The Observer (Kampala)

30 December 2012

Uganda: 2012's Notable Deaths,Tragedies and Triumphs

Now on the brink of a new year, the country writhed in the throes of death, disease and tragedy in the past 12 months.

The hand of death snatched leading luminaries: Professors Ssenteza Kajubi, George William Kakoma, Joseph Kakooza and the youthful MP Cerinah Nebanda, whose demise remains a combustible issue. It has been a year when the lethal viral haemorrhagic fevers, Ebola and Marburg, struck while nodding disease continued to devastate parts of northern Uganda.

The year was also interspersed with tragedy. Three MI-24 combat helicopters on their way to Baidoa, Somalia, crashed in the rugged Mt Kenya ranges, which resulted into the death of seven army officers. Boardroom executives in 2012 went a notch higher, stealing over Shs 50bn meant for victims of the LRA mayhem in northern Uganda.

And a highly embellished video, Kony 2012, which glossed over the issues of the brutal LRA insurgency, went viral. It was also a year when the maverick General David Tinyefuza had a name change to David Sejusa and was kicked out of a KCCA house by the Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi.

However, there was also a moment of triumph. The country had given up when athlete Stephen Kiprotich pleasantly jolted it out of pain by winning Uganda a gold medal at the Olympics after 40 years.

JANUARY:

In January, news of talks between the former FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye and his nemesis President Yoweri Museveni was received by Ugandans with a pinch of salt. Not surprisingly, the talks never took place. In fact, January marked a chaotic start to the year with opposition pressure group Activists for Change (A4C) relaunching protest rallies that saw key opposition figures like Kizza Besigye, Ingrid Turinawe (FDC chairperson, women league) and Kawempe mayor, Mubarak Munyagwa, brave police brutality and move in and out of prison.

Also in January, a three-day strike by Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) against high interest rates paralyzed business across the country. The month was capped by KCCA's director of physical planning, George Agaba, and a police constable Santos Komakech allegedly shooting and killing one person and injuring others in an eviction operation gone bad in Luzira, a Kampala suburb.

Whereas Komakech is still on remand in Luzira prison, Agaba is out on bail.

FEBRUARY:

From the chaos of January, February started in high gear, with MPs receiving Shs 103m each to buy personal vehicles. On the corruption front, February kicked off with the resignation of two ministers Syda Bbumba and Khiddu Makubuya, faulted for their roles in the questionable compensation of businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba to the tune of Shs 142bn.

MARCH:

In March, nodding disease became a political subject. Both Museveni and Besigye visited nodding disease victims at Mulago hospital. The children had been ferried from Kitgum by Woman MP Beatrice Anywar. Also Kony 2012, a short video created by Invisible Children, went viral on the internet drawing both outrage and praise from the public.

Then an Inspector of Police, John Michael Ariong, was killed in an opposition protest along Kafumbe-Mukasa road in Kampala. The state held Besigye and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago responsible. Pioneer Easy Bus started city operations following a strike by taxi drivers. Also in March, a 5,000- strong African Union force launched a fresh hunt for the notorious LRA and its elusive leader Joseph Kony in the jungles of Central African Republic (CAR).

APRIL, MAY, JUNE:

April started on a bad note with the death of Prof George William Kakoma, the composer of Uganda's national anthem. President Museveni appointed Irene Mulyagonja as the new IGG. Just like the start, April also ended on a bad note with the death of John Butime, former chairman of FDC, who had crossed to NRM.

May started on a dull note with the death of Prof Ssenteza Kajubi, an eminent educationalist and twice vice chancellor of Makerere University. On a happier note, one of LRA's dreaded commanders, 'Maj Gen' Caesar Achellam was captured in the jungles of CAR.

As May came to an end, the 25 Buganda riot suspects still in prison were freed by the High court after spending nearly three years on remand. June was majorly incident-free save for the reoccurrence of the Bududa landslides in which more than 18 people died.

JULY:

In July about 600 rag-tag DR Congo soldiers fled to Uganda through Bunagana after war broke out in the war-ravaged north-Kivu province. The fighting was attributed to M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda. As fighting continued in the eastern DRC, Uganda, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), called for talks between the protagonists.

In July, a rift bubbling below the radar came to the surface as President Museveni attempted to clip the powers of his erstwhile troubleshooter Amama Mbabazi believed to eye the presidency. The NRM lost the Bukoto South by-election after the ruling party's flag bearer, former ICT junior minister Alintuma Nsambu was trounced by DP candidate, Mathias Nsubuga.

Then dog-fights blighted the bidding process for the construction of the 660MW Karuma dam with allegations of bribery and kickbacks delaying the process. For the first time, media reports emerged about the missing principal accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Geoffrey Kazinda, as one of the biggest white-collar crimes in Uganda's history began to unravel.

Businessman Kato Kajubi was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 12-year-old Joseph Kasirye. To cap the month, the deadly Ebola struck again, leaving 14 dead in the district of Kibaale.

AUGUST:

Former Health minister, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, and junior Health minister, Alex Kamugisha, were acquitted by the Anti-Corruption court, while their colleague, also a former junior Health minister and Soroti Municipality MP, Mike Mukula, remains with case to answer. Stephen Kiprotich broke Uganda's 40-year-hoodoo to bring home a gold medal. The by-election maelstrom continued to rattle the ruling party as the NRM candidate, Rehema Muhindo, lost to Winnie Kiiza of FDC in Kasese.

On a Sunday evening, three MI-24 combat helicopters on their way to Baidoa, Somalia, crashed in the rugged Mt Kenya ranges, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions. Only one MI-17 utility helicopter landed safely in Garisa, Kenya. The President's brother, Gen Salim Saleh, was appointed to investigate the cause of the crash.

And a cabinet reshuffle returned old guards, Sam Kutesa, John Nasasira and Mwesigwa Rukutana who had stepped aside awaiting their trial in the Anti-Corruption court over the misuse of Shs 14bn during Chogm preparations. Young Turks Frank Tumwebaze and Richard Todwong were appointed to the dockets of the Presidency and Minister without Portfolio respectively.

During the same month, the President's son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and remained firmly at the helm of the elite Special Forces Group command. The acting Principal of the college of Business and Management Sciences, Prof John Ddumba-Ssentamu, was elected Makerere University Vice Chancellor, replacing Prof Venansius Baryamureeba.

Former Supreme court judge, Joseph Nyamihana Mulenga, succumbed to cancer. As eulogies poured in, Mulenga's judgments were remembered for irrevocably changing the Ugandan media landscape.

SEPTEMBER:

At 19 years, Proscovia Alengot entered the annals of history as the youngest MP in the country's history. She rode on the wave of sympathy following her father's death to become Usuk county MP. And about Shs 63bn from the ministry of Public Service was paid to 1,000 ghost pensioners, it emerged.

After more than three troubled years of boardroom battles, weak balance sheets, and stretching the patience of its clients to unimaginable limits, the Central Bank finally revoked the licence of the National Bank of Commerce owned by, amongst others, Premier Amama Mbabazi, ICT minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and businessman Amos Nzeyi.

The Constitutional court blocked the takeover of the management of National Bank of Commerce (NBC) until the substantive application challenging the move is heard and disposed of.

OCTOBER:

President Museveni fired two most senior Air-force officers after the Gen Salim Saleh-led inquiry into the August 12 military helicopters' crash handed over its report. The commander-in-chief redeployed Lt Gen Owoyesigire to the army general headquarters while Brig. Moses Rwakitarate was fired. At the ceremony to mark 50 years of the country's independence, a sense of euphoria swept through the Kololo Independence grounds as the Ugandan flag was raised, a re-enactment of October 9, 1962.

On the very day, the opulent lifestyle of the president came to the fore after government unveiled the two new presidential acquisitions; Shs 6 billion armoured Mercedes limousines. The death toll from an outbreak of the Marburg virus, a rare and highly contagious form of haemorrhagic fever closely related to the Ebola, rose to five in just four days. The developments came 16 days after Uganda was declared Ebola-free.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga stirred diplomatic waters on her official trip to Canada. She got involved in a spat with the host Foreign Affairs minister, John Baird, over the anti-Homosexuality bill. Key Western donors including Britain and Norway suspended aid to Uganda over graft in the Office of the Prime Minister.

The government denied UN claims that Uganda supports M23 rebels, who have been fighting the DR Congo government since April..

NOVEMBER:

An overwhelming majority of lawmakers vote in favour of a motion to suspend the embattled Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Pius Bigirimana. State Minister for Defence, Abubaker Jeje Odongo, claimed a UN report which said Police chief Kale Kayihura and the President's brother, Gen. Salim Saleh, offered military assistance to DR Congo's M23 rebels was written in bad faith.

A leaked copy of the October 12, 2012 report compiled by the UN Group of Experts accused several Ugandan officials including Gen. Saleh and Lt Gen Kayihura of providing political advice, technical and military assistance and facilitating M23's permanent presence in Kampala. President Barack Obama stomped to re-election victory, vanquishing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Toro Princess Ruth Komuntale walked down the aisle with her African American fiancé Christopher Thomas. DRC President Joseph Kabila rushed to Kampala for a crisis meeting with President Museveni barely hours after M23 rebels captured Goma, the commercial capital of eastern Congo's North Kivu province. Rwanda's Paul Kagame also arrived for talks.

Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, 54, is elected the second president of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), turning a new chapter in the history of the party which had been led by Dr Kizza Besigye for seven years since its inception in 2005. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga fled the august House during a bruising and chaotic oil debate.

DECEMBER:

The oil bill finally got the Parliamentary approval. President Museveni, on a visit to Russia, criticized the arrogance of Western countries and their "imperial" aggression in Africa, calling it a "big mistake". And alas! Cerinah Nebanda Arioru, the Butaleja district Woman Member of Parliament died.

Nebanda passed away at around 8pm on Friday in Nsambya hospital where she was rushed after collapsing. The furore over the cause of her death threatens to tear the country apart.

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