By Moses Walubiri
Leader of Opposition in the Eighth Parliament, Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, has described President Yoweri Museveni’s “bold step” to acknowledge dark episodes in the protracted anti-insurgency campaign in the Acholi sub-region as “one of the most significant message ever to come out of NRM celebrations.”
Speaking at the NRA/NRM 28th Liberation Day Anniversary celebrations at Mayuge district headquarters on Sunday, Museveni expressed shock at a litany of abuses committed against civilians by some rogue elements in NRA/UPDF, some of which went unreported.
Museveni decried the slur such abuses brought to the army, whose near impeccable disciplinary record and “correct line of organising people on a patriotic, non-sectarian basis” had come in handy in its successful guerrilla war. Prof. Ogenga Latigo being hosted on Urban Today program.PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
Among the “shameful” atrocities Museveni highlighted included the Mukura railway wagon incident, Bucoro pit incident, and others that came to light much later like that at Kanyum.
“He didn’t apologise in Acholi Land, but at a national celebration,” Ogenga said. He made the remarks while appearing on Vision Group's English TV Station, Urban Channel. “It’s like saying, “well, we made mistakes, and people suffered and died, but let us reconcile and move on,”he added.
Asked whether Museveni’s admission of some of the excesses of NRA/UPDF is an answer to Dr. Olara Otunnu’s clamor for a truth and reconciliation commission, the erstwhile Agago MP and current Vice President of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, was quick to differentiate the two.
“What Otunnu is calling for is a national process to admit that since independence, people who have held positions of authority have committed atrocities. It would be an exhaustive process that would bring closure to all incidents that have generated simmering anger and sometimes ethnic tensions,” Ogenga said.
Pertaining the timing of Museveni’s ‘apology’ and whether, coming 28 years down the road is not a tad too late, Ogenga was reluctant to view his statement using a political prism, although he acknowledged that NRM might reap political capital out of it.
“In the political realm, the NRM might reap political capital in Acholi because hearts will be softened, and once that happens, ‘seeds’ will germinate and grow,” Ogenga said.
“For an admission of this magnitude and given its importance in bringing closure to festering wounds in the hearts of our people, I believe it’s never too late,” Ogenga averred citing the Acholi aphorism, “a funeral never rots; only the body does.”
As to whether Uganda is still belaboured by an ethnic crisis despite many decades of attempt to forge a united country, the academic-turned politician drew on his training as an entomologist, alluding conflicts that have blighted post-independence Uganda, not to ethnic animus between different tribes, but to “conflict over power and access to resources.”
He admitted that there is still simmering bitterness in some sections of Acholi over losing the levers of power, revealing similar antipathy between Langis and Acholis over the latter’s role in the ouster of Dr. Milton Obote’s second government.
Obote was toppled in July 1985 by his disaffected Acholi senior army officers – Tito Okello and Bazilio Okello – with many opposition Langi politicians still quietly accusing the Acholis of double-crossing them.
“At the end of the day, we are still brothers,” Ogenga noted.
Ogenga also contends that a bright future beckons for Uganda “if president Museveni realizes that his time at the helm is drawing to a close and prepares for it.”
If, however, “the president decides to stay, and wither away,” the “vacuum created will be occupied by opportunists, plunging the country into chaos.”
“History shows that a post strongman era is always chaotic, because it creates fertile ground for opportunist to thrive. But I believe we have enough resources to live without conflict,” he opined.
The alleged excesses of NRA/UPDF have remained a touchy subject, always becoming an issue during election cycles.