Charles Onyango Obbo
A former Kenyan minister on Kaguta, and the deadly games he’s playing
Posted Wednesday, January 30 2013 at 02:00
He has a responsibility to do nothing that discredits the UPDF and undermines its ability to remain in Somalia.
Although it is sold in Uganda you probably didn’t read Sunday Nation. Last Sunday, there was an opinion piece titled “Uganda Must Not Reverse Gains Of The Last Generation” (http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/Uganda-must-not-reverse-gains-of-the-past-generation/-/440808/1676122/-/c13hy1/-/index.html) by Mukhisa Kituyi.
Kituyi is a former Trade minister, and currently director at the Kenya Institute of Governance. Kituyi follows Uganda’s politics closely, and in my conversations with him have found his knowledge of the players and our issues, even small rural ones in remote Busoga, quite impressive. A while back, I spent an evening with him during which he argued that Uganda’s historical sectarian divide along religion, was “better” than Kenya’s which tends to split along ethnic lines.
The reason, he argued, is that a religious divide avoids emotional and visceral fights over things like ancestral land, which Africans tend to kill each over and to harbour enmities for generations. Also, the logic of religion is cross-tribal. A good Catholic from Masaka can come together with another one from Gulu and possibly die in defence of the Pope. A good Muganda from Masaka and a good Acholi from Gulu, however, will rarely find a common political cause over which they will die easily – unless, as happened in 1979 – it is an Idi Amin.
Anyhow, in the article Kituyi commented on the current political battles in Uganda; the growing intolerance of the government; the hardline with critics; attacks on the media; and threats by political and UPDF leaders to stage a coup (against themselves).
His plea to Ugandan leaders, and President Museveni in particular, is to pause and reflect because not only is the journey they choose likely to end in disaster for the country, but for the region too. Museveni’s shortcomings aside, he argues, Uganda has still been a force for good. And to preserve that greater good, the President needs to change course:
“Events are reaching a point when this cannot remain a little domestic intrigue. Uganda is a major force for good in the East Africa region,” Kituyi wrote. “The key provider for, and leader of the Amisom forces in Somalia, principal arbitrator in the never-ending conflict in DR Congo, and the ultimate guarantor of the state of South Sudan; her leadership role cannot be transferred to any other country overnight.”
He added: “As a regional organisation, the East African Common Market has agreed protocols on governance stating minimum standards for member countries. Each country in the region undertakes to be its brother’s keeper.
“Under this understanding Uganda...continues to be a major driver on the road to greater East African integration.
“Yet the country now finds itself in a growing labyrinth of conflicts that are not only threatening its standing as a beacon of peace and stability in the region, but poses challenges as to the extent to which turmoil at home can upset the emerging bullishness in the regional economy and politics.
“It is everybody’s business that President Museveni is assisted to see that tactics of yesteryears are rapidly losing relevance. Globalised appetites and demonstrated transitions from rogue leaderships create…self-belief in a new generation who may now claim back their country without any sense of debt to politicians of Museveni’s generation who were responsible for the chaos that created heroes of the eighties.”
I have nothing much of my own to add after those worthy insights. So let me borrow from a far greater man - my father.
The old man has many intriguing outside-the-box ideas. One of them is about charity. He believes charity cannot be a one-off thing. That if you give a relative money today, you should do so tomorrow, and the next if he is in need. If you don’t, you do something worse than leaving him in his suffering: You raise his expectations that you will help, and crush his hopes. So if you don’t intend to try and finish the race, don’t start it.
If you bring his and Kituyi’s ideas together, the conclusions are obvious. First, Museveni worked hard for East African integration. If he didn’t intend to see it to the end, he shouldn’t have invested in it. He sent UPDF to Somalia and it helped stabilise Somalia. He has a responsibility to do nothing that discredits the UPDF and undermines its ability to remain in Somalia.
And he invested a lot of diplomatic capital in the DR Congo peace process. If he didn’t intend to conduct himself in a way that enables him to be a credible mediator, then he shouldn’t have got involved.
I am trying to find a delicate way to say this. President Museveni shouldn’t take the region for a ride. He had a choice. He should have been content to be a parochial Ugandan Chief and a Nyabushozi cattle keeper.
firstname.lastname@example.org & twitter@cobbo3