8 April 2019

Uganda: Gen Kyaligonza, Your Language About Parliament Is Undiplomatic


Several media outlets have carried stories of Uganda's Ambassador to Burundi, Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza making uncharitable remarks against the institution of Parliament. Gen Kyaligonza, called a news conference to react to a motion by Parliament urging government to reprimand him over an incident with a traffic officer.

Before all else, it must come out very clearly that Parliament is not beyond reproach. Therefore, citizens are free to voice their criticisms on how it does business.

However, such disagreements or criticism should be intended to build, to correct and to guide not to weaken Parliament. There is no robust democracy anywhere without a strong Parliament. Any democrat at heart ought to do anything within their means to strengthen this institution. Leaders like Gen Kyaligonza have a bigger burden to bequeath a strong Parliament to the current generation and to posterity.

It cannot be Gen Kyaligonza, a diplomat who was vetted by this Parliament, to turn to the press and use uncharitable language against Parliament knowing certainly well that our children who are following these discourses are listening.

Gen Kyaligonza failed the true test of leadership - that of staying indignation from clouding judgment or filtering through speech in the kind of language as manifested in the choice of words he employed.

Diplomacy, which is Gen Kyaligonza's work at present, demands simple etiquette in speech and general expression, including when the occasion demands candid talk. That can still happen within the boundaries of civility and decorum expected of an elder like Gen Kyaligonza.

Parliament being the guardian of the Constitution, which guarantees Gen Kyaligonza's rights to be heard, cannot stand in his way to seek an audience for purposes of making his case heard. He knows only too well that those who want to be heard by Parliament do not have to resort to holding condemnable news conferences such as the one he had, but being a diplomat, a high ranking member of the armed forces, more decency was expected in his approach.

The Office of the Speaker is open for individual or group petitions.

The public has suffered a great disservice arising from Gen Kyaligonza's actions and comments at the news conference, and with it dragging to disrepute, the name of the institution where he is currently stationed. One can only hope that he takes time to reflect on the impact of his words on the overall efforts government is making to public institutions.

Gen Kyaligonza has been upbeat about his role in the fight against impunity of the past, which should make him to come across as a senior citizen for whom school going children should stand in respect.

But that cannot be guaranteed when the children, who follow and are inspired by happenings in the public sphere, get to read the newspapers supplied to their schools only to find a name so familiar in the history books for revolutionary struggles throwing insults and derogatory remarks at one of the institutions he says he fought to restore.

The children in schools just like other Ugandans, will be puzzled by the double standards and own goals Gen Kyaligonza is scoring against himself. Did Gen Kaligonza sacrifice all his youthful years fighting to build a "stupid" Parliament?

Clearly, his choice of words have already betrayed his stated purpose-that of claiming to get an opportunity to be heard.

Instead, the yet clearest indication of his real intentions was that he wanted to intimidate, and blackmail this democratic institution, whose membership is directly elected by the people of Uganda. Let us resist the urge to build powerful individuals while weakening institutions.

By treating Parliament in the manner that he did, he is actually demeaning the people of Uganda who in their collective wisdom, constituted Parliament.

The question, therefore is, is it Ugandans that Gen Kyaligonza is despising given that the MPs he is insulting were voted by the citizens? An elder who has been in public service for long, is christened a statesman. Therefore, Mzee Kyaligonza should act as a statesman.

To become a public servant is the easier part, but to become a respected statesman comes with self-respect, humility and making yourself to be the reference point for wisdom, compassion and dignity.

This comes to the fore, especially when such a statesman is challenged or his actions become the subject of public anger, fury and controversy.

Mzee Kyaligonza also questioned Parliament's role in his appointment as an ambassador. But he should be informed that the appointment of top public officials in government is a shared responsibility between the President and Parliament. It is a constitutional command which the head of State has diligently observed.

Why did he have to subject himself to the scrutiny of the same institution he is berating, and better still, ask for a right to be heard by the same institution he says is of no consequence.

To build public institutions, we all need to mortify our egos and commit ourselves to pursue public good more than personal interests.

Mr Obore is the Director Communication and Public

Affairs, Parliament of Uganda. [email protected]


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