Just as Charles Onyango Obbo smiled when he read the story in the Daily Monitor about Bidandi Ssali not minding his musician son, Bebe Cool supporting Museveni, I was also amused that he could pour such venom against UPC. Sometimes spicing his story with outright lies like when he claims that when Dr David Anyoti was fleeing, he left his car with the Sapoba boys. That isn’t true; the coup found Dr David Anyoti out of Uganda and he has never returned to Uganda.
I may be a little more qualified than Onyango Obbo to tell the story he is telling in his article. In the first place, I am the one who took both Onyango Obbo and Wafula Oguttu to Sapoba.
Onyango Obbo had been a friend of my late brother at school. And when Onyango Obbo graduated, he came to me and asked if I could help him join journalism. I told him to come back in three days’ time. During that time, I went to Bidandi and he was offered a job. In the case of Wafula, Kintu Musoke requested me to find him a journalist and I took him Wafula.
Onyango Obbo writes: “When they were fleeing, they turned to the two people – BS and Kintu Musoke – who had been tormented by the UPC. Kintu still walks with a limp, thanks to a bullet from the UPC days. Yet, they somehow managed not to let it turn to blinding bitterness.”
I don’t ever remember Kintu Musoke being tormented by UPC. I wish Onyango Obbo could give a few more details about this. The point is I was so close to the people Onyango Obbo calls the Sapoba that such a thing could not have escaped me.
Let me talk a little bit about how close I was to them. More than anybody else, I was responsible for Bidandi’s appointment as Local Government Minister in the UNLF government. From then on, we jointly run the ministry. Because Bidandi preferred to live in his private house at Nsimbi Ziwome, I occupied Bidandi’s official residence during the entire time he was minister.
With all his hatred of UPC, Onyango Obbo needs to learn that when Binaisa was being removed from the presidency by vote, Obote’s choice for replacement was Bidandi. Obote did a lot of subtle monouvres to assuage the ego of Muwanga to get him to support the Bidandi candidature.
Some surmise that this might easily have constituted the grudge for Muwanga to detain Bidandi. Muwanga’s decision was his personal act. This came very clear when Obote granted audience to Bidandi’s wife.
Before meeting Bidandi’s wife, Obote assembled three Cabinet ministers outside his office: Muwanga, Akena p’Ojok and Osinde. He came out of his office and addressed Muwanga in the hearing of the other ministers: “Bidandi’s wife is coming to see me; what should I tell her?” The implication was that Muwanga detained Bidandi, and therefore, he should tell Obote what he should tell Bidandi’s wife.
We should also note that the first person Bidandi told about his detention was me. Wherever he was in detention, he called his wife and asked her to tell me to do all I could to get him out of the detention. She did that first thing in the morning. And I took all sorts of risks until I got him out of the detention.
I also would like to reflect on the Bush War and Bidandi. When Museveni went to the bush without informing Bidandi, the UPM secretary general, I called Bidandi and we exchanged views on the news. Later, I warned Bidandi that Museveni’s bush activities were bound to affect him.
I never addressed him on the fact that Museveni’s political line was erroneous; however, I also never encouraged him. I do believe he must have later found out that the line was not only erroneous but that Museveni had totally different objectives.
In 2001, Bidandi proposed that the NRM should be turned into a political party and space opened for other political parties in preparation for the 2006 elections. In his characteristic fashion, Museveni moved to sideline Bidandi.
However, sidelining Bidandi had no effect; the debate continued. Ironically, even the passage of the Political Parties and Organisation Act (PPOA) in May 2002) which was supposed to clarify the restrictions on political parties and, therefore, permanently institute the so-called no party democracy, simply set off a process which unraveled it.
The PPOA was challenged in the Constitutional Court and a number of its clauses were nullified. The court went further to declare that the NRM is a political party like any other, and not a system as the NRM had argued.
These Museveni manipulations had become so apparent that even the donors who had all along kept quiet about the undemocratic nature of the regime could no longer look the other way. The emperor had finally realised he was naked.
In the circumstances, Museveni took the only route left for him. In March 2003, at a meeting of the NRM National Executive Committee at Kyankwanzi, Museveni recommended that the country should move towards multi-party politics.
The reader should recall that two years before, when Bidandi talked of doing the same thing, Museveni scolded him, advising that those who talk like Bidandi should be ignored because, he went on to argue, multipartyism was “sheer rotten sectarianism based on tribalism and religion”. Notwithstanding that, NEC endorsed Museveni’s proposal.
To conclude, let me say one thing. I live in the US and come once in a while to Uganda. Each time I come, I make it a point to visit my friend Bidandi. The last time I paid a call at his residence, he did not want to talk politics at all. I still don’t know why. Meanwhile, he has declared his retirement from politics. He has ended his career. History will record him as a good man in politics. But a good man who was in politics without a political campus. I remain open to discuss this last sentence.
Yoga Adhola is a leading ideologue of UPC.