If heaven is Museveni’s home, then Lord, what will I do?

Sunday July 12 2020


By Gawaya Tegulle

Let’s just say that mice will feel a little better and far more secure when they are offered guarantees that there are no cats in heaven. It’s only natural and fair.
Many years ago, then Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi (know him?) walked to me and said rather bluntly: “Kabakumba Masiko [Information minister] has ordered UBC [Uganda Broadcasting Corporation] to fire you.”
Reason? I was deemed too close to Opposition leader Kizza Besigye and, therefore, adverse to the interests of President Museveni. I hardly knew Dr Besigye; in fact, I knew Ms Kabakumba better and liked her a lot. I still do. So I didn’t believe Mirundi, until I was fired.

Earthly matters seldom move me; I smiled and forgave everyone and went home. I’d have felt no pain, had it not been that a few weeks down the road my Rhema, a toddler, at one point got sick to near death and I had no money to treat her.
Rudi, five months old, was learning how to eat… but there was no food in the house. Allen - my wife - was away in Britain, so I had three kids on me.
A few years after that, I got several strange calls from police headquarters. Two officers kept warning that my flat or arcade in Bunga or thereabouts faced demolition. They wanted to help me. I told them I had no such building, so they demolished it.

I forgot about the calls until I met my cousin Stuart in the city. He’d been out of the country for some time and he promptly accused me of causing him “so much trouble”. It turned out intelligence operatives had gone to the same minister – who had since become minister for Kampala – talking about a building that was a “security threat” since it belonged to a known Besigye man.
It is when Stuart went to complain that they saw his face and realised a terrible mistake had been made. Stuart sued. He and I share a rare surname; people keep mixing us up.
Now, this story doesn’t sound credible and I didn’t believe it either, until I found Stuart in High Court, before Justice Musa Ssekaana.
I attend a very old-fashioned, completely outdated church where most of the conversation is about heaven.

We sing very old gospel country songs including the all-time classics – Across the Bridge, There’s no More Sorrow and This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through. Our music has a nice, bouncy feel to it and people sing the latter song with fervour, especially when we get to the chorus, “Oh Lord you know, I have no friend like you, if heaven is not my home then Lord what will I do?…” We think heaven is real. Our neighbours are convinced we’re crazy. I agree!
So when, a few weeks ago, somewhere in the middle of his long, winding Covid-19 speeches the President said “…by then I will be in heaven…” my heart sank. Genuinely. I had hoped that with his desire for life presidency, he had no plans to leave the earth. ‘Across the bridge, there’s plenty of sorrow!’
As a human rights lawyer, I handle many cases of grisly abuse by the Museveni regime; but somehow I be like, ‘heck, take heart, life will soon be over and we’ll be in heaven’.

But heaven begins to lose its appeal when we learn there is a strong possibility that the people who tormented us so viciously on earth will also be there.
And knowing the ‘revolutionary’ Museveni, he, in all likelihood wouldn’t be content to be a mere citizen of heaven – he’d still want to rule.
When church reopens we just might be singing: “Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you; if heaven is Museveni’s home, then Lord what will I do?...”
That mice could go to a heaven free of cats!

Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda gtegulle@gmail.com