejusa said as he faced his commander in chief, President Museveni for the last time before retirement.
However, behind the curtains was a 26 year struggle for the maverick general whose service number is RO 00031 to get relieved from the active service of the army that he partly helped in giving birth to.
In December 1996, Sejusa, then Tinyefuza who was at the rank of Major General, the third highest rank in the military set up for Uganda applied to resign from the army over what he termed as harassment and intimidation from the Military High Command.
This development, a surprise to many, stemmed from his earlier appearance before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs in which he blamed government of not doing enough to end the war in Northern Uganda.
The parliamentary committee was probing how the army had handled the insurgency by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels led by Joseph Kony.
Less than a month after appearing before the committee, Tinyefuza(now Sejusa) wrote to the army leadership applying to retire over harassment.
“…….I feel I am unjustly being harassed over my testimony before that Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs. To require me to appear before the High Command so that action is taken against me is rather too high-handed,” he said in the application.
“It is, therefore, because of the above that I must resign from the army and subsequently its High Command. I find it unjustified to continue serving in an institution whose bodies I have no faith in or whose views I do not subscribe to.”
The following year in 1997, the then State Minister for Defence, Amama Mbabazi wrote back asking Tinyefuza to channel his resignation through the Army Commissions Board.
However, in the resultant proceedings, the maverick general declined the advice but instead went ahead to run to court to file a constitution petition against government and the army in particular.
Tinyefuza’s lawyers of Sebalu, Lule and Company Advocates told the five member panel of the Court of Appeal that by the time of his resignation letter, the maverick general was no longer a member of the army having earlier appointed a presidential adviser on military affairs in 1993 and was consequently part of public service.
He however said he was still part of the High Command.
In an April 1997, judgement, all the five judges of the court ruled in Tinyefuza’s favour legalizing his resignation from the army.
The judges reasoned that he had in law ceased to be a member of the army in February 1993 when he was appointed as a presidential adviser.
In the proceedings that followed, the army collected all its belongings from Tinyefuza’s home including guns, uniform and communication gadgets among others and only the ceremonial wear was left.
This meant the army had accepted it had lost the battle to retain Tinyefuza in its active service and this made him happy for having finally granted his wish.
However, his joy was short-lived when government went to the Supreme Court to appeal the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
Later, both parties agreed to settle the matter out of court and consequently, Tinyefuza returned into active service of the army.
In 2005, he named the coordinator of intelligence services in Uganda, a position he held until 2013.
Change of name
In 2012, Tinyefuza officially changed his name to David Sejusa , the latter he said was a family name also reflected on some of his academic documents but that he had abandoned it during his secondary school days.
“There is nothing in reverting to my original name. It is comrades like you who didn’t know it was my name but those elder comrades have always referred to me as such. And I suggest that from today you quote me as Gen. David Sejusa,” he is quoted to have said.
Sejusa name is a Luganda word that can loosely be translated as “I have no regrets.”
However, a year later in April 2013, he fled the country into exile after authoring a letter in which he claimed that government and army officials who didn’t support the “Muhoozi project” were in danger of assassination.
The Muhoozi project according to Sejusa was an alleged scheme to ensure that President Museveni’s son, then Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba becomes the next president.
A year later in 2014, Gen Sejusa returned home from exile.
However, a few years later in 2016, he was arrested and arraigned before the army court and charged with charged with insubordination for attending political rallies against the orders of the Chief of Defence Forces, charges he denied.
Re-awakens retirement battle
A few months later, Sejusa re-awakened his struggle to be retired from active service of the Ugandan army by challenging his continued stay in the army despite not getting his entitlements like salary and allowance.
In the same year, High Court judge, Margaret Oguli Oumo ruled that Gen Sejusa was entitled to constructive discharge by issuing him with a discharge certificate since he had ceased to be a serving officer in the army from the day his employer withdrew his salary, allowances and other benefits.
The court consequently declared that Gen Sejusa was no longer subject to military law and ordered government to pay him Shs750 million as damages for violating his rights when he was arrested, detained, prosecuted and denied bail by the General Court Martial.
Justice Oguli faulted the army leadership for being discriminative for retiring other officers at the rank and those that of Gen Sejusa yet his application for retirement had not been considered despite fulfilling the conditions of advanced age and being sickly.
Ping pong again
Later, the Attorney General appeal against the judgment in the Court of Appeal.
“As government, we maintain that Gen Sejusa is still an officer of the UPDF since he has never received any official communication from the UPDF promotion’s board that is charged with the duty to retire soldiers,” the Attorney General said in his appeal.
However, in February this year, government won the case to have Gen Sejusa back into the army after the panel of justices of the Court of Appeal ruled that having sought retirement in 2015 and got no response from the UPDF Commissions Board within the mandatory 90 days, he ought to have waited for feedback before running to court over the same.
“lt is debatable whether the failure by the board to communicate a decision within 90 days should be taken as a refusal of the resignation or as consent. What is important is that the Board is required to communicate in writing. The requirement to communicate is mandatory. This is taken from the wording of section 66 (2) of the UPDF Act,” the court ruled.
The judges explained that the approval of the application to resign can be withheld on reasonable grounds and that the effect of not communicating the approval or disapproval of the application meant that Gen Sejusa continued to be a serving army officer.
“ln practical terms, he remained the serving officer of the UPDF after the statutory 90 days and this amounted in practicaI effect, for the intervening period before he receives his or her approval or refusal of the approval, a refusal.”
Following that judgment, Sejusa went public to announce that he would not challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal.
“I will not appeal to Supreme Court. Thank you all who stood by me,” Gen Sejusa tweeted in February this year.
He said he was tired of endless court battles.
On Wednesday, the former spymaster officially left active service of the UPDF at a colourful retirement ceremony held at State House in Entebbe where he faced President Museveni for the last time as an active army officer.
Wednesday’s retirement now brings to an end; the 26 year back and forth squabbles between Gen Sejusa and the army leadership over his desire to be retired officially from active service.
He has during this period missed out on several retirement sessions where a number of his fellow comrades and NRA bush fighters were officially retired from active services of the army.
It remains to be seen what Sejusa’s next move will be.
Another expected hurdle will be on his retirement package having earlier said he has not been receiving salary from the UPDF since 2013 when he fell out with government after penning the famous dossier about the ‘Muhoozi Project’.