BY JOHN NAGENDA
It was Marie Antoinette (Maria Antonia), Queen of France, who has gone down in history as having said, â€œLet them eat cake!â€ â€” allegedly after being told the people had no bread.
This was around the time of the rampaging mobs of the so-called Reign of Terror, the French Revolution, who were in the process of cutting down the French aristocracy by means of the guillotine (sometimes referred to as Monsieur Guillotine by uncaring wags!).
No firm evidence exists that Antoinette in fact uttered the words, but since she herself lost her head to le Monsieur, in October 1793, nine months after her husband, his, as well as thousands of others, during the Terror, the statement has gained a certain flourish. Why not borrow it for the mob of Northern MPs, who have become so agitated over the non-retention of Ambassador JB Onen as deputy Secretary General of the East African Community, that they are threatening the North will secede from Uganda?
Mr Onen, a real gentleman, is a leading man of the Greater North, as it is sometimes called. It is most unlikely he would ever countenance the MPsâ€™ action. Indeed another Northerner (Greater Northerner if you prefer) on Monday wrote a Vision piece which it would be hard to surpass or even equal.
Justice Ralph W Ochan, a friend of many years, declaimed in elegant fashion where and how the parliamentarians were missing the point, giving chapter and verse, and stating that Onen, whom he well knew, would never be party to their petty squabbles. Ochanâ€™s piece was entitled: Ambassador Onenâ€™s recall is part of the rules of diplomatic service. He stated: â€œIt is a great pity that a successful career of an accomplished diplomat should be so misunderstood and dragged into the unsavoury waters of divisive politics.â€
Perhaps that is a sufficient caning for the â€œhonourableâ€ miscreants! But your columnist suggests a further measure. Let us not stand in the way of our MP friendsâ€™ secession, just as long as they leave our lands behind when they vamoose!
Very grim as the pictures were of the traffic accidents in which a couple of dozen victims perished on the same day, there was a pleasing sting in the tail.
Two of the buses which hideously snuffed out 19 passengersâ€™ lives belonged to the same company: Gateway Bus Company. They, and altogether 40 buses of the company, had by midweek been impounded and grounded and the companyâ€™s operations suspended. Screening of its drivers and inspection of its fleet would swiftly follow.
In a way this was closing the stable door after the horses had truly bolted. And we shall continue to read daily about other obscene accidents from elsewhere on our roads, and from other operators, but the fish first rots from the head, and Gateway is by far the largest in the land with over 100 vehicles.
By yesterday three smaller firms had been added to these: Jussy Tours, Northern Tours and Grace Coaches, bringing to 116 the buses grounded. It has taken a long time to come, but if the Police continue with their new well advertised moves to improve its act (including the current changing of the guard) then we can start applauding IGP Kayihura and his Force. (As they used to say on the BBC egghead programme, Mastermind: â€œIâ€™ve started so Iâ€™ll finishâ€; which admittedly suggested some rather more risquÃ© encounters!) Donâ€™t let up on a single vehicle carrying passengers, down to the last kamunye or boda boda: public taxis or motorcycles. Their drivers like to call themselves, Museveniâ€™s special troops, which is a laugh for a start! But one of the major problems faced by the Police, and other services, is the weakness of the law.
Those of criminal bent can, and continually do, run rings around it, and with impunity. When I was Chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, we hired sardonic Justice John Porter to rewrite some of our antiquated laws. The sooner the Attorney General/Minister of Justice, my old friend K Makubuya, enlists the help of the judge, and others like him, in this direction, the better for all of us.
The number of the daily killed and maimed on our roads long ago passed beyond what is tolerable in a civilised society. But hope survives â€œwhile thereâ€™s life in the old body yetâ€!
On Tuesday I read of a leader of one of the minor sports, like Table Tennis (or even jump kicking?) who was being roasted for not submitting his accounts from an official trip, and being threatened with legal measures. Roaster: none other than the National Council of Sport, in the form of its General Secretary Jasper Aligawesa, well known in this Column. It can only be a matter of timeâ€¦ Buy a centre seat for what, as night follows day, must surely follow!
And so to Thursday: the day I discussed on NTV my last weekâ€™s column, Shall The People Speak?, which dealt with presidential succession.
On Monday, The Observer had given its front page over to just the title: Nagenda calls for M7 heir. You donâ€™t have to be Messianic to feel an exhilaration that what was intended to be a starter to a nationâ€™s debate because of its crucial importance, had been off to such a satisfying starter!
Let me go higher: my readers will have read of the times I have just failed to kick the bucket. All I can say is: Thank God! Especially if a national debate is helped however little by that survival.