PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
Dear President Yoweri Museveni, In January, a document was anonymously circulated on the internet purporting to show transcript taken from the black box of the stricken MIG-21 fighter jet piloted by Flight Lt. Bosco Opio that crashed during a routine flight in Isiro on December 24, 2008.
The very authoritative and authentic-looking information claimed that the plane was brought down by surface-to-air missile fired by the LRA. It further said, â€œit is important to note from the transcript that Lt. Opio could have bailed out of the crippled plane, but the ejection mechanism failedâ€.
Mr. President, this false information was intended to show that the ineptitude and corruption of the government of Uganda caused the jet to crash, killing Lt. Opio. However, in just two minutes of reading the transcript purported to have come from Lt. Opioâ€™s MIG-21 fighter jet, I quickly established that the transcript came from the black box of the doomed Valujet Flight 592 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Miami International into the Florida Everglades on March 11, 1996, killing all 111 people aboard.
Mr. President, I tell you this story to illustrate how easy it is for a malicious someone armed with a computer and access to the internet to fabricate information that can destroy innocent lives. Due diligence is critical in exposing attempts to make political capital out of such fraudulent claims. This, in my opinion, should have applied in the armyâ€™s investigation of the purported new northern rebel group, the Uganda Patriotic Front (UPF), and the release of information that appeared in the New Vision on Saturday, June 4, 2009.
The information was full of errors, inaccuracies and in some instances, what amounted to outright fabrications. Here is why. In early spring this year, I received a document sent anonymously through the internet. Now, as a writer, I receive all manner of e-mails every day including those promising me millions of dollars in lucrative cuts from funds embezzled from some poor country. I trash all of them. This document purported to be the blueprint for a rebel group calling itself the UPF. The groupâ€™s expressed purpose was to â€œinstigate an internal grassroots popular movement against the Museveni dictatorship.â€ There were no names on the document. It took just a few minutes to determine that the whole document was the work of one or two mischievous individuals with a laptop computer and plenty of time on their hands who wanted to cause maximum headache for Ugandans by pretending to run a sophisticated rebel movement. I refused to take the bait trashed it. About two weeks ago, after arrests in Gulu, I sent an e-mail to Gulu District Chairman Norbert Mao to verify the rumours of a rebel group, and whether the group had substance. Mao responded that he had a document purporting to have come from this so-called new rebel group, but that he did not think it was a serious group. I asked him to e-mail me a copy of the document, and on the same day, June 22, 2009, he sent me what I imagined was an authentic document. On receiving it, I realized this was the very same document that I had discarded weeks earlier into my computer trash. I did exactly the same with the piece Mao sent meâ€”I trashed it. It was therefore all the more surprising that the army put so much stock into the document.
For instance, there is no Dr. Ocan Lapit Otim. I looked in vain in all the North American public archives for a Dr. Ocan Lapit Otim who, according to Major Felix Kulayigye, lives in California. This same Dr. Ocan Lapit Otim is supposed to be the Chairman of Acholi Community in North America (ACNA). In fact, the Chairman of ACNA is Mr. James Bot Nathaneal also known as Obote. ACNA is a legitimate organization that promotes peace, unity and love among Acholi, and preserves Acholi culture in the diaspora.
Furthermore, the alleged author of the UPF document is said to be a Dr. Charlie Lakony who lives in San Diego. I know Lakony from his work with civil society and as president of Friends for Peace in Africa. But I was surprised to learn from army investigations that he has a doctorate. For the record, Lakony completed a Masterâ€™s programme in International Relations at the University of Central Oklahoma in 1987. However, according to him, due to some technicalities, was never awarded the MA degree.
Elsewhere, Kulayigye named Sunday Angoma Okello as one of the rebel collaborators. I met Mr. Angoma in April at the workshop organised by Gulu University in which participants, including Kulayigye discussed lessons learned from the Juba Peace Talks. Angoma publicly questioned, I believe in the presence of Kulayigye, the attempt to paint all Acholi in the diaspora as collaborators. At the time, he was busy researching information for his doctorate.
Moreover, according to the army, the alleged financier of UPF, a Dr. Charles Akena, is supposed to be a rich man with business chains in Canada and USA. But an exhaustive search of all publicly available business information in Canada and USA failed to turn up a single trace of a businessman named Dr. Charles Akena. Mr. President, you cannot sell a pin in Canada or USA without generating some paper trail. True, there is a Canadian doctor of that name, but he is a modest family doctor and not a businessman.
Indeed, Kulayigyeâ€™s most egregious allegation involves Dr. Onek Adyanga who completed his doctoral studies about two months ago. At the time Dr. Adyanga was defending his dissertation, he was allegedly recruiting for UPF in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader! If indeed he was miraculously in two places at the same time, it should be easy to determine from his university, US and Canadian border officials and the ever alert officials at Entebbe Airport when he left North America and whether he landed in Uganda.
The simple fact is that Dr. Adyanga has not stepped in Uganda for the last 23 years! Mr. President, all of this left me wondering whether the individuals who made the army list did so on the basis of one common factor, namely, guilty by Acholi Association.
If so, to dispel the big cloud hanging over many because of ethnic affiliation, an independent review is urgently required to determine how the army conducted its intelligence, and how the names of these individuals ended on the list. The inquiryâ€™s findings must be made public.