People & Power
Tragedy of the 1986 NRA revolution
Posted Sunday, January 26 2014 at 02:00
When the NRA took over power, Museveni said any individual or group of persons who threatens the security of
our people must be smashed without mercy. They did it and people developed trust. However, mistrust seems to have re-
emerged across certain sectors.
Today marks 28 years since the NRM/A came to power. I have been thinking about what this milestone means to me, and
trying to reflect on what it probably means to other Ugandans. You see, the nature of the NRM/A struggle ensured that
for me and my family, these January dates have both a political and personal meaning!
January 23th 1986-
A family of six is awoken with a screeching but loud sound over the house and a blast in the gardens a few meters away.
My mother scrambles to get us together as an uncle quickly leads us out of the house. “Quick, we have to go” he says.
Najjanankumbi has become a war zone, the NRM rebels are in Busega, and shelling army positions in Lubiri barracks. It’s
some of this shelling that has ended up in our garden.
With nothing more than the clothes on our backs, we head out towards Entebbe Road, seeking safety. My mother has six
children to look after, eldest is 10, and youngest is two years. Five days earlier on January 18, she lost her husband
after a week in Nsambya hospital. My father was 42 years old when he died, shot by government soldiers as they tried to
rob his car. He had survived and lived through the horror that was Obote’s regime (1980-85) and the Tito Okello Junta
A few days after Obote’s overthrow, he disappeared for days. My mother was worried sick! He shows up one morning, his
shirt torn and bloody. We were happy to see him safe, but the adults had other issues to attend to. The night before,
soldiers had shown up at our home – “Funguwa mulango” (open the door) they ordered. Before my mother could open, they
kicked the door in. They ask for the man of the house, where the money is.
My mother has no more valuables to pass on! My family has gone through this type of thing many times before, and it is a
normal occurrence in our neighbourhood in Ndeeba and Najjanankumbi during this time. This place is a few minutes away
from both Lubiri and Makindye barracks- so government soldiers just slope down and come help themselves to anything—
taking both property and lives.
So my father returns home after being picked up on “Panda gari” in Kibuye, somehow surviving a few days in Makindye
Barracks. He finds a truck parked in the compound, soldiers loading our property on it, at 10am in the morning! They had
come the night before, and realising that there was nothing valuable left in the house, except for heavy furniture—they
left and came back with the truck in the morning.
They asked my uncle and a few neighbours to help load our household furniture on the truck, polite even- like they were
shopping. My father comes home to find his home being emptied, only to be asked to help with the process. But we didn’t
care, we were happy to see him alive, we were happy to have him home. Except it wasn’t for long, cause a few weeks later,
these government soldiers- the ones that were supposed to protect the citizens, took his life in the most violent way.
The NRA/M came to power in that setting.
In his inaugural speech, President Museveni emphasised that saving Ugandans from the torment like my family went through
—was the NRA/M principal objective. “Any individual or group of persons who threatens the security of our people must be
smashed without mercy”.
With these strong and powerful words, a new public order, where the respect of human life and property was guaranteed,
was established. To many, it might seem like something that one would take for granted, but with recent events in South
Sudan and the Central Africa Republic show, it shouldn’t be. But when you are in power for 28 years— and have been able
to establish public order for nearly all that time, what then are the expectations that people should have on you as
If there was ever anything that the NRA/M had established—it was the trust and confidence that Ugandans had in their
leadership. And every leader knows that trust is the most important ingredient of any change generating process.
Growing up in the 1990s, we looked up to and were inspired by our liberators- held onto their every word, and had so much
faith in where our country was going. And then something happened along the way.
Yesterday’s inspirers have becomes today’s instigators of public mistrust and the abuse of power. Those whose names had
been associated with public admiration and respect are now associated with disrepute and shame. Those that preached the
value of modesty in public life now live in the highest level opulence that this country has ever seen.
They have presided over the worst form of state looting and corruption that this country has seen. In fact, many of the
key figures in the NRA/M became associated with the most high profile cases of corruption and the misuse of power. From
junk helicopters, ghost soldiers in the army through dubious deals that government has lost billions of shillings- look
closely and you will find key members of the NRA/M at the forefront.
With all this happening, how do we then inspire today’s younger generation to engage in the process of decision making
and national development? Among this generation of leaders, identify one that you can put a platform to address young
people - in their schools, associations and clubs, on a public issue that affects them including employment, health
policy, education, leadership – and they will leave inspired and empowered to be engaged in matters pertaining to their
country. I was thinking about this when I watched a video of Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor (outgoing)- Sanusi Lamido,
speak to young people at a TEDx event recently. (Please Watch the video online).
What it is about
In it, Sanusi speaks about what he believes is the single most important obstacle that’s gets in the way of Nigeria
reaching its potential – the cancer of vested interest. He makes a strong case for young Nigerians to overcome the fear
of vested interest if their country is to change, and provides powerful examples on how, under his tenure- he confronted
the scourge of corruption in the Nigerian banking sector and prevailed, prosecuting CEOs that had swindled hundreds of
millions of dollars of depositors money- to buy properties in Dubai, Washington, and London. About these thieves that are
denying our countries a lifeline, he says to the youth ----
“You should not fear these people. They stand on quicksand. They have got only two tools. They are not very intelligent
people. It doesn’t take much intelligence to steal. If they were smart, they probably would not be stealing. They would
find other things to do”