What you need to know:
- The “protracted people’s war”, it turns out, was only ruse, a classic deception for a group that wanted nothing more than to take power, stay there forever and control resources, to their advantage and to the detriment of those who do not agree with them.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Did you hear that? No new thing under the sun! That is how King Solomon put it in his works of wisdom – flip the pages of the Good Book till you come to it!
There is a pattern that has repeated itself over the years in Uganda: every time a new sheriff rides into town, he is carrying his army with him. Or to put things a little bit more laconically, his army is carrying him in. Thing also is, when he goes, he leaves kind of in a really big hurry and again, his army (part of it, or all of it) that carried him in, runs out with him, as fast as their heels can carry them.
In hot pursuit, and sweating with eager anticipation to lay their hands on them, but usually far behind, will be the latest sheriff; also with his own army, to have a go at state power, and happy to enjoy it while it lasts.
Jinja, where I grew up, is a sweet little town; nicely planned, naturally beautiful and simultaneously hugging two famous waters – the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Victoria, and the longest river in the world, River Nile.
But it is also very strategic: anyone leaving the country (in a hurry, ha ha ha!) will pass through Jinja and when they get there, make a decision to either continue by land to Busia or Malaba border, then cross to Kenya; or, smack a waiting crocodile with an oar, grab a boat and sail to Kenya. Or Tanzania.
So, as kids, we were used to seeing people (folks we previously thought untouchable, infallible, immortal and impossible) make for the border in one big hurry.
The diplomatic community, having caught wind of change, usually came first, a day or two earlier; their Land Rovers in full flight, worried White faces peeping out of the windows.
Then the fleeter-footed among the government officials would follow; most of them having had the common sense not to stop or to first go home to pick this or that. Then the lazier ones, usually the slow-thinkers, would come last; terror and trauma written all over their faces, some men disguised as women, fleeing for dear life.
And lastly, you’d see the victors ones ride into town, with lots of ceremony; soldiers firing happily into the air, just for just – and sitting in every place they could be seen on the military jeeps, Land Rovers and lorries. The victors would then pursue the vanquished till the border, find most of them long crossed over and then shake their fists in warning: “don’t come back!”
So us Jinjans, we did witness the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) bigwigs flee in January 1971, Idi Amin’s troops in hot pursuit. Then in April 1979, we watched Idi Amin’s group make off, Tanzanian troops clipping their heels. In July 1985, we again watched the UPCs in full flight.
And then in January 1986, we watched the Tito Okello group show us a clean pair of heels. We suspect we shall see yet another group in full flight! And that is so because there is no greater deception than the so-called Tarehe Sita (Swahili for: date, the sixth). The “protracted people’s war”, it turns out, was only ruse, a classic deception for a group that wanted nothing more than to take power, stay there forever and control resources, to their advantage and to the detriment of those who do not agree with them.
Can the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) respect the outcome of an election that doesn’t favour the current president? Unlikely, going by the pronouncements of various senior officers! And the fact that the current president is entrenched – by name and person – into the constituent law that establishes the UPDF, shows it was never intended to be a national army.
That suggests peaceful change of power in Uganda is sheer fantasy; stuff for the foolish and naïve to mull over.
Any new sheriff in town will have to come with his own army; because this one won’t let him rule. And we in Jinja will be waiting…
Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda, [email protected]