December 17 [last month], marked 28 years since the signing of the Nairobi peace talks. Later it was famously called the Nairobi peace jokes. So infamous that Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga (RIP) of Kampala Archdiocese had predicted a disaster even if the accord was signed.
After a deliberate and elongated delay – which was a military tactic by the rebels to replenish their ranks, Cardinal Nsubuga went to Nairobi as an ‘independent’ observer though not invited to observe and come to speed with the issues that were hampering the signing of the accord.
After a week in Nairobi, on September 25, Cardinal Nsubuga told the press that the peace talks were headed for a collapse soon or later if the mistrust between the Okello junta and National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) led by Yoweri Museveni were not ironed out once and for all. He observed that none of the two delegations had honestly opened up for a real talk. Today, his words are indisputable.
Mistrust and dishonesty had characterised the peace talks from the beginning. On the maiden day of the talks on August 26, 1985, Museveni caused a stir in the conference hall when he entered and skipped everybody else on the Uganda government delegation and stretched his arm to only greet Paul Semwogerere, the minister for Internal Affairs seated next to foreign minister Olara Otunnu and junta vice chairman Col Gad Wilson Toko.
The Daily Nation and Standard newspapers of Kenya highlighted Museveni’s undiplomatic act at Harambee House. The Daily Nation wrote: “On entering the conference room, Mr Museveni, dressed in a grey suit, exchanged warm greetings with Mr Semwogerere and related a few of their experiences. Mr Museveni said: ‘How are you?’ and Mr Semwogerere replied. Okay. Then Mr Museveni told Semwogerere: “We have seen much” and Mr Semwogerere replied smiling: “You have not seen much, I have seen more than you.”
The Daily Nation also wrote: “In the conference hall Mr Museveni did not shake hands with Col Toko, leader of the government delegation or anybody else in it. However, some members of Mr Museveni’s group exchanged greetings with those in the government delegation.”
When this reporter asked Ms Gertrude Njuba, one of Museveni’s aides during the war and a participant during the talks why Museveni refused to shake hands with the government delegation, she answered: “We feared that he could be poisoned. You know some poison can be administered through hand shake. We were very careful with those people.” She hastened to add: “Even today, other than the peasants, Museveni is always careful when shaking hands.”
Asked why then he shook hands with only Semwogerere? She said: “We knew Semwogerere well. He was there to hoodwink the public.”
If it is true that Museveni’s refusal to shake hands with the Uganda government delegation was for fear of being poisoned, why did he greet all of them beginning with the Col Toko the government chief negotiator and with a big smile when the meeting reconvened on September 3?
The media again captured the scene and reported: “Museveni beaming with a smile, this time unlike last week shook hands with everybody in the government team.” It is not clear how Museveni’s hands had this time been protected. Needless to say, Museveni’s previous act had exhibited what Cardinal Nsubuga later told the world.
Although Ambassador Otunnu had accepted an interview with the Sunday Monitor, he didn’t answer his phone by press time.
On December 20, 2009, while in Gulu at the consecration of Bishop Johnson Gakuma of northern Uganda diocese at St Phillips Cathedral, President Museveni came face-to-face with Otunnu within an arms-length in a pavilion but again there was no shake of hands.
But in 2011 during the celebrations to mark 100 years of the Catholic Church in Acholi, Otunnu and Museveni, coming face-to-face in a space of 18 months, shook hands, breaking an ice that had lasted 26 years.
In spite of hiccups, on Tuesday December 17, 1985, Museveni and General Tito Okello Lutwa appended their signatures to the peace accord which the NRA unwillingly signed. From the first day, it was obvious that the NRA never wanted to dialogue with the UNLA.
The gestures, language and statements made by the NRA/M indicated they stand. For instance, on the first day of the talks, moments before entering the conference hall, Museveni issued a press statement accusing the Junta government of down playing the NRA’s role in the fall of Obote’s government.
In part the statement read: ‘…This is a deliberate attempt by certain negative interests – both internal and external to neutralise [NRA] the only organised people’s force’. The statement further charged: “We are taking this occasion to warn the leaders of UNLA faction in charge in Kampala that they may spoil the July 27, attempts to gain rehabilitation in the eyes of the people.” Museveni also warned: “Ugandans cannot trust such an army, nor can they trust any political arrangement dominated by elements of this type”. Both the Daily Nation and the Standard of August 27, 1985 reported.
Ms Njuba confirmed to this reporter that there was external pressure exerted onto the NRA/M to join the Lutwa’s government. She said: “When Obote fell, we came under pressure from the Western powers to join UNLA government”. Britain told us, you have been fighting Obote, he is now gone stop fighting and join Lutwa’s government”.
“Britain did not want us to have a decisive win without them involved. Then there was pressure from the American intelligence, the CIA, who wanted us to reveal our ideology, motivation and military strength in exchange of intelligence information from our opponents. Of which we resisted,” she said.
Ms Njuba also admitted that the NRA/M did not want any talks with the UNLA – because they had committed heinous crimes against Ugandans. She said: “Museveni had real trouble convincing the NRA/M to go for peace talks”.
Although the accord was signed, pessimism remained hovering over it until it cracked before end of December 1985. After signing the peace agreement, at the Kenyatta international conference centre, Museveni said some people were wondering why he was reluctant to come to the talks when he was given the vice-chairmanship. And he said: “My interest is not the vice-chairmanship, my interest is the interest of the people – and if they are not guaranteed by an agreement, we shall not be a party to that agreement”.
He also accused the UNLA of killing NRM adherents. He charged: “The military council has been killing our people even recently. I do not blame Gen Okello personally and that is why I am willing to talk with him”.
The Daily Nation of December 18 quoted Museveni saying: “This is a very good agreement…” However, warned the Uganda government: “If you want peace, we are serious partners. If you want trouble, we are serous opponents”.
As he exchanged copies of the peace pact with Lutwa, Museveni promised: “Therefore, I want to assure you, my brothers and sisters, that as far as the NRM is concerned, with all our committees in the land, our army, our external wing of the movement will work whole heartedly for the implementation of this agreement”.
So why did the peace accord flop?
In early August 2002 before his death in a car accident on Kampala-Jinja highway, Col Toko gave a press interview. He was asked why the Nairobi peace agreement flopped and he said: “Uganda lost an opportunity to halt the rebel wars that have plagued the country since then. There were power hungry hyenas that misinformed Yoweri Museveni and Tito Okello”. The Mpororo of South-western Uganda say: “Hawks and eagles can never live together”.
The dialogue between the NRA/M and the Junta government was all bound to end in a blazing row.
Participants in the talks
President Daniel Arap Moi was the chief negotiator, assisted by Vice President and minister of home affairs Mwai Kibaki as well as other government officials. The Kenyan team had 17 officials.
The government of Uganda had a 15-man delegation who witnessed the signing of the peace agreement. They were: Gen.President Okello Lutwa, Col Wilson Gadi Toko, Vice chairman military council and minister of defence, Abraham Waliggo orime minister and minister of finance, Lt Gen Basilio Olara Okello Chief of defence forces, Paul Semwogerere, minister of internal affairs.
Others were: Dent Ocaya Lakidi minister of local government, Olara Otunnu minister of foreign affairs, Robert Kitariko minister of public service and cabinet affairs, Sam Kutesa Attorney General and minister of justice and Prof Yoweri Kyesimira minister of planning and economic development.
Members of the military council were: Brigadier Fred Oketch, Lt Col Dr David Kweya, Lt Col Eric Odwar, Major Thomas Kiyengo and Capt Livingstone Kalyesubula Kabaale.
The NRA/M delegation had: Yoweri Museveni chairman NRA/M, Dr Samson Kisekka coordinator external Mission, Eriya Kategaya secretary political affairs, Mathew Rukikaire secretary external operations, Zak Kaheru secretary finance and supplies, Elly Tumwine army commander, Sam Male secretary executive committee, Mrs. Gertrude Njuba member NRM, Kirunda Kivejinja member NRM, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda Diplomatic representative to UN and other organizations in Switzerland and Eastern Europe.
Others were: Abu Mayanja legal advisor to the delegation and member of finance and supplies committee, John Kazzora special advisor to the chairman NRA/M, Dr. Francis Nabwiso member NRM, Balaki Kirya member NRM, Miss Winnie Karagwa member NRM and Miss Hope Kivenjere member NRM.
What was in the peace deal?
The Nairobi peace accord signed at Harambee House (pictured) between the NRA/M and UNLA was chaired by Daniel arap Moi, former President of Kenya. According to the peace agreement which copy this reporter has since obtained, some of the terms of reference included the following.
-It calls for immediate ceasefire commencing at 3:20 am of December 19, 1985, with leader issuing orders of ceasefire to their forces; and that within 48 hours after the signing of the pact, fighting should have ended across the country.
- Immediate stop of purchase of arms and ammunition of any type.
-No recruitment of more soldiers in the army accept the Uganda police.
- No movement of soldiers from group without the permission from the Military Council.
- Opening of all roads and high ways to enable mobility of vehicles other than the army vehicles.
- Immediate end to hostile propaganda from both sides.
- Immediate prosecution and punishing all soldiers of the UNLA who committed crimes against Ugandans during, before and after the July 27, 1985 coup.
- Immediate release of all NRM political prisoners.
OTHER COMPONENTS OF THE PACT
The peace accord also propagated for the establishment of a Supreme Council to oversee the military government. The Supreme Council would be composed of officers from each military group led by the President of Uganda and the chairman of the military council.
Gen Tito Okello Lutwa would be the president of the republic of Uganda and chairman of the military commission; while Museveni would be the vice-chairman of the military council.
- President and chairman of the military council (1)
- Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) (Members 7)
- Uganda National Resistance Army (Members 7)
- Federal Democratic Movement (FEDEMU) (Members 2)
- Former Uganda National Army (FUNA) (Members 1)
- Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) (Members 1)
- Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) (Members 1)
Total Members 20
Chapter 7 of the peace accord was about the formation and the role of the new national army. The accord indicates that as soon as the all violence in the country has been eradicated, a new force of 8,480 be established after the integration of all former rebel groups.
The number to the formation of the new army would be as follows: The UNLA 3,700, the NRA 3,580, while only 1,200 soldiers would be integrated from FEDEMU, UFM, UNRF and FUNA former rebel groups.
The formation of the new army would ensure regional balance during recruitment exercise. It was also agreed that a peace keeping and observer force contributed by Britain, Kenya, Tanzania and Canada would be send to Uganda to oversee the implementation of the agreement.
Chapter 15 was about the restoration of constitutionalism in the country.
The pact, mentions that since this was an interim government, immediately, the military council will organise a national conference to begin debating about national issues including the making of the Uganda constitutional framework.