By Robert Atuhairwe
Late in 2012, a situation arose on the floor of Parliament.
It was during consideration of a controversial clause in the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill, 2012 that sought to hand powers to regulate licensing for oil exploration to the Minister or an authority.
With MPs opposed to handing such powers to the Minister lost in their nerves, a scuffle ensued during which the mace- the symbol of the Speaker’s authority- was grabbed of its rest.
Sensing danger, Rebecca Kadaga, had no choice but to promptly abandon the chambers and take refuge.
Familiar scenes had played out about the same time during the time Butaleja district woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda, died and her body was brought to Parliament for last respects. The way some overzealous MPs conducted themselves over her dead body was nothing short of the advent of politics of wizardry.
It was then that Minister of Defence, Dr. Kiyonga and President Museveni, in that order, issued knowing warnings that “unserious people” risked dispossessing the people of the country into those of the army. This was construed as declaration of a coup by the very people who were being asked to watch their game.
That did not deter then Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, to supplement on the statement of his bosses. He added a stern tinge, typical of laconic, clear-headed and astute persons.
This is what now deceased Gen. Aronda said, according to the media:
"...... I think that the message was well-taken by those to whom it was intended. Stand warned..........................................stand advised! Should you not change course, other things will take place. Let no one return us to the past. We experienced a quarter century of turmoil and we cannot afford to take the country back."
I dare say that was the most earth-shattering public statement the then CDF made for it encompassed the entire dignity of the Ugandan people as tested against the all-too-familiar past projecting towards the future. In so few words, he prescribed an eternal dose for the common tendency in national leadership of taking two steps forwards and two backwards, something which understandably leads to revolutionary fatigue.
It’s just not feasible to keep doing and undoing things, adding and subtracting, overcoming hurdles only to do worse than those who came before. Things don’t work that way and somehow, that accounts for Africa’s backwardness. Never learning lessons!
Someone may say “but civilians have a right to exert themselves”. Granted! Who doesn’t have that right? Rationality must supersede emotionality, malice, sabotage and the hunt for low-cost popularity.
The population only has power as long as conditions are favourable to make collective decisions, for example, at an election but when that fails, there is no other way but to enforce working mechanisms, a dreadfully objectionable situation.
It’s so happens that Gen. Aronda is now dead and it may seem as if he went with all he stood for but that’s a big joke for he was never meant to be here forever. He is gone in body but his spirit subsists. His tranquil but stern approach to things will be perpetuated to fit and reflect the Uganda of the future. At least some of us are up to the task.
Aronda was such a smooth operator whose complete vision for Uganda will only remain known to very few of us for he was never one to romanticise and blow his own trumpet like some people whose only service is word value and sensationalism.
As we head deeper into electoral season, anybody attempting to sow politics of “Sodom and Gomorrah” should “stand warned, stand advised!”
You live on, Commander Jesus!
The writer is a member of the Commonwealth Writers Group
Civilians, stand warned, stand advised!