God, how I hate snivellers! When Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi stood up in parliament to brief it on the latest from Bunia, you would have bet your bottom shilling some Hons would immediately set up a squawk about our being there in the first place!
And they did, conveniently setting aside the fact that we were there at the behest of the Secretary General of the United Nations, to help keep the peace there.
Someone has to do that job, and in lieu of meaningful UN forces, it was rightly decided that Uganda be asked (I mean, look at the alternatives!). And Mbabazi made an excellent fist of the supplementary reasons why we took Bunia last week.
What would these interesting parliamentarians do upon discovering that the rebel trio of Messrs Mande, Tyuuzide
and Wenezide â€“â€“ or to be less facetious, colonels Mande, Kyakabale and Muzoora â€“â€“ were going to use rebel Congolese UPCs (appropriately-named) to attack Uganda?
They would likely say we should get out of Congo pronto, or that we should negotiate with the colonels in a neutral country under supervision â€“â€“ which they are also saying about the talks with the fiend Kony. This type of attitude
makes your columnist puke.
Yesterday, it was given a sharp stick in the eye by spirited State Minister of Defence Ruth Nankabirwa, who announced that the UPDF was â€œnot about to leave Bunia.â€ Answering US Ambassador to Congo Aubrey Hooks, who had earlier said the UPDFâ€™s withdraw from Ituri was necessary for â€œrestoration of calmâ€, Nankabirwa said:
â€œWe hope he visited this troubled area called Ituri. We hope he did not make his statement while seated in Kinshasa. We hope he talked to MONUC. His statement calling for our withdraw is very premature.â€
Incidentally, a charge of sensationalism can be laid against Visionâ€™s Wednesday headline, â€œUSA tells UPDF to Quit Bunia.â€ If it was the US, the message would have been delivered by the ambassador to Uganda, Jimmy Kolker; Mr Hooks was on a frolic of his own.
In addition to Nankabirwa, Brigadier Kale Kaihura, the no-nonsense UPDF chief political commissar, talking from Bunia, warned UPC (Union of Patriotic Congolese) to leave airports and surrounding areas considered a strategic threat to Uganda.
Of the rebel colonel trio who were planning to use them to attack Uganda alongside their Peopleâ€™s Redemption Army (PRA), Kaihura said: â€œObviously with PRA, we are going to fight them. That one I can tell you, and we have legitimate reasons for doing that.â€
He will do a fine job, but I confess to a pang of regret that a newspaper report said General David Tinyefuza would not be the leader. He has the experience from former missions, and in any case he should get out and about more!
A last word from our Banyarwanda relations. Their spokesman was reported as saying that Uganda was using Interahamwe in the area; he is clearly in cohorts with the unstable Mrs Besigye. But it raises interesting possibilities.
Was he saying the Rwandese use of the Hema UPC was related to the lunatic idea that Uganda could work with the Hutu Interahamwe? Such is the use to which Mrs Besigyeâ€™s loose mouth can be put. It is no joke.
When the same spokesman said of Uganda that we were â€œscaredâ€, a very Kinyarwanda thing to say, Ugandaâ€™s lips remained sealed, as promised at Lancaster House. However much Rwanda goads us, we shall keep to that agreement. But scared? I donâ€™t think so!
Now the Great Ceasefire. Many of us were dubious whether Konyâ€™s announcement on the subject was anything more than a hoax. It had happened too many times for realistic people to get excited. But nevertheless hope should always spring eternal, no matter how many rebuffs suffered.
The view was, Why not? If it happens and a permanent peace established, we would all be winners, especially the poor innocent Acholi people whose lives have been decimated, mostly by one of their own. And if it did not work? Well, what did you lose in the attempt?
At the moment of writing, meetings between the two sides have not taken off at a serious level. Even those who dislike and do not trust this government would admit that the failure to meet cannot be laid at the governmentâ€™s door. Most people in fact have praised President Museveni for agreeing to the talks; it is a plain fact that he put his negotiation team together more than six months ago.
To this day, the other side remains unnamed! If it is true that Kony killed 10 of his top lieutenants this week, including the luckless James Opoka, his caution on choosing, and naming his negotiation team makes some kind of sense; for imagine the decimation if, say, nine of the team were now lying in their graves! Apparently, their crime was to try and join hands with the Reform Agenda. Much as I laugh at this organisation, killing people because they wanted to work with it is surely wrong!
Apart from worrying how the weapons inspectors would ever get out of Iraq if/when the war starts (and thankfully March 13 came and peacefully went), I only have two stories to tell on the subject. My old friend, Nobel winner Wole Soyinka, said of President Bush: â€œThe present occupant of the White House is one of the most dangerous fanatics ever to bestride the earth.â€ And I was supposed to be rude! And of US retired General Scwartzkopf on France (whose stand on Iraq I support), â€œGoing to war without France is like going deer-hunting without your accordion.â€
UPDFâ€™s mission in Bunia demystified