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The interview and after

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th September 2011 03:00 AM

NOBODY, least of all your Columnist, whose interview it was, would announce following it the world stood still! Or even that the kingdom, say, of Bunyala (a very small one) tottered. But, judging by the numerous telephone, email, sms and face to face messages I received, an “event took place” of some import.

NOBODY, least of all your Columnist, whose interview it was, would announce following it the world stood still! Or even that the kingdom, say, of Bunyala (a very small one) tottered. But, judging by the numerous telephone, email, sms and face to face messages I received, an “event took place” of some import.

By John Nagenda

NOBODY, least of all your Columnist, whose interview it was, would announce following it the world stood still! Or even that the kingdom, say, of Bunyala (a very small one) tottered. But, judging by the numerous telephone, email, sms and face to face messages I received, an “event took place” of some import.

I had been interviewed by my previous bete noire, the Sunday Monitor, about recent Ugandan events, especially as they affect me. On Saturday the early edition of the Sunday edition hit the Kampala streets. I gasped and let out an involuntary oath. Its headline, which occupied more than half of the front page, went: Museveni is just an autocrat—Nagenda. Taken at face value that meant that I thought the President was just that and nothing more, or less!

Later I was told that the edition’s editor had added the word ‘just’ merely to balance the page’s look. Well, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em [children]”, to recall a British comedy series of the ‘70s! After I immediately complained, the paper removed “just” and apologised the next day.

Those who want to reprise the drama can read the relevant Monitor editions, which followed. But ‘drama’ it shouldn’t be, especially for those aware of the Movement tenets of open discussion, which hark back to Bush War days (’80-’86). That said, following criticism at, and of, the very top, amazement when it unavoidably came, could also be understood, for it is not something that happens daily.

As if ordained, just as I wrote that, a friend phoned to say one must not take the risk to be misunderstood. When I replied, “Of course not”, he persisted, “No you must not try to be misunderstood.” He had a point there: why be too cavalier in approach? But, on the other hand, political correctness can easily submerge a stark truth; and is that better?

What was especially gratifying, indeed heart-warming, was the avalanche of messages, appreciating the interview for its directness. Those responding came from all sorts. Most were Movementists, some from the highest reaches, and all referred to how healthy it was to have such open discussions and criticisms. It was endemic to the Movement and kept it along correct lines. But, as my friend was saying, self-posturing could ruin the noble intention of passing on the message. Point taken!

Interestingly enough, from those ex-Movementists who had dispersed into other Parties, some of them very good friends, I heard not a word. Obviously they were furious that this field of criticism, which they had currently annexed for their own, was now being invaded from within the Movement itself. How we laughed! But not all of them were. Columnist Muniini Mulera wrote a most kind and respecting piece in the Monitor, not for the first time, about me. He said I was the most passionate supporter of the President and others should reflect on this. Even more staggeringly, Norbert Mao, Democratic Party Leader, phoned and said he was bursting with rage at Tamale Mirundi, Acting Press Secretary to the President. (In my interview I had called Mao, for whom I had had big political expectation, “childish once he got to the top” of his Party.) But now he was saying, “How does this fellow write about you in this way?” “But Mao, I termed you childish in the interview!” “Doesn’t matter, that was like a Coach slapping his footballer to get better results,” said Mao.

Who exactly is Mr Mirundi? A Lawyer friend sent me an sms after Mirundi’s outburst against me in the papers: “Mark Twain must have been talking about Mirundi when he said, ‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.’” There’s an even earthier description of Mirundi in a Local word: Muyaaye, difficult to translate, but perhaps Loiterer comes nearest. People have added, in his case, Ssabayaaye, meaning Monarch of the Bayaaye. Without shame he referred to Presidential Advisers thus: “…the President in most cases appoints people… when he is told of their financial difficulties, including inability to pay children’s school fees.”

This drives me to state the following, which might strike some as vulgar: in 15 years’ working for the President as Senior Presidential Adviser, I have sought his help only twice, and both times got it: for a Cancer operation,

$15,000; and towards bills for heart problems, GBP 4,000.) As it happens, years ago when Mirundi was scrambling town streets for a crust, he begged me to lend him money for his son’s studies at Makerere, which I did. Did he pay me back? Are you kidding?!

Worse still, was when Monitor equated Mirundi with State House, as in the headline: “State House says Nagenda is frustrated”. My title is: In Charge, Media & Public Relations, State House; additionally Adviser to the President in both fields.

Something must be done to this person, so embarrassing to President and Nation alike every time he opens his mouth. Forget me; he has outraged Leaders on all sides, whether of Religion, Parliament, Political and Civil Matters.

To clean the mouth I’ll finish on WikiLeaks. When I recall whisky-fuelled nights with various Ambassadors, Good God I shudder to imagine when and how I will be leaked!



The interview and after

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