Challenge of promoting peace and development in Uganda

Sunday December 8 2019


By Harold Acemah

In a major address on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations in 1965, Pope Paul VI declared from the podium of the plenary hall of the UN General Assembly in New York that the other name of peace is development. In other words, peace and development are two sides of the same coin.

I was reminded of the pontiff’s historic message after reading an amusing and intriguing story published in the New Vision of November 25, titled, “Museveni receives development award.”

According to the story, a dubious and obscure civil society organisation called Public Opinions, which was established in 2003 and has been dormant for many years, awarded Sabalwanyi a “champion of peace and development” award on November 22 in Kampala.

With all due respect, the award is laughable and akin to an episode from a theatre of the absurd. It looks like a cynical ploy aimed at hoodwinking wananchi and an attempt by some unscrupulous people to solicit millions of shillings from the donor- in- chief.

For a man whose undergraduate research paper at the University of East Africa, Dar es Salaam, was a glorification of Franz Fanon’s theory of violence and its application in Mozambique, which he later on practised zealously in Luweero and DR Congo, the concept of peace must be as alien as vegetarian diet is to a lion.

On receiving the award, Sabalwanyi expressed gratitude to the CSO for recognising him as champion of peace and development which a friend of mine who is a scholar of peace studies told me is mindboggling and unbelievable.


New Vision quotes Sabalwanyi as saying, “This award is not for me as an individual. It is for the freedom fighters that have fought for this peace all these past years. I also thank the deputy president of Kenya for recognising our contribution.”

Well, I guess for a beleaguered and unpopular politician like William Ruto who is haunted by Kenya’s post-election violence and tragedy of 2007/2008, the concept of peace must be difficult to comprehend and internalise.

On January 16, 2013, Ambassador Olara Otunnu, then UPC president, addressed a press conference at the UPC headquarters in Kampala. Mr Otunnu took advantage of the well-attended event to speak truth to power and download some unpleasant truths.

Otunnu spoke boldly, on behalf of the silent majority, about several burning questions, such as, the rapidly deteriorating state of the nation following a sham and massively rigged election held in February 2011; the shameless looting and plunder of the national resources of Uganda by well-connected politicians and senior civil servants; rampant land grabbing by politicians; mysterious and unresolved killings of many Ugandans; gender inequality and violence against women; vertical and horizontal discrimination of Ugandans by the NRM regime; and massive youth unemployment.

Otunnu argued that the culture of impunity, which is a hallmark of the NRM regime, is a manifestation of an evil spirit which has descended upon Uganda. Six years down the road, Otunnu has been vindicated and the situation is worse than it was in 2013.

Otunnu also focused of the shameless invasion and plunder of DR Congo, from 1998-2002, by the armed forces of the NRM regime, a regime which has lost its raison d’etre and legitimacy. He added that the leadership of the regime was devoid of integrity and their only objective and goal appears to be the primitive accumulation of wealth.

According to Daily Monitor of January 17, 2013, senior presidential adviser John Nagenda “dismissed Mr Otunnu’s remarks as unfortunate and not deserving a reply,” but no objective observer of Uganda’s political situation can deny the fact that peace has become an elusive commodity in Uganda and whoever is head of government must take full responsibility for the precarious and uncertain situation prevailing in Uganda under his watch.

Against this background, one wonders how a leader of a corrupt, decadent and belligerent regime can be recognised as a champion of peace and development. His record, which is available in the public domain points to the contrary and speaks eloquently for itself.

On Thursday, December 12, voters of the United Kingdom go to the polls. I predict victory for the Labour Party and hence the beginning of the end for a wretched animal called Brexit.

On a personal note, today is my son Emanuel Acemah’s birthday. Happy birthday, Emanuel. May the Lord bless and watch over you always.

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.