The Observer (Kampala)

15 January 2013

Uganda: Ssemujju Nganda - Why Has Everybody Turned Against Mzee?

In 1994, while in senior five, I was expelled from my hostel at Masaka Secondary School, after picking a quarrel with a teacher who caught me red-handed with a forbidden item - a radio set.

I was not the only student with a radio but the teacher zeroed down on me. This offence attracted a maximum penalty which was expulsion. And I was indeed expelled.

Masaka SS is both a day and boarding school. The person who handed down the punishment, Hajji Adam Kitenda, was/is like a parent to me but he had to follow the regulations.

I packed my bags and pitched camp at the home of my auntie, Ms Mariam Nandawula, about three miles from the school. It is here that I began life as a day scholar, walking three miles to school everybody. After a few nights here, I boarded a taxi to Kampala. This taxi nearly ended my life when it collided with a Bedford truck at the junction where the road to Mpigi town joins the Kampala highway.

I was rushed to Sayidina Abubaker hospital after sustaining a broken leg. After receiving treatment, I returned to my auntie's home at the village called Buculo in Masaka. So unlucky was I that about three weeks later, some thugs secretly sneaked into our home and made off with all my belongings. I was the only victim of this night theft.

My mother, Hajjat Sophia Nalwoga, came to visit me. After consoling me for all what had happened to me, it was time to answer some few questions.

"I have 12 children, how come it is you in trouble all the time?" went the first questions. "Do you realize that you have actually become the problem?" This was her second question.

And when I sat down after her departure, I discovered there were one or two things that were wrong with me. That story comes fresh each time I face or see someone facing a multiplicity of problems. President Yoweri Museveni has unfortunately lost his mother Kokundeka, maybe she would have given him similar counsel as he appears to face a multiplicity of problems.

First, Col Dr Kizza Besigye is organizing walk-to-work protests thereby destabilizing the country. Mr Museveni unleashes the full state power to deal with Col Besigye and his other opposition groups.

Besigye is nearly killed at Wandegeya roundabout by a Police officer Gilbert Arinaitwe. Then it is religious leaders especially Kampala Bishop Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Bishop Zac Niringiye and Rev Fr Gaetano Batanyenda. For asking him to give up power in 2016, Museveni and his henchmen label Bishop Lwanga a saboteur and a rebel.

Now it is NRM rebels, Parliament and its Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and the media. According to Museveni, Uganda is yet to develop because Parliament is blocking and failing his industrialization efforts. The big man is tired of begging Parliament and will no longer do it.

At the same time, he has issued a stern warning against media for failing to give adequate coverage to his development programmes and, especially radio stations, insulting him. If you watched his New Year press briefing, you know what I am talking about.

And for Parliament, he is already meeting the about 250 NRM MPs in Kyankwanzi where they should decide very serious matters of the state including giving away a part of Mabira forest. Unfortunate for Uganda, Museveni has already lost his mother and has detached himself from elders with capacity to give him wise counsel. His political company now includes people like ministers and MPs Frank Tumwebaze, Richard Todwong, Kenneth Omona, Peter Ogwang and Hatwib Katooto.

To Museveni, the problem is other people and not him. After dealing with Besigye, he now has started on his party members and I doubt MPs like Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Theodore Ssekikubo, Muhammad Nsereko, Vincent Kyamadidi and Wilfred Niwagaba will survive him. The NRM/A will in 10 days mark 27 years since seizing power but a quick roll call shows you that those who helped Museveni capture power have been thrown away.

Only blind loyalists like Gen Elly Tumwine and others from Museveni's ethnic group, the Gen Sejusas, have remained part of the equation. And nobody suggests that people like Brig Andrew Lutaaya or Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza should not leave the stage but how come Mr Museveni who is older than them is still around? What is so special with Gen Museveni, Gen Sejusa, Gen Tumwine and Gen Salim Saleh?

This country needs young and energetic people who are not encumbered by history to move it forward. That is why they have all turned against Mzee. It is not because they hate him but the need to sort out their future has beckoned. Instead of criminalizing free speech, Mzee must know he has aged.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

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