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Sabiti’s political path shaped his world view

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd May 2004 03:00 AM

Jack Chrissy Sabiti, the Member of Parliament for Rukiga County, talks passionately about the folly of the proposed constitutional amendment to lift presidential term limits popularly known as Third Term Project

By Asuman Bisiika

Jack Chrissy Sabiti, the Member of Parliament for Rukiga County, talks passionately about the folly of the proposed constitutional amendment to lift presidential term limits popularly known as Third Term Project. The forceful fervour with which he talks against the Third Term Project may drive you to think that Jack has a personal thing with President Museveni, who is thought to be the immediate beneficiary of the limitless terms.

But Sabiti says he has no beef with any one. “It is a matter of principle. You see I grew up in a very orderly situation that shaped my attitude to public behaviour. I do not have anything personal with President Museveni although I don’t trust him on matters of principle. He is unreliable,” says the almost clean-shaven MP.

My story:
I was born on April 27, 1948 at Mparo Dispensary in Rukiga County. My late father was called Mr. Festo Kikoko. My late mother, Tabitha Bakainaga, was a professional nurse. At about five years, I went to live with my maternal grandfather who was county chief. The period I spent with my grandfather influenced my attitude on public life. Grandpa was a strict and principled person.

My father was parish chief.
I attended Nyakishoroza Primary School after which I joined Kigezi High School. From Kigezi High, I went to Old Kampala Government School from where I joined Makerere University to pursue a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. I was at Makerere with people like MP Ben Wacha, Central Bank Governor, Tumusime Mutebile; minister of internal Affairs, Ruhakana Rugunda; state minister, Sam Kutesa; former MP, Elly Karuhanga; MP Ephraim Kamuntu and Topher Twesige, currently teaching at London School of Economics. At Makerere, I was involved in student politics.

MP Ephraim Kamuntu corroborates this. “Jack Sabiti and I were at Makerere University at about the same time. Although I can’t remember what position he held as a student leader, I can confirm that he was active in student politics,’ says Kamuntu. MP Kamuntu says that he knows Jack Sabiti as a typical mukiga who says things as they are. “He is a straightforward man who calls a spade by its real name”.

After graduation in 1974, I joined the public service and was posted to the office of the president where I worked until 1977. Thereafter, I went to Delhause University in Canada for Masters Degree in Public Administration. In 1980, after consultations with some colleagues like Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, we formed the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) during a conference held at city hall. The people who formed the UPM came from diverse socio-political origins; civil servants like me, students, members of the civil society and politicians.

I remember very well the name UPM was proposed by Ephraim Kamuntu. When time came to elect leaders, there was some sort of confusion. Some people did not want Museveni to be elected as our leader and protested by storming out. Some of the people who left the meeting were Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, Yona Kanyomozi, Ephraim Kamuntu, Akena pojok and many others. I was one of the people who remained behind in support of Museveni.

Kamuntu says he stormed out because he was disappointed by the militant character the UPM was taking. “For instance, Museveni was elected as our leader just because of his military experience. So, that is why some of us left,” says Kamuntu.

Former minister Bidandi Ssali, who was the co-ordinator of UPM conference, confirms Sabiti’s participation in the formation of UPM. He also corroborates that Kamuntu, Yona Kanyomozi, Akena Pajok and Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere were one of the people who stormed out.
Them UPM selected me to stand in Kabale East (present day Rukiga County). I lost the elections. After the elections, some of us remained in Kampala until UPC started harassing us. When the harassment became unbearable, we left for exile in Kenya. Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, the late Toro King David Kaboyo and I left for Kenya in my car. From 1981 to 1982, I worked as a management consultant to various firms in Nairobi. In 1982, I went to Libya for military training for one year and a half. I was in Libya with people like Maj. Amanya Mushega, Bakulumpagi, Maj. Butime and Col. Bogere. We were about 200.

While the training camp in Libya, a debate on character of the army we were forming arose. Some colleagues and I felt that the recruitment exercise lacked a national character. Given the nature of the military, this caused confusion. When Eriya Kategaya came to address us in Libya, I was identified as the ring leader of the people questioning the character of the recruitment process. I was arrested and detained for one month. I later rejoined the training and graduated with the others.

When we came back to Uganda in 1983, about half of us joined Andrew Kayira’s Uganda Freedom Movement and established a camp at Kisisita in Mukono. Our Libya-trained group reorganised the UFM. I was a captain in UFA. After Tito Okello coup, all the fighting groups were invited to form a government.

I led the UFM delegation to the Tito Okello government. Museveni refused to join the government and continued fighting. As a country, we lost the opportunity to end insecurity and reorganise the politics of Uganda just because Museveni wanted to win power.

Q: But honestly did you believe that Tito Okello and the armed groups he invited to join the government would settle the political problems of the country? The circumstances seem to have called for a clear victory by one group that would operate with confidence to reorganise the country.

A: Yes, indeed such a clear victory did take place in 1986. But look at what we are now. Political stubbornness, the endless war in the north and uncertainty. Let me tell you this: All the groups were armed and it is the military strengths of these groups that would have restrained Tito Okello or any other group from reneging on the arrangements.

Q: Why are you against Third Term?

A: I was in the constituent assembly that made the Constitution. All the delegates were against people overstaying in power and we all thought having presidential term limits would solve that problem. So, our thinking is that the call for lifting term limits is aimed at serving President Museveni’s selfish interest of overstaying in power.

And yet behind the façade of the political tough talking, Jack Chrissy Sabiti has a soft spot for his immediate family. He is married to Stella with four children. The children are Rita, Jason, Moses, and the last-born Thabita who is in S.6. One might need to know that Jack Sabiti comes from an aristocratic pedigree. His father was a parish chief while his mother’s father was a county chief.

But his recalcitrance comes a long way. He led a strike in a primary school protesting the poor teaching methods of a teacher. Of course, he was punished but he did not regret his strike action because the teacher was eventually shifted from teaching P.6 Arithmetic to lower classes.

At Kigezi High School, he also participated in another strike. Then of course the politico-military strike in the training camp in Libya. That is Jack Chrissy Sabiti for you.

Sabiti’s political path shaped his world view

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