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United Nations, we told you so!

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th May 2003 03:00 AM

AFTER Uganda’s withdrawal from Ituri (as usual questioned by one of our neighbours) it did not take any time for the UN’s crocodile tears to flow. Reason?

By John Nagenda

AFTER Uganda’s withdrawal from Ituri (as usual questioned by one of our neighbours) it did not take any time for the UN’s crocodile tears to flow. Reason?

As it had been clearly apparent to any thinking person, if Uganda withdrew it would leave a dangerous vacuum in which the Lendu and the Hema would quickly be at each other’s throat - which is exactly what is happening. This being the middle of the Dark Continent the UN deployed 100 Uruguayans (for God’s sakes!) in suspiciously clean and spruce uniforms which had never seen battle.

“N’ebyembi bisekerwa,” as we say in Luganda, “Even bad news can cause laughter.” How we laughed! And rightly; it seems at the first whiff of gunpowder, the gallant troops relocated to Kasese — much better air, not so much creepy forest, friendly Uganda, etc. I cannot find it in my heart to blame them; a hundred was a joke in the first place. In My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison “sang”, Oh why can’t a girl be more like a boy? In the same spirit we can sigh, Oh why can’t Africa be more like Europe?

You would never dream of sending a hundred Uruguayan troops (this is not to decry Uruguay) to stand between ferocious Bosnians, for example.

When Uganda did not leave Bunia on the first appointed day, BBC’s young Willie Ross nearly swallowed his tongue in excitement at this. You waited in vain to hear him raise the crucial query of what would happen to the poor tribesmen they would leave behind when they went. Well now perhaps he knows, as do his listeners. Indeed his fellow BBC correspondent Mark Dummett said in Kinshasa that “the most recent fighting was the scenario everyone feared once the Ugandans withdrew”. Everyone except the Security Council, obviously.

* * *
This column is not a great believer in hyperbole. So when it says we, meaning the Movement, are in danger of boxing ourselves in a corner, of potentially tearing ourselves to shreds, it is because the tell-tale warnings are clear.

Ever since NEC and the Movement National Conference came up with some recommendations, chief of which was the lifting of the two-term limit on the presidency, the rumbles in the Movement have grown rather louder than a starving man’s tummy within range of a rich banquet! It would be most satisfying if all this could be put down to a great hunger for democracy And in some cases this must obviously be true.

But sometimes I wonder. There has now grown up, in and around parliament, a disaffected collection of people whose intention seems to be to harry and snap at the heel of the Movement Government at every turn. Some of them no doubt seek to even old scores. Others feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are “on the outside looking in”.

Of course there are those who see wrongs which they want rectified immediately or else watch the Movement disintegrate. But how to go about it? When I see the new spring in the step of the multipartyist leaders, who until recently have given a good imitation of shambling wrecks, I know they are smelling blood in the water. Let us disappoint them again, by closing ranks forthwith.

Many people, whether they have held meetings of a hundred Movementists or not, are people of substance whichever way you cut it. They cannot be wished away on a puff of wind. But they should also remember that often
you are judged by the company you keep; it is not necessary to paint yourself in the colours of those who have gone beyond repair! But right now the Movement’s “big beasts” should thrash out how best to bring good people back into the fold. Pride should not come into it, or inflammatory language. But the Movement must talk, talk, talk.

There is no question at all in my mind that if our Movement dies, Uganda, this jewel which has cost so much to bring round, dies with it. We know the opposition, after all! And to start the unravelling because of the (theoretical) two-term presidential limit, when the elections are a thousand days away? Perish the thought!

* * *
This is a story that will outrage lovers of animals and of justice in equal measure. On 17 December 2002, a criminal by the name of Lomunamoe Ilukol came before His Worship Ssalaamu Ngobi Godfrey, Magistrate Grade 1 Kotido Moroto. The charges were grave: Unlawful hunting, Unlawful killing of a wild animal in a wildlife conservation area, Unlawful possession of a trophy.

These were all contrary to sections of the Uganda Wildlife Statute. Under the Firearms Act he was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. With these he killed two elephants which were minding their own business.

He pleaded guilty to all charges and was duly convicted. Over to His Worship: On the firearms charge he sentenced the killer to a fine of 10,000 shillings (which is about a sixth of the cost of a good goat) or a term of six weeks in jail. He paid. Over the actual killing he gave him a caution and sent him on his way. He could have been fined 30,000 to three million shillings, or jailed for six months, or both, for killing one elephant.

This magistrate’s next stage up, and I shudder from top to toe, could be a Chief Magistrate
somewhere near you. How prescient of Dickens to write, “the law is a ass”. How can we put it stronger in this case?

United Nations, we told you so!

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