Was Sakwa a candle that couldn’t stand the strong wind?

Sunday May 10 2020

The Jinja Resident District Commissioner, Mr

The Jinja Resident District Commissioner, Mr Eric Sakwa (blue shirt), at Jinja Magistrate’s Court recently. FILE PHOTO 

By Jacobs Odongo Seaman

Eric Sakwa now stays home. And safe, too. Safe in the sense that he believes there are political enemies out to get him but being down, they probably won’t be flogging the horse in him.
Yet there are three things the suspended Resident District Commissioner (RDC) will look back at and muse at just how fickle power can be.

First, until April 24, Sakwa wielded a gun. He allegedly wasted no time in warning whoever challenged his powers of the dangers they risked.

That April 24, Sakwa was hounded out of a radio station in Jinja Town in a manner that will continue giving him nightmares for years to come.
It took a shorter time between his arrest, arraignment in court and remand in Kirinya prison than he needed to warn Opposition politicians to stay away from his jurisdiction.

For a man who declared that Opposition activist Kizza Besigye needed a permit to visit Jinja, the best permit Sakwa could issue himself was get himself bail two weeks before scheduled reappearance in court.

But even as he did, he only helped himself to the third pain – that of having to hand over office to the District Internal Security Officer for the second time in four years.

The former UPC stalwart, who cannot leave the country without the express permission from his appointing authority at the Ministry for the Presidency, ran to Kampala as soon as he was granted bail to try and salvage the wreckage of the boat that had sunk with him.


“He had not even secured his phones and other items taken from him during his arrest when he ran to Kampala to meet his superiors to try and negotiate his return to office,” a source at the Presidency said, preferring anonymity.

Sakwa reportedly spent Thursday and Friday in Kampala trying to salvage what was left of his political future in the government he so much vilified years earlier in his political career.

“I delayed in Kampala but was supposed to be in office on Friday or even the weekend,” Sakwa told this newspaper last weekend.
“I will be there on Monday doing my normal work,” he added.

His confidence suggested he had met some power brokers and got the assurance that, like they managed to pull him out of remand in Kirinya within four days of his arrest, they would stay his execution from office.

But it turned out that the confidence was mere naivety as Hajj Yenus Kirunda, secretary to the Office of the President, wrote on the same day the RDC was sure he would resume his duties that he should instead hand over.

“You’re required to hand over any government property in your possession in accordance with the laid down procedure and regulations,” Kirunda wrote in the May 4 letter.

“Please hand over to the District Internal Security Officer for Jinja who will in addition to his schedule or duties perform the responsibilities of the Jinja RDC until otherwise advised or decided accordingly.”
Sakwa, whose is officially indicated as being 38, is a man whose political time in the hot seat of representing the President at the district level been more like a candle flickering precariously in the wind.

And this has been a strong political wind for a man considered an outsider, a man whom many saw as trying too hard to impress his superiors and prove that he had truly crossed from Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC). Sakwa was a UPC party diehard.

“As a talk-show host, I did meet him on occasion; each time admiring his style as he eloquently delivered hot volleys against the Museveni regime,” said Gawaya Tegulle, a journalist and lawyer.

“He was a passionate and fervent speaker who referred to himself, rightly I think, as a firebrand; the kind of guy who, had he made it to Parliament, would definitely have been tough for the ruling government to contain.”

Political outsider aside, Sakwa had another battle with the outsider in himself. He was running affairs in Jinja, the heart of Busoga, somewhat removed from his familiar Mbale territory.

In 2011, Sakwa tried his hand at joining Parliament on the UPC ticket in Mbale Municipality. He had no chance in a constituency that had the likes of MP Jack Wamanga Wamai and Bernard Mujasi.

“I think he would have made a very good Member of Parliament,” Tegulle muses.

That election defeat worked like a reminder to Sakwa that he had no chance in elective politics. But he could have other chances if he abandoned his UPC creed that saw him take to bimeeza and attack the NRM government. Sakwa crossed to NRM regime that he had so eloquently spoken against. He was posted to Jinja as deputy RDC.

He then took to his job with grit and verve. He was not afraid to go after the big fish in land scam. He clashed with virtually everyone in a way Jinja Municipal Council speaker Moses Bizitu said left him too exposed for a fall.

His first fall came in 2016. He was acrimoniously transferred to Kumi after clashing with his counterparts in Luuka and Butaleja districts over funds for organising the 54th Independence Day national celebration.

However, a reshuffle in 2018 saw Sakwa bounce back to Jinja this time as full RDC. It was a sweet victory for him. But only as far as the candle could withstand the winds.

“Sakwa works alone and doesn’t embrace tactics of teamwork. He doesn’t know that when you work with others, they complement your weakness,” Bitizu said.

As RDC, Sakwa was wont to be seen in military jackets leading security forces in frustrating Opposition politicians or breaking up political rallies. When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a lockdown and curfew that gave RDCs more powers to manage districts, Sakwa felt he had sported more feathers to his political wings.

But they weren’t feathers; it was a noose that he either evaded and stayed on or closed his eyes and walked into.
Several warnings from those who knew his background did little to force a personal reflection in Sakwa. He walked his neck into the noose.