Secessionist leaders from northern Uganda should listen to Ssemujju
Posted Friday, March 8 2013 at 02:00
Moreover, leaders must think through the long-term and structural basis for the repeated manifestation of this cancer - and what needs to be done in that fundamental, strategic sense.
Some of our political elite are attempting to re-kindle the refrain of “secession” of northern Uganda. Fortunately, their project is a non-starter - because there is no objective necessity for it.
This is not to say there are no serious problems to be dealt with in northern Uganda.
It is to say these are being dealt with decisively and systematically by the government. Now, corruption is an ugly national problem, affecting all parts of the country - and perpetrated by individuals from all corners of this otherwise beautiful country. It is being dealt with, maybe not as quickly as we may all desire, but still being addressed.
Moreover, leaders must think through the long-term and structural basis for the repeated manifestation of this cancer - and what needs to be done in that fundamental, strategic sense. The point in all this is that there is no way secession can be an answer to the problems of our people in northern Uganda.
Regarding Amuru and sugar. On Wednesday last week, I was very impressed by an article in the Observer titled “Why not replicate palm oil incentives?” by my friend Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju, the Kyadondo East MP. He is usually very cynical about government programmes, but in the article in question he raised very interesting observations about the Bidco oil project in Kalangala, and concluded that “it seems to be working”.
The reader will permit us to quote Ssemujju: “My own feeling is that because there was resistance against oil palm (sic) in Kalangala at the beginning, incentives had to be found. It was some form of bribery - shower all these villagers with money and they will grow palm for you. I don’t think it was done in good faith (vintage Ssemujju!), but it seems to be working”.
He continues: “The people in Amuru and elsewhere in northern Uganda are making similar demands …” Our point is that objectively, Ssemujju is saying to all his colleagues in the political class: do not reject development out of hand … engage, and look for win-win formulae … learn from the Bidco/Kalangala experience!
Here, we must commend two serious commentators on the subject. Mr Richard Todwong, Minister for Political Mobilisation in his article in the New Vision on February 27 titled “Secession talk pedestrian”, made the critical point about how we are all interrelated and are one people - so, secession by ourselves from ourselves? Incredible! Harriet Anena, writing in the Daily Monitor of February 27, put it very simply but beautifully: “Let the north hold the hoe to break the soil and not break away from Uganda”!
Let me repeat an anecdote I shared in these pages in June 2006, when my good friend DP president Norbert Mao made intriguing comments about the possible rise of a new state across the borders of southern Sudan and northern Uganda, and inadvertently reminded me of an old friend and senior leader in the SPLM/SPLA, the Rev. Fr. George Longwoko, now deceased.
“Abuna (Arabic for Father) George around 1993 genuinely believed in and worked for the rise of a new state of what he called the “Ateker” peoples. “Ateker” means nation, tribe or clan in the language of the peoples of the sub-nations or clusters of the Toposa, Nyangtom, Turkana, Pokot, Karamojong and Iteso.
Fr George believed that since these peoples had a common ancestry, language, cultural practices (including raiding one another for cattle!), rites and rituals, they had to unite in answer to perceived marginalisation in the respective states they had been placed by colonialism … In other words, the good Abuna’s new “Ateker” state was to be carved out of four “independent and sovereign” countries: the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda”!
“Abuna George abandoned his project when he realised that all the southern Sudanese peoples without exception were “marginalised”, just like the “Ateker” peoples were. He also realised that other peoples in the traditional northern Sudan were as marginalised as well: the Nuba, the Angesena, the Fur, the Beja, etc”.
“Abuna George, an “Ateker” … separatist was transformed into a Sudanese unionist! Strength under contemporary circumstances lay, even for … national self-assertion, in the political unity of African peoples (all marginalised by the world economic system) - not their division and re-division”.
Lastly, a senior comrade in the national liberation struggle has rested, after giving his remarkable best. Go well, Brig. Eriya Kategaya!
Mr Mafabi is the private secretary/political affairs- State House.