OpED

OPINION: Corruption, assassinations, kidnaps and rotten politics — read to the end

Gen Katumba Wamala survived an assassination attempt on his life (PHOTO/Courtesy).

Egesa Ronald

Today, the whole country was taken by surprise by the news of the attempted assassination of my old boy Gen. Katumba Wamala. The attempt however left a trail of blood, and the country has lost two lives of Brenda Nantongo (the General’s Daughter) and Haruna (the General’s driver). When I heard of this news, I decided to keep calm and not say anything, but my conscience says otherwise. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I write.

Between 2016 and 2017, I was the Chairman of Old Kampala Old Students Association. The school administration, Board of Governors, area politicians and a cabal in the Ministry of Education and Sports were in a syndicate that wanted to sell off the school land to private investors to construct shopping malls as has been the case with a number of the traditional city schools. Gen. Katumba Wamala was the first prominent old student that I approached for help in keeping the salivating cabal at bay. He received me well in one of his offices as Chief of Defence Forces that was located in the leafy suburb of Kololo.

After explaining to him the problems at hand, I requested him to make phone calls to Dr. Yusuf Nsubuga and the late Dr. Jjumba (former ED of YMCA) and talk some sense into them so that they could abandon their schemes targeting the school land. The good General promised to think through it and talk to the gentlemen and then he would let us know. He never got back to me on the same. The next I heard from him was towards the tail end of our struggles when I had marshalled my troops through thick and thin and we had defeated the cabal and dismantled the syndicate. He wrote to me an email informing me of his ‘considered’ decision to withdraw his membership of the alumni association citing his disapproval of my style of dealing with the challenges at hand – adding that he does not like the fact that we took school matters into courts of law!

As a leader with a clear conscience, I replied to his email and copied the same Ministry of Education officials that he had copied his. I relayed the facts and even informed him that we had not gone to any courts save for the PPDA Appeals Tribunal and the outcome was positive because it saved the teachers’ quarters land. I also emphasized that the school needed leadership, if the old guard was not ready to lead, I was more than happy to lead, and posterity would judge all of us. To his credit, he thanked me for the clarification, but remained silent on his earlier decision of renouncing his membership. Subsequently, he remained active and showed up for the association functions until my resignation in 2018. The last time I met with him was in the VIP lounge in Entebbe on 20th June 2019 as we both flew out of the country – I was headed for a political consultancy assignment in a foreign land while he was on official duties. We only exchanged pleasantries, and each remained in their lane. The reverence I once had for the man was long gone thanks to the Old Kampala struggles.

A day after my email exchange with Gen. Katumba Wamala, I dropped by the Auditor General’s office and had a chat with a calm gentleman called John Muyimbwa. John is a calm gentleman who did not lose his cool even when the situation got tough. He always listened and then spoke after keenly listening. He often looked at ways of addressing our concerns while at the same time covering the backs of his colleagues that were reckless with their jobs. In my conversation with John, the exchange with the General came up and we rested it, but before I left his office, he had a piece of advice for me.

John told me that it was his conviction that I will get very frustrated with the Ugandan society as time goes on and it will be best if I considered moving out and work abroad in ‘straight societies’. He did mention that he has a son that is very sharp and failed to understand and stomach all the nonsense and mediocrity in our society right from a young age. As a result, a headteacher in Kings College Budo advised John to take his son abroad for studies and work. He bought into the advice of the Headteacher.

After listening to John carefully, I told him that I did not (and I still do not) think that he did the right thing. I told him that if you are in a government that is very corrupt and inept as a result of rotten politics, it is not wise to think that you are avoiding the mess you are a part of when you take your children to study from and work from abroad. I told him that one day the child will feel the need to come back home -even if it is for a brief visit to see members of the family. The unfortunate thing will be that the destitute-cum-criminal outputs of a failed system that you have been a part of its creation will kidnap or kill your son and then you realise that the better and sensible thing to do should have been to stand up, fold your sleeves and clean the mess in the system.

Today, we are in a tricky situation. On the one hand, we celebrate the fact that God has given our good General another chance to live to see another day, but his family is in sombre mood because the life of a young lady (his daughter) has been cut short by the ‘pigs’ as President Museveni has called them. The daughter had studied from abroad and returned to work in Uganda at the Bombo Military Hospital. Bad Politics has taken her life and a corrupt system will give no guarantee that the killers are brought to justice. My friend John must be recalling my words.

On 18th November 2020 (the first day of the riots that resulted from the ill-thought arrest of Bobi Wine in Luuka), I was driving with my young brother and my daughter in my car along the Munyonyo spur that connects to the Entebbe Expressway at 8:00pm. As we approached the Kajjansi interchange, we landed into a gang of thugs with all sorts of stones and all manner of objects. They were terrorizing motorists, robbing them of valuables and money, destroying vehicles and injuring the occupants. I employed the techniques of deception to escape (of course, it was the hand of God). Three huge stones were hurled at my car, but none hit the glass as I pretended to stop and then wiggled my way through the stones littered on the tarmac and sped off. Two flew over the roof of the car while another hit the body at the rear end. If this last stone had managed to go through the window, it could have shattered the head of my daughter or that of her cousin sister that was seated next to her in the back seat.

In the process of negotiating my way from the thugs, my car hit rocks and the gearbox got damaged. When we got to Total Kajjansi, there were 15 cars that were damaged by the thugs, and it was only mine that was in a state that could allow it to move ‘properly’ beyond Total Kajjansi. We had just survived death. Before parking at Total Kajjansi, I established that Policemen and LDUs were just 200 metres away from where the thugs were operating from. I stopped by and implored them to go for the thugs, but they ignored me, and I drove off.

I took time off that night to recollect the events and ponder over a number of things. I decided to write about the consequences of bad politics. I cautioned that just like the FRONASA and NRA boys who owned nothing and therefore had nothing to lose, these destitute in many parts of Buganda and Busoga that were supporting Bobi Wine also had nothing to lose. As a result, the destitute were more than ready to fight back the injustices visited on them by the regime by leaving destruction in their wake. My writing was well received especially by senior citizens that have since fallen out of favour by the NRA/M as a result of speaking their minds when they saw that the leaders were riding off the rail. A number reached out to me privately to thank me. Notably, my piece was titled, ‘a polite reminder to Gen. Museveni’ and I concluded it by reminding him that no single human being nor group of humans has a monopoly on the use of violence!

Shortly after the election charade of January 14, 2021, that returned Gen. Museveni Tibuhaburwa as the victor, I listened to news reports on CBS FM where a soundbite of Gen. Katumba Wamala was played. In the soundbite, he was reportedly speaking at a function in Greater Masaka (a region that overwhelmingly voted for Bobi Wine and has seen the largest share of kidnaps and abductions of young men by the State Security agencies). He told off all those who did not support the Government of Gen. Museveni and added that they should not even try to scare people like him who still support the Government of Gen. Museveni. I mumbled to myself that this man is NOT SERIOUS. I even recalled the Luganda saying that goes “Bwojooga ensanafu, totulamu ntuule”. It simply means that it is foolish to take one’s impudence for red fire ants to the level of sitting in their colony with your bum!

Commenting on the loss of all Cabinet Ministers in the Parliamentary elections of January 14th, Hon. Amelia Anne Kyambadde, did what all other high-ranking Baganda in Government have failed to do. She said it as it is, “People are tired and fed up!”. The truth is that Buganda and Busoga used the 2021 election to give Gen. Museveni their piece of mind. If he thinks that Gen. Lokech has the magic wand that will have the sharp shooters from Somalia stem dissent and terror, I can only pray for him and pray for my motherland. It is akin to swimming against the tide.

In the same immediate post-election period, my friend Tamale Mirundi quipped, “President Museveni must understand what the Baganda are telling him. When a Muganda replaces reasonable people like Kyambadde and Sekandi with lumpens, he is simply informing you that the next step shall be VIOLENCE” Of course Mirundi was loosely categorizing many of the elected NUP MPs as lumpens, but he had made his point and it needs to be analysed to great detail. He was foretelling an upcoming civil war.

Like Mirundi, I will not tire to tell friends and comrades that still drink from the same trough as Gen. Museveni that the best thing to do for him now is to tell him to go home and allow the country to reboot. The politics is rotten, systems are broken down that even security cannot pretend nor deceive us that they will get the ‘pigs’ that have assassinated Kaweesi, Abiriga, Kirumira, Bahiga, Wafula and lately Gen. Katumba’s daughter and driver. What Gen. Museveni calls pigs might be martyrs in some households in Buganda whose kin have disappeared since last year or are still languishing in prison simply because of clamouring for political change in Uganda! The bottom line is that no human being or ethnicity (that was once prosperous) will succumb to domination or subjugation by another human or ethnicity in perpetuity. Gen. Museveni must realise that he has a choice to make, he can manage (or stage manage) a transition or leave the country to fate. Fate points to civil war and suicide terrorism.

I rest my case and return to my studies.

Egesa Ronald.

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