How do we make any tribe in Uganda feel safe when it’s former son or daughter leaves State House instead of being pursued as we have so often seen
Dr Martin M. Lwanga
Following the murder of a young man Arnold Ainebyona and on reading in one daily paper of July 11, 2019, his Dad attributing it to tribalism, which I personally think was an overstretch, I felt though I need to share something to put matters into perspective.
But before all I want to pass on my condolences to the Arnold’s parents and family. Arnold went to my former school, Budo, for two years, as I did. Almost all Budonians will agree that the paradoxes of tribal animosities that pervade Uganda was totally a shock to most of us when we got out. In that school I met and made lifelong friends with Ugandans from all over, only to find later my nation much cut, often violently along tribal lines. How is this?
Ever since the creation of the nation of Uganda there has always been that tribe we love to hate and comes to pay a price later. Initially it was the Baganda who were perceived as having been favored by the British colonists. In fact, UPC though it eventually allied herself for the short term goal of winning State House with Buganda KY from the Catholic DP, was basically an assembly of anti- Buganda nationalists, and once their leader, Prime Minister Obote, had full command he did not hesitate to level them. The Baganda buoyed by their colonial successes had been most wary of independence and her parliament the Lukiko declared Buganda independent in December 1961, which didn’t go well with the rest of the country.
The 1966 Obote led coup resulted into hundreds of Baganda losing their lives. Many were ordinary subjects who rushed to the defense of their besieged king (which would repeat itself in November, 2016 when the palace of the Bakonzo king was besieged too). After 1966 and the subsequent abolition of Buganda monarch and others in the south the hate tribe now turned to the Northern alliance of Lango/ Acholi, in power.
An attempt by Obote to get rid of the commander of the army, Gen Idi Amin, who was accidentally from Kakwa/Nubian heritage and feeling alienated had started to recruit a private army largely of his tribesmen, backfired when the semi illiterate soldier suddenly took over the reins of government in 1971.
Immediately as the Baganda rejoiced and other ethnicities that had felt suppressed by Obote and his UPC government, a purge of the Acholi/ Langi started within the army. In some of these instances there were actual massacres with innocent and apolitical soldiers being rounded up and executed in cold blood, details of which came to light with those who managed to survive.
There is something here I want to address. The majority of Lango/ Acholi soldiers were paying a price but for the folly of their tribesman, who was safely away ensconced in Tanzania.
Then as we all know in 1979 the Idi Amin regime fell, after a war, and just as had happened before, now the Kakwa/ Nubian were hotly pursued. As Gen Amin had placed them in leadership positions with a number amassing wealth they had since become the hate tribe. I once visited a school in Arua where I got to understand locals had been rounded up and executed in revenge of what their tribesmen had done soon after Amin fell, quite similar to the genocide that later took place in Rwanda. Actually many fled over to Democrat Republic of Congo as refugees. Their crime: belonging to an ethnicity linked to a former head of state, who was now safely and coolly away in Saudi Arabia.
In 1980 Milton Obote re-emerged as President. As almost all the Baganda were united in their opposition it was only convenient for the armed guerrilla resistance that followed his disputed victory to take root in the heart of their region, Luwero. The fighting that followed resulted into hundreds of loss of largely innoncent and quite apolitical Baganda peasants, caught in between. The victims as usual being the most innocent.
The fall of the Obote government in 1985 was largely precipitated due to the perception of the Acholi being sidelined in the army, yet the bulk of them were at the frontline of the guerrilla war, loosing lives to keep someone of a different tribe in power. In 1986 the NRA overthrew the Tito Okello Lutwa government and what followed was a hot pursuit of the Northern soldiers who resisted alongside Eastern supporters, especially with the advent of Alice Lakwena and her disciple Joseph Kony.
The war for the NRM to entrench herself in power, is the longest ever, in this county’s bloody history, is the most traumatic as it certainly led to the loss of hundreds of lives, largely from the North and East. In all these cases the victims have largely been poor peasants who are caught in these violent exchanges.
There is something here we have to note. Whenever leaders of one hated government fall, because people have come to perceive the leader’s tribe as being favored or her taking advantage of its power and exploiting others, those leaders simply pick up, and take to the comfort of overseas. Yet the locals are the ones left behind to deal with the blows of their misallocation. The most innocent of Ugandans are always paying a stiff price, yet they could have hardly had anything to do with the political structure that makes them become so hated.
How do we resolve this! Why have we ended up with a sad situation here where an accidental murder between a shopper and security guard is quickly sensationalized as tribally motivated?
How do we make any tribe in Uganda feel safe when it’s former son or daughter leaves State House instead of being pursued as we have so often seen.
I think we should all be asking ourselves these questions and putting together all manner of stops. Could we, among others, consider what is being done in Church of Uganda today where there is apparently not only a strict term- age limit but also there is encouragement of regional rotation of leadership!
Can we all just pull ourselves and agree that the next Head of State should be from the Eastern region, who have never produced a Head of state and pretty soon, allow the wheel to move around, all to minimize the danger of purely innocent people being cruelly victimized for being suspected they stood all along to gain from the long tenure of someone allied to their tribe but in reality they had never met nor directly benefited from!
The writer is the Dean of Faculty of Business & Administration, Uganda Christian University, Mukono