Premier Mbabazi courted China and Britain is now copying him

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By Prof. George W. Kanyeihamba

Posted  Sunday, December 29  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

As Cameron’s jumbo jet flew to Beijing on the trade mission, Uganda was already enjoying the fruits and benefits of Mbabazi’s own initiative and results of effective lobbying and negotiations..


I am currently visiting members of my family who work and live in the United Kingdom. All the media recently carried the good news that British Prime Minister David Cameron was leading a huge and mixed trade mission to the People’s Republic of China, seeking markets for British goods and begging for the Chinese government to endeavour to balance the trade deficit between the two countries - one a kingdom and the other a republic.

Ugandans should recall with pride that their prime minister, comrade Amama Mbabazi, beat Cameron at this trade game long before Britain became wise and copied the ways of Uganda.
As Cameron’s jumbo jet flew to Beijing on the trade mission, Uganda was already enjoying the fruits and benefits of Mbabazi’s own initiative and results of effective lobbying and negotiations. Unfortunately, what tended to be highlighted by the press and others were the alleged personal gifts and interests he gained for himself, family and friends.

In my opinion, however, Uganda gained much more than meets the eye. One needs to consider the wider investments of trade, industry and construction that are clearly visible in Uganda today to appreciate the wonderful results of Mbabazi’s vision and efforts. President Museveni may not have always expressed praise for the work of Premier Mbabazi, but there are thousands of Ugandans and foreigners who do. It may be for the efforts of the latter rather than the presidency of Uganda, that Mbabazi has survived in his office for so long.

This columnist, and other Banyakigezi’s legal relationship with Mbabazi, is in the fate of the courts. But as a fellow Mukiga, Mbabazi continues to exhibit the traits of that tribe which was once hailed as the most hard-working and incorruptible in the East African region. Many Ugandans will not be surprised that at personal levels, Mbabazi and Ndugu Ruhakana Rugunda have continued to behave to one another as true Bakiga.

The three of us never cease to contact one another and express both privately and publicly our grief whenever one of us is bereaved or saddened by the loss or sickness of a close relative or friend. That notwithstanding, there remain serious differences between many Kigezians and the two ministers and a close associate of theirs, with me leading the former.

I am in possession of two kind invitations from both leaders to functions which are truly personal to them and their families. One of them I responded to by attending the function. I would have attended the other but as I said earlier, I am unable because I am in Britain.

Other Ugandans ask what makes the Bakiga behave in that manner. It is our existence and upbringing in the cold hills and valleys of the Switzerland of Africa. If you were born and lived in a hostile environment, you cannot afford to be a permanent enemy or be disgruntled with friends, neighbours and strangers for too long without suffering the effects yourself.

Only recently, one of our religious leaders in Kigezi advised that no human being, let alone a religious one, should ever contemplate becoming a permanent enemy of anyone else, because it is that human being or religious adherent, who will in the end suffer most. He explained that if you hate someone intensely, you will always remain restless, always planning and plotting how to harm them or damage their reputation permanently and you will never have peace within yourself.
On the other hand, if they themselves do not hate you but they only disapprove, rightly or wrongly, of your acts and behaviour, they will not lose any sleep over it. They will continue to enjoy life and their work peacefully and joyfully while you permanently suffer the ulcers and agonies of hate. I know a few individuals who are in this terrible state.

I remember when I was little, my uncles and neighbours, all Bakiga, used to quarrel about which of the village girls was the most beautiful. They would then engage in fist-fights. Even one or two who had visited the nearby bush for the call of nature would soon join in the fight not knowing what had started it. They would hurt one another so badly that in some occasions, other people lost their teeth. Then suddenly, they would reconcile and even share a drink.

When the Europeans opened up factories and operations outside Kigezi, some of these young men were recruited as labourers. They occasionally practised this fighting game with other Ugandans who did not understand or appreciate it. They were murdered in their dozens with the killers acquitted on the defence of self-defence.

I must congratulate Premier Mbabazi for forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to emulate him.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.