JANUARY 12, 2003 marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of Fr. Clement Kiggundu who was then editor of the defunct Catholic newspaper, MUNNO.
Fr Kiggundu was kidnapped, tortured, shot dead and his body burnt in his car by the state security agents during Aminâ€™s regime. His body was recovered from Namanve forest. The pathologist who carried out the postmortem on Kiggunduâ€™s charred body was also killed weeks later.
The priest who trained as a journalist in USA, was abducted two days after he published an editorial in then influential MUNNO criticising the regime for clamping down on freedom of the press and raising concern about the rampant disappearance and murder of prominent personalities. Kiggunduâ€™s article was quoted by the international press, which angered the Amin regime. Although the article cost him his life, no doubt Kiggundu died a patriot.
Fr. Kiggunduâ€™s murder proves that journalists and other Ugandans, not necessarily politicians or armed fighters, also contributed to the struggle for democracy in Uganda. Some even lost their lives. These patriots have not been recognised as national heroes probably because they were never in FRONASA or NRM/NRA.
Some politicians would want everyone to believe that only NRM/NRA fought against dictatorship in Uganda. While it is true that NRM/NRA and Fronasa played a significant role in the fight against the Amin and Obote dictatorships, it is also true that there were others who played a critical role in that struggle. It is grossly unfair for the NRM/NRA to claim all the credit.
At the time, anyone who dared to speak about Aminâ€™s atrocities was branded a â€˜traitorâ€™ and linked to the rebels (the Obotes) in Tanzania. Even today Movement critics are branded â€˜traitors, Multipartyists or rebels collaboratorsâ€™. It is a misconception to regard every government opponent as a â€˜traitorâ€™.
At times opposing a president or a government is patriotic. As the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt put it: â€œPatriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official..... It is unpatriotic not to oppose him (president) to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.â€
Uganda journalists can now write about governmentâ€™s excesses without fear that they would be tortured to death. But there are still serious threats to press freedom in the country.
There are still anti-press laws; some inherited from the colonial era. Often journalists are accused of being â€˜unpatrioticâ€™ when they expose government excesses.
The latest crackdown against Bimeeza and so-called community radios on a flimsy excuse that they are illegal is clear evidence that for the press, it is â€˜Not Yet Uhuruâ€™.
Opponents not always traitors