Thursday January 14 2016

Ainegate is a sad story about Uganda’s ‘revolution’ eating its grandchildren

By Daniel K. Kalinaki

Your columnist, in his extended and enforced absence, has, among other things, been trying to make sense of the case of Christopher Aine, a member of presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s security detail, who has been missing for several weeks.

Aine was last seen in December when rival supporters of NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni clashed with Mbabazi’s in Ntungamo. Relatives claim he was picked up by security operatives soon after in the police raids that followed targeting non-NRM protagonists in the fight. The police deny and have put a surprisingly big bounty on the head of a man wanted for the relatively minor offence of assault.

Things then got murky. Candidate Museveni weighed in and accused Mbabazi of hiding the man, pictures of a body were splashed in a tabloid that claimed it looked very much like Aine, sparking even more arrests.
Trying to follow this trail is a bit like trying to pull an errant thread on a cheap sweater; the more you pull, the more the whole thing simply falls apart. To try and make any sense of the Aine situation, we need to zoom out and try and see the forest for the trees.

A good place to start is April 2011 when Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe, a youngish police officer led a team of operatives that arrested Kizza Besigye and his aides after smashing in his car windows and dousing him with so much pepper spray, he was blinded for weeks afterwards.

It was later reported that the officer was a son of, or at least related to, Victor Bwana, one of the men who, like Besigye, fought alongside Museveni in the guerrilla war that brought the NRA/M to power in 1986.
Like Bwana, Aine is of the NRA ‘revolution’. His father was among the earliest bunch of men who joined the guerrilla movement, survived the war, and then died in a car wreck that the family now claims was no accident. After serving in the elite Special Forces Command, he quit, drifted around and, listless, ended up with the Mbabazi campaign team.
Bwana and Aine might be on different sides of the divide, but they are both offspring of the same political specie. It is this that makes this story remarkable. Over the years, many people who participated in the NRA war have fallen out with the establishment, including the likes of Besigye, David T. Sejusa, Samson Mande, and others. They did so after discovering that they were participants, rather than contestants, in the ‘revolution’ which President Museveni says goes back over 40 years, to the days before Fronasa.

All revolutions eat their children – victory always reveals contradictions in the motives of the participants and many invariably fall foul of the very thing they helped birth. To this regard, Besigye and his colleagues were an inevitable outcome of the NRA coming to power.

However, the NRA/M ‘revolution’ now finds itself in the very unique position of having to fight not only its founding fathers, such as Mbabazi, Bidandi Ssali and Kategaya before, its children like Besigye, Sejusa, John Kazoora, but now also, incredibly, its grandchildren, such as Aine and others whose parents fought in the war.
Museveni now finds himself like a rich and powerful family patriarch who has fathered many children, many of whom he has been battling with, trying to swat away their inheritance claims. Now, with the passage of time, some of the grandchildren have come of age and joined the fray to demand what they believe is rightly theirs or should have gone to their parents.

On the one hand, this makes Mzee Museveni indispensible to the family; only he knows where the property is and how to play the rival factions against one another. On the other hand, however, the fight is too much of a distraction and it is not clear which faction will emerge stronger when the old man invariably goes to rest, and what retribution is likely to follow the losers of the succession battle.

It would make for an interesting script for a Nigerian movie if only it did not involve a country of 36 million folk, most of them related by passports, not blood?

Mr Kalinaki is a Ugandan journalist based in Nairobi. Twitter: @Kalinaki