By Harold Acemah
In my Sunday Monitor opinion published on February 12 titled, “How low must Uganda sink before hitting rock bottom” I argued that, “the damage which Sabalwanyi’s speech has done to the body politic and national image of Uganda is enormous and should not be dismissed or underestimated.”
January 26 was indeed a defining moment for Uganda. Let me refresh the memory of our esteemed readers of what Sabalwanyi said on that sad day for our beloved country which Ugandans should never forget.
“I am not an employee. I hear some people saying I am their servant. I am not a servant of anybody. I am a freedom fighter - that is why I do what I do.
I don’t do it because I am your servant. I am not your servant. I am just a freedom fighter. I am fighting for myself, for my belief - that is how I come in. If anybody thinks you gave me a job, he is deceiving himself. I am just a freedom fighter whom you thought could help you also.”
The message is loud and clear. It is a classic case of a man biting the hands which fed him for decades and hands which are, in fact, still feeding him. It is what men and women of goodwill in a decent society would find shameful and indefensible.
Like many Ugandans, I have wondered and asked myself what would compel or drive a man of high stature to make such unbecoming remarks in a public forum as happened in Masindi District on January 26. The Masindi pronouncements have raised many troubling questions which beg answers.
First, Sabalwanyi’s speech has revealed clearly that he has always been pursuing a personal agenda at the expense of predominantly ignorant, docile and naive Ugandans, but he surreptitiously camouflaged this personal agenda as a national liberation struggle and a revolution.
All the armed and guerrilla outfits he led, such as Fronasa and NRA, have been used to pursue and advance this personal agenda. It seems he now feels strong enough to tell Ugandans in their face and the world at large the bitter truth in broad daylight, knowing that Ugandans will do absolutely nothing beyond shaking their heads in disbelief. Ancient Greek philosopher Pericles rightly argued that the secret of liberty is courage.
As a Ugandan taxpayer, I am dismayed and offended that my taxes and those of millions of Uganda citizens have been used for many years to pursue and implement a personal agenda without our consent. It is wrong and unacceptable. I am surprised that two months later, no MP has so far raised this matter for debate in Parliament, a matter which is of national importance.
Second, against this background what has over the years been presented as election manifestos of his political party or Uganda’s national interests were deceptive and a pretext to gain power and mobilise resources to pursue Sabalwanyi’s personal agenda and entrench him in power.
Third, in 1998 UPDF troops were deployed by you know who to invade DR Congo without parliamentary approval as required by the Constitution and laws of Uganda.
Ugandan troops illegally occupied eastern DRC for almost five years until 2003 and at one time UPDF had almost 10 battalions occupying a foreign country.
The government of DRC took the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where Uganda was found guilty of violating international law, committing gross violations of human rights and plundering the resources of DRC.
ICJ ruled in 2005 that Uganda should pay DRC $10 billion (about Shs35 trillion) as compensation and reparations. The matter is still pending before ICJ and will come up for final judgment in 2018. That mindboggling debt hangs ominously over all Ugandans like a Damocles sword. Why should Ugandans pay for an illegal adventure under both international and domestic law?
Fourth, with the benefit of hindsight, it is now self- evident that much of what Sabalwanyi has done since 1970s was aimed at establishing personal rule.
The resources of the people of Uganda have been used to achieve the objectives and goals of this personal agenda which is irrelevant to the needs, especially the national interests of Uganda and hence of no use whatsoever to the vast majority of the people of Uganda.
Fifth, it means that realistically Uganda has no foreign policy. No wonder Uganda’s once distinguished and effective career Foreign Service has been systematically destroyed and replaced with a partisan outfit which is at the personal service of Sabalwanyi, but is paid for by Ugandan taxpayers.
I hope some patriotic MPs will soon raise this matter of national importance for debate in the august assembly for the sake of the silent majority of the people of Uganda.
May the Lord have mercy!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat.