Uganda: NRM Primaries - When Liberators Overstay Their Welcome, They Soon Become Thieves

20 September 2020

One fine evening, some month in 1980, about 9 O'clock, three Tanzanian soldiers paid us a visit on Plot 240A, Nile Avenue, Jinja; and it wasn't to say hello. We had two guests in the house that night, one of whom learnt an excellent lesson in mathematics and logic. The first guest was innocent Mr Byekwaso was a good friend of Daddy and he had come for a 'sleepover'. Nothing wrong with that.

It is the second guest who has probably never forgiven himself, for he could have been killed. Mr Kabigi is the brother of Perusi, wife of Uncle Andrew Changha, bless his soul, elder brother of my father. He was in town for a workshop of some kind; but had chosen to stay with us, so as to save on hotel expenses.

Since April 1979, Uganda had been under the control of the Tanzanian army that ousted Idi Amin. But the 'liberators', as we called them, were a mixture of the nice and nasty, served on the same plate. On the bright side, we had been used to the broken, imperfect and harsh Swahili used by Amin's army basically to command and nothing else. The 'liberators' were smooth and sweet of tongue. We learnt you could do a lot of things with Swahili... tell a story, crack a joke or even propose to a lady.

The first thing soldiers anywhere in the world do after a war is look for women. So the 'liberators' quickly set about chasing Ugandan women - who in turn, were running just fast enough to be caught. It was a bonanza! To fund their new lifestyles, many of the Tanzanian soldiers took to robbery. Watches, radio cassette players and money were the language our Ugandan sisters spoke. Since they were running the show, the Tanzanians could rob freely.

The soldiers were on the prowl - or on patrol - (is there even a difference?) when they saw that the lights in our house were on. From the safety of the dining room, I watched them turn off the road and march straight to our front door. They knocked, gently at first, then, when Daddy hesitated to open, they began banging the door angrily. Daddy opened.

By that time though, the more agile of the young people in the house, my brothers Francis and Simon as well as two cousins, Dinah and Moses, had fled to the adjoining house of our neighbour, Mr Magoola. They had jumped over the very high wall that separated the two houses with nimbleness that a cat would properly respect. At only eight years, I was too young to recognise danger when I saw it. I stayed put.

The liberators took interest in our brand new radio set and I think Daddy gave them some cash. But it wasn't that straightforward, when one of the soldiers picked up the radio, Daddy told him he was taking it nowhere.

At 39, Daddy was still a young man, complete with the impudence typical of that age. They struggled for a minute or so until the soldiers threatened to shoot everyone in the house. Daddy's senses returned to him and he let go.

As they stepped out the door, the soldiers fired a shot up, just to clear the air, I presume. From their hiding place at Mr Magoolas', the refugees, when they heard the shot, feared that Daddy had been killed. It was after quite a while that they mustered the courage to get back home and they sauntered back, tails between legs. Cowards live longer!

Genuine leaders don't really care too much when they lose an election. It is thieves who will want to win by hook or crook.

The violent, bribery and theft-ridden primaries of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) clearly show that Uganda is in the hands of a criminal enterprise; a gang of thieves struggling to re-position themselves in order to bleed the country. Forget the claptrap about how NRM liberated Uganda; for liberators who stay too long eventually turn into thieves... like our Tanzanian 'liberators'.

Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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