Indeed truth is the first casualty of war or any conflict for that matter: The days have been clouded in deceit. Red herrings have been served in shovels.
When the family of the popular musician-turned-politician arrived in Gulu, they were told that the Court Martial would sit in Makindye, Kampala.
As they prepared to return to Kampala, the televisions broke the news that Lt Gen Andrew Guti, the chairman of the General Court Martial, was headed to Gulu to hear the case against Robert Kyagulanyi.
How can we make sense of events so senseless? To borrow Franklin Roosevelt’s words, Monday, August 13, is “a date that will live in infamy”. It started with a carnival atmosphere. Rival campaign mobilisers filled the air with their loud rally announcements on loudspeakers mounted in pickup trucks.
In the early hours of that night, I got a call from one of my team members. He had used my vehicle to take some people to Pacific Hotel in Arua Town. Suddenly Kyagulanyi’s Tundra truck drove in at a high speed and the driver rushed out and into the hotel.
The driver was shouting in Luganda something like “they have killed the man”. Thereafter, Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake came out of the hotel making furious gestures then went back in. Shortly thereafter, a mixture of plain-clothes police and Special Forces Command soldiers, with guns ready, stormed the hotel and its vicinity. They started arresting people from inside the hotel. They kicked in doors and pulled out those they wanted. It is as if they had a list of people targeted for arrest.
A body lay lifeless in the Tundra belonging to the Kyadondo East legislator. One of our team members checked the pulse of the dead man who at that time had not yet been identified as Yasin Kawuma. The violent manner of the arrests was startling and shocking.
Those arrested were being beaten. Even when they fell down they were brutally trampled upon. The journalists trying to record what was going on were also beaten. NTV’s Herbert Zziwa was arrested and detained.
Each side tries to whitewash itself as they throw dirt at their opponents. Nevertheless the chain of events show that there was a huge procession of Kassiano Wadri supporters who met the President’s convoy as it left the NRM rally venue.
According to MP Gonahasa, as the convoy approached the crowd the lead car drove threateningly in the direction of the crowd forcing many of them into roadside ditches. That is when booing and stone throwing ensued. The convoy managed to take the President to his chopper.
It is plausible that immediately after the departure of the President, the security team then returned to wreak vengeful havoc on whoever they associated with the stone throwing incident.
It looked like a well-choreographed attack as they seemed to know who they were looking for. My sources told me that Kyagulanyi, who had managed to hide, was given away by a team member who was threatened with unmentionable harm if he did not disclose Kyagulanyi’s whereabouts.
The testimony of Kyagulanyi’s condition (according to MPs Ssegona and Basalirwa) was heartrending. He had a swollen head, his eyes were closed, he could not sit or stand and he could not even talk. Still, the Court Martial insisted that he should take a plea in his condition of semi-consciousness.
The silence that greeted the court compelled them to enter a plea of “not guilty” and to remand him. A military helicopter flew him to Makindye.
The events in Arua show that we’re atop a volcano. A time bomb is ticking. There’s a gathering storm that may burst without warning. Things will likely first get worse before they get better. We may be feeling the birth pangs of the new Uganda. Even in these difficult circumstances we should not despair. The hours before dawn are the darkest. For sure there will a new dawn in Uganda.