By Charles Birungi
Former Prime Minister and NRM Secretary General, Amama Mbazazi, and renegade UPDF officer, David ‘Sejusa’ aka Tinyefuza, on separate occasions in Kampala recently met with British journalist and author, Michela Wrong for interviews on what has been described as a dirty and biased book about the ruling NRM party and its leader.
Wrong, who lives in London, United Kingdom, spent several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a foreign correspondent covering events across the African continent for Reuters, the BBC, and the Financial Times. Her literally works to date have all been about African Politics and leaders e.g. the last days of Zaire under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko (and early days of the DRC under the late Laurent Kabila), and Kenya after President Arap Moi ceded power and was succeeded by Mr. Mwai Kibaki in 2002.
Her first book, In the Foot Steps of Mr. Kurtz – Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo, written in 2001, as was mentioned above covers the period in late 1996 and early 1997 when a dying Zaire gave way to the DRC under Laurent Desire Kabila (who was transported to power in Kinshasa on the back of the Rwandan and Ugandan military power).
Mr. Kurtz was a fictitious psychopath (or violent, sadistic lunatic) in a book called the Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. The Heart of Darkness talks about the inherent racism, exploitation and profound evil of imperialism.
Known as ‘Kuku ngbendu waza banga’ or ‘The all powerful warrior who because of his endurance and inflexible will to win goes from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake’, Mobutu Sese Seko, is portrayed in the book as someone who exhibited great cunning - seducing western powers, buying up the opposition, and dominating his people with a devastating combination of brutality and charm. While the population was pauperized, he plundered the country’s copper, gold and diamond riches, building a vast personal fortune estimated anywhere between $4 – 15 billion and drinking pink champagne in his jungle palace like some modern-day reincarnation of Joseph Conrad’s crazed station manager Kurtz.
In her other book, It’s Our Turn to Eat; the Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower (2009) tells the story of John Githongo, a Kenyan Journalist and civil society activist who, in 2002, took on a senior anti-corruption role within the newly elected government of President Mwai Kibaki.
In that role, Githongo uncovered widespread evidence of corruption within the higher echelons of government under new President Kibaki. The book also discusses the role of ethnicity in Kenyan politics and is strongly critical of the response of the international aid community to the Githongo case.
Mbabazi, Sejusa Political Blunders
Museveni’s long time ally from the early 1970’s, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s political fortunes nose dived in September 2014 when he was sacked by President Museveni as Prime Minister, and later replaced as the ruling party’s Secretary General in December 2014. Mbabazi, who sought to become the ruling party’s next leader using what party members have described as intrigue and underhand methods that sought to divide the party, crashed and burned when his bid flopped. Mbabazi later scored a humiliating 1.3% in the 2016 presidential elections (after a lot of hullabaloo from sections of opposition leaning media and certain figures within the opposition) were he stood as an independent candidate.
However, it is Gen. Sejusa’s story that provides quite some interesting, comical reading. The unhinged General has a history of controversies, right from the days of the resistance in the bush. These controversies, and ultimately grave mistakes have blighted his otherwise long service in the armed forces were discipline is absolutely mandatory. Many a time, it has been the incredible magnanimity (and some say fault) of the Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, that has bailed him out of self implosion, and the imposition of revolutionary justice.
During the bush war, the treacherous Tinyefuza (as he was then known) was a repeat offender, always questioning and at times defying directives and guidelines of the Chairman High Command – Museveni.
After the bush war in 1986, Tinyefuza, as commander of ‘Operation North’ (a counter-insurgency operation against the early manifestations of the LRA in northern Uganda) was accused of gross human rights abuses, including alleged extra judicial killings. At one point he had a government minister, Daniel Omara Atubo who hails from Lango in northern Uganda, frog-marched to Gulu barracks and caned for defying his orders.
President Museveni later withdrew Tinyefuza from the north, and directed him to appear before the UPDF High Command (HC) to explain his actions. He defied the directive, instead writing to the President resigning from the army.
“I am of the strong view that I will not have any constitutional rights respected before the UPDF HC for obvious reasons,” stated the General in his letter.
“I find it unjustified to continue serving in an institution whose bodies I have no faith in or whose views I do not subscribe to. I know my own faults very well and I do not suppose I ‘am an easy subordinate,” continued part of his letter.
After some time in the wilderness, Sejusa, in 1998, apologized to President Museveni over the 1996 fall out, claiming he had been “misled” but had now seen the “light.”
Uganda under Museveni
Since independence in 1962 to 1986, land locked Uganda was characterized by untold political turmoil exemplified by military coups, ruthless dictatorships and an extensive abuse of human rights.
From a troubled past, the country has under Yoweri Museveni’s leadership transformed itself from the abyss of despair to relative stability and prosperity – with one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
In June, a new global growth projection by the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University saw Uganda and India as the fastest growing economies to 2025, at 7.7% of GDP annually. Uganda was among three other countries from East Africa in the fastest growing economies category, with others coming from South East Asia led by Indonesia and Vietnam.
Uganda also has one of the most liberalized media and political landscapes in Africa, with over 200 radio stations and dozens of TV and print media outlets in operation.
The country also won world wide praise in the successful campaign against HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s, with prevalence rates dropping to single digit figures from a one time high of about 30% at its peak.
However, some critics have condemned Uganda for its hardening stance on LGBT rights, Mr. Museveni’s intervention in regional conflicts especially DRC and the President’s perceived long stay in power. The Ugandan electorate has consistently dismissed these concerns in the five general elections that have been conducted since 1996, where Museveni has always won a decisive majority of the vote.