Sunday December 31 2017

2017 ends: Will the wind of change finally blow across Uganda in 2018?


By Harold Acemah

Today is the last day of a difficult year for Uganda. I am sure most Ugandans feel relieved that 2017 is finally over. The outgoing year ended on a sad note, with Parliament’s reckless, unpatriotic and unprincipled decision to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution to remove age limit for presidential candidates, against the wishes of over 80 per cent of Uganda’s population.

December 20 will, forever, be remembered as a day of infamy in the annals of the history of Uganda. The tragicomedy which played out in Parliament on that day was one of the lowest points of the NRM regime’s shameless 30-year misrule of Uganda during which a callous, myopic and selfish ruling clique plundered the resources of Uganda and DR Congo with impunity and defiled the moral fibre of our beloved country.

In neighbouring Kenya, the political situation in 2017 was as charged, heated and polarised as in Uganda. Two elections held in Kenya in August and October, were as bogus, unfair and fraudulent as those held in February 2016 in another African country.

The two leaders of the Jubilee alliance are suspects accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of gross violations of human rights in 2008; no wonder for them, victory at the polls - by hook or crook - was a do or die affair, but like elsewhere in the region, theirs was a Pyrrhic victory! For the duo, whom Kenyan media have dubbed UhuRuto, they are engaged shamelessly in politics of survival.

The best news to come out of Africa in 2017 was the downfall of Robert Mugabe, who at 93 years, was the oldest head-of-state in the world. He was in power for 37 years and was plotting to impose his wife Grace “Gucci” as his successor. Zimbabwean patriots cried foul and yelled enough is enough! The rest is history. I hope and pray more African dictators will fall in 2018.

On a positive note, one of the best pieces of writing I came across in 2017 was an article titled, “How to build autocracy” by David Frum, published in the March 2017 edition of an American magazine, The Atlantic. It’s a classic piece on US president Donald Trump’s rise to power, abuse of power and inevitable fall from power. It resembles what we are familiar with in Africa. Looks like Trump has learnt many lessons from African dictators and is applying them in the US.

At a personal level, 2017 was a historic year during which, by the grace of God, I was blessed and honoured to celebrate my 70th birthday. I am eternally grateful to the good Lord. I was not alone in celebrating 70 years. India and Pakistan marked the 70th anniversary of their independence in August.

Happy New Year
At the midnight hour, the clock will strike and usher a new year, which I hope, will be the acceptable year of the Lord for Uganda. The year during which Ugandans will sing and shout with great joy: “Free at last! Thank God, Uganda is free at last!” I tell you, God has heard our cries for liberty!

In Chinese calendar, 2018 is the “Year of the Dog” and Chinese believe that a dog is an auspicious animal and symbolises the coming of fortune. Keep hope alive!

Let me end with a word of appreciation and encouragement for The Observer newspaper, which is an offshoot, of sorts, of the Daily Monitor. Kevin Ogen Aliro (RIP), founding editor of The Observer and many of the pioneers of the paper migrated from the Daily Monitor.

2017 was a difficult year for privately-owned Ugandan media houses. In an attempt to undermine freedom of the press, the decadent and desperate regime tortured journalists and threatened to close down media houses. The Observer was ransacked twice within a year and it’s amazing that the paper is still in print, albeit as a weekly. Red Pepper is virtually dead, but not buried.

Congratulations to the editor and staff of The Observer for a job well done and for refusing to give up. A former editor of The Observer, Benon Herbert Oluka, who, I am advised, is now a graduate student in the UK, was a friend and classmate of my son, Germain Acemah, at Busoga College Mwiri in the 1990s.

Happy New Year to all patriotic Ugandans!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.