Last Friday, when Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was assassinated together with his body guard Cpl. Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Wambeyo, instantly, one felt two things.
First, an indescribable sense of loss, grief and fear at this wanton waste of human life that happens daily on our roads, in our homes and in far flung villages. Only this time it was a presumably well-guarded prominent person high up in the security circles being gruesomely murdered-with ease. You quickly asked yourself ‘what about those of us who have no arms or body guards?’
Secondly for anyone who follows the news, you felt a sense of déjà vu. Whenever Uganda as a society has been struck by a tragedy of this magnitude, there is a concealed mean spirit, garnished with bitterness that springs out of the woods and surprises you. It surprises you because on the surface, Ugandans are generally very warm and hospitable people –before they erupt.
If you recall the so-called Mabira riots of April 2007. Here some people of Asian origin or with similar skin color were attacked because of opposition towards giving away part of Mabira Forest to an Indian investor to grow sugar cane. Also the Buganda riots of September 2009. When the Kabaka was blocked from visiting Bugerere, several angry Baganda and Ugandans took exception.
Then there was the death of former KCCA Director George Agaba in a motor accident. Agaba who hailed from Western Uganda had been involved in an incident where someone from the east was shot dead and in what seemed like impunity, Agaba was seen to escape without commensurate punishment.
On all these occasions people went native. The utterances of the angry, exposed deep seated sectarianism and resentment towards people of different race, tribe and political discernment.
Uganda under NRM serves a very tricky proposition. On the face of it, we live in a united, peaceful, friendly country. But deep down there are many people who feel excluded and trampled upon because they are of a wrong tribe, religion or political persuasion. For instance, some claim that there is a deliberate attempt to disposes them of the land they inherited from their ancestors, humiliate them into landlessness so that they wallow in poverty, leading to eventual total domination and subjugation.
Others feel that what we call corruption is just a malevolent attempt by those in power to ensure that a few are enriched at the expense of many. They feel that this ‘strategy’ is deliberate, to impoverish and dis-empower many people so that they lack the resources to finance any credible opposition to the government since they are perpetually preoccupied with barely getting by.
Many of the docile looking people on the roads are a time bomb because of this concealed anger. They look at almost everyone as the cause of their predicament.
They look at the government and those who serve it with a sense of bitterness. I recall for many years my good friend Chris Obore who is now Parliament’s Director of Communication was a hero to many. As a journalist he spoke against injustice and exposed the rot and corruption in government offices. He like Don Wanyama who was a senior editor for a while wrote many stories that exposed the government’s weaknesses.
When Obore became a director and Wanyama went to work in the office of the Chairman of the ruling party, they became ‘enemies’ to many. The transition was instant like the switch of a bulb. They were viewed as people who had gone to join the oppressor and the loathing and disdain towards them began.
In the case of Kaweesi, it was not long before sections on social media went into full throttle. Kaweesi as an officer of the law (people must do this tough job) had a difficult task, quelling demonstrations, arresting Opposition leaders, criminals and speaking for the image of the government.
In other words, everything that he did in the line of duty was perceived as an act of help towards perpetuating the NRM government in power.
In many of our cultures in Uganda we rarely speak ill of the dead. But here we are, audio whatsapp recordings went viral rejoicing that ‘at last’ his wife and children were going to feel the pain that many families have felt because of the actions of the vicious actions of the State and the police. They callously laughed and called him epithets. They prayed to God that several other government officials would experience a similar fate for the suffering that they have brought upon this country for decades.
I write this about a man who was a very humble, helpful friend of mine. I write this so that out of the death of Felix, Kenneth and Godfrey, Uganda can start to search its soul.
We cannot continue glossing over this issue. Why is it that this great rich land can’t work out a formula that includes everyone so that we share our joys and sorrows as one country and one people?
May the souls of the deceased rest in eternal peace and may the perpetrators of this heinous crime be speedily brought to book.
Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @nsengoba