Tribute to Joseph Bossa, a distinguished son of Uganda

Harold Acemah

What you need to know:

Scholarly book. To his credit, Bossa found time in his busy schedule to write a courageous, fascinating and scholarly book on a controversial subject in the post-colonial history of Uganda. I had the privilege, in 2015, to review the book.

On October 1, death robbed Uganda and silenced a distinguished, talented and patriotic son who had every reason to live in order to, inter alia, witness the long-awaited and inevitable political change he struggled relentlessly and peacefully to achieve.
Joseph Fred Bossa was a friend, fellow Congressman and acting party president of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) when he passed on at The Hague, Netherlands. He was buried on October 9, at Manyangwa in Wakiso District.
Prophet Habakkuk faced a similar predicament and cried out to God: “O Lord, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence? Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you endure to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all round me and there is fighting and quarrelling everywhere. The law is weak and useless and justice is never done. Evil men get the better of the righteous and so justice is perverted.” Habakkuk 1:2-4 (GNB). That sounds familiar.
Joseph Bossa was born in 1949 at Entebbe Hospital. His parents were Steven Beyo Bossa, a medical doctor, and Mary Leticia Mbejjo, a nurse. Like his parents, Joseph was a decent, honest, humble and God-fearing man. With benefit of hindsight, I believe a person’s family background and upbringing matter and shape one’s character, mindset and worldview.
Bossa attended Namilyango College for secondary education, obtained Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University (1973) and Master of Laws degree from Monash University (1982) in Melbourne, Australia, majoring in International Trade Law.
Bossa’s LLM degree equipped him to represent Uganda on the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). I first met Bossa at the UN headquarters, New York in 1997 where he had gone to attend a session of UNCITRAL. I was there to attend a meeting of the Economic and Social Council. Bossa’s substantive position at that time was head of legal department, Bank of Uganda, during the central bank’s better days.
Our paths crossed again in 2009 at Uganda House, headquarters of UPC. I had just retired from the diplomatic service and was now free to wear my party colours. Little did I know before then that both of us were members of UPC. It was a pleasant surprise for me to learn of Bossa’s appointment as UPC vice president in 2009 by then UPC president Olara Otunnu.
Bossa was a committed, hardworking and principled member of UPC at all times, including during difficult times when UPC faced serious challenges, trials and tribulations which are common knowledge. He remained loyal to UPC up to the end, unlike those who went astray like lost sheep and shamelessly betrayed the nationalist, patriotic and pan-Africanist cause of UPC for the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver offered by sworn enemies of UPC. I believe the verdict of history on Bossa’s legacy will be positive.

Reflections on the 1966 crisis
To his credit, Bossa found time in his busy schedule to write a courageous, fascinating and scholarly book on a controversial subject in the post-colonial history of Uganda. I had the privilege, in 2015, to review the book titled, Reflections on the 1966 Political Crisis. As a Muganda, Bossa told me that he anticipated hostile backlash from some quarters which are allergic to bitter and unpleasant truth which may explain why the publisher of the book is not mentioned.
He writes on page 80 as follows: “It is said that history is written by the victors. In the situation I have described, where there are no winners, history has been written by the loudest. A way forward can only be forged if we know the truth of what really happened to crystallise the crisis.”
Bossa concurs with Mr Kasendwa Ddumba, who insisted that the truth must be told in spite of the preference of opportunists and reactionaries who want to cling to prejudices like the biblical Israelites. In this regard, he quotes from the book of Isaiah where it is written: “Do not tell us about what is right. Tell us what we want to hear. Let us keep our illusions.” Isaiah 30:10 (GNB)
Bossa admonishes those who believe in illusions as if they would lose their identity if the illusions are unmasked and writes: “The 1966 crisis is the bogeyman some people batter UPC over the head with politically. If the whole truth about it were known, they would lose their political tool. They are afraid of the truth.”
I thank God for Joseph Bossa’s friendship, leadership and exemplary life. May his soul rest in eternal peace!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.
[email protected]


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