Sunday August 31 2014

Kagonyera’s tribalism talk ought to be looked into

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

In the Saturday Monitor of August 16, 2014, the Makerere University Chancellor, Prof George Mondo Kagonyera, is reported to have decried the evils of tribalism and sectarianism at the university.

Prof Kagonyera recommended that a team of academics at the university should be set up to investigate the depth of tribalism and sectarianism at the institution, and identify officials who are promoting it. Prof Kagonyera’s public statement is the most important contribution to the public debate about governance at Makerere and it should be taken seriously and acted upon expeditiously.

Prof Kagonyera is not publicly known for indulging in idle talk or discussions of unresearched issues. That he has found it necessary to come out openly and speak on the disturbance caused by the evils that emanate from tribalism and sectarianism in Makerere University is a matter of great public importance.

Sadly, there is no certainty that the people who are empowered to set up that team and endeavour to eliminate the two evils of hate and discrimination will rise to the occasion, listen and act on Kagonyera’s call.

I do not know whether it was amended, but the Makerere University Act I knew and participated in drafting used to have a section under which the Chancellor had authority to cause an investigation.

Hopefully Prof Kagonyera as titular head of Makerere University can initiate and establish the team he has recommended. The subject Kagonyera identified as requiring investigation, is so deep-rooted and damaging that a statutory commission perhaps chaired by a no-nonsense and courageous person assisted by say two or four other commissioners would be best suited to do the work suggested by the Chancellor.

As in the past, many reports and recommendations of probes and commissions of inquiry have been published and submitted to the three organs of government and their respective institutions, with very little, if any, response or action from those concerned.

Ugandans recall the Justice Sebutinde findings and report on the Police, Justice Ogoola’s report on governance, Col Kwiringira’s report on gorilla licences, Justice Kanyeihamba’s Commission of Inquiry Report on the Trade and Wildlife and Tourism and theft of several billions of shillings.

Culprits were named and their photographs shown. They are all still in office or promoted. Those who left government are comfortably enjoying their loot.

In several instances, victims and concerned citizens formally petitioned Parliament to debate publicly and resolve or call for remedial actions. In respect of several of the petitions, the Speaker of Parliament publicly undertook to move Parliament to debate those reports findings and recommendations, but nothing has been done or heard of since those pronouncements.

In the same newspaper, Premier Amama Mbabazi is reported to have said despite government efforts to build legal frameworks against graft, corrupt officials continue to use sophisticated schemes to steal public funds. This is sheer rhetoric typical of leaders who know that their stay in power is founded only on corruption, abuse of office and rhetoric but it is also good politics to dissociate oneself from one’s colleagues and abusers of office because it makes the public feel good that their leaders are opposed to those evils.

The Premier’s hollow utterance is insincere and unworthy because of his own inability to take action on reports of corruption and theft in his own office. However, Mbabazi is to be congratulated for bravely stating the opposite of what he knows to be true but fears that if acted upon, his own world would crumble.

In the Sunday Vision of August 17, 2014, Stephen Kwiringira, who has deliberately distanced himself from this columnist knowing what we shared, and the part I played when he was a near destitute on katebe, was recently challenged on the ID registration exercise he heads now with the question about aliens being registered.

He retorted, “They should not try to forcibly register. They should admit that they are not Ugandans and not forge nationality. They should wait for the second round where we will register foreigners and issue them with aliens’ cards”.

Perhaps my Ugandan compatriots, who are more intelligent and knowledgeable than I, can decode the Colonel’s peculiar statement so that the rest of us can understand what the exercise of ID registration is all about.

In the Kwiringira’s exercise, I registered in Kiruddu Village, Makindye, where the majority residents are Baganda and we were being registered by three young persons who confessed to being NRM party cadres.

They were all from Kabale Municipality or Kabale District where Colonel Kwiringira comes from. The LCI chairman who was supposed to know and identify the tribes, clans and origins of those being registered was none other than a Mukiga friend of mine also from the same district.

We all wondered how these “foreigners” “could possibly do the exercise accurately especially when it came to identifying and confirming our ancestors. The last question I was asked was, from which polling station I will be voting in 2016.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.