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Cabinet worried about who Otunnu represents

By Independent Reporter

Is he simply the Trojan horse of yet unknown forces?

The two-week whirlwind tour of the country by recently returned former UN under-secretary general Olara Otunnu is raising political temperatures in the country and worrying the NRM government in spite of the nonchalant attitude it has taken against him in public.

According to sources, the cabinet meeting of Wednesday August 26 devoted time to discussing the impact of Otunnu’s tour in eastern and northern Uganda.

The meeting noted Otunnu’s big reception in the east and north, especially Soroti, Lira and West Nile. Police chief Kale Kayihura and intelligence organs have been tasked to watch closely but keep a hands-off approach, a cabinet source who requested anonymity told The Independent.

Otunnu’s reception in Arua was huge while in Hoima, it was disrupted by a heavy downpour that reportedly started shortly before his arrival, according to one of the officials accompanying him on the tour. He however met delegations of opinion leaders in Masindi and Hoima. I have been exceedingly humbled by the reception I have received in various parts of the country so far,” Otunnu told The Independent on Monday, August 31, adding that he was, however, shocked at the state of the country.The country is in a state of degradation. Jinja is a ghost town. The factories in Jinja and Tororo are dead. Mbale is in decline; in fact Arua has overtaken it in terms of business. Service delivery is very poor with hospitals and schools looking terrible. Cooperatives, the backbone of agriculture are dead. It is a desperate situation,” he said.

So was it all negative? No. Otunnu said during his tour, the only big project NRM can attach its name to is the recently tarmacked Karuma-Arua road. The other positive thing, he noted, “is the almost total yearning for change across the country”.

“We are speaking from the same page,” he concluded.

Security on high alert

While Otunnu might be speaking from the same page with his audience upcountry, the government is looking at another page; jittery and keeping the situation under close watch.

“Cabinet instructed [IGP] Kayihura to record all statements Otunnu makes on his tour to see if at an opportune moment they can be used against him,” a source close to cabinet said.

It was also resolved that at this moment, government should not antagonise Buganda or in anyway interfere with the way Otunnu is received in Buganda.

“If Buganda welcomes him like has happened in other regions, then we will know the Baganda have completely thrown out NRM and the only solution is to turn the heat on Mengo,” one minister reportedly suggested, adding that if however, Otunnu is shunned in Buganda, then government would be spared the “ugly” duty of beating Baganda into line and thus creating even more animosity.

Why did Otunnu return?

 According to our sources, other than Otunnu’s good reception in the east and north, government is equally bothered about why he chose to return now – not much earlier or farther after 2011!

Otunnu has been courted by government in the past but he refused to return to be given a job. The suspicion is that he could be the face of a grand plan by external “enemies” of President Museveni and NRM to cause “regime change”. His smooth journey from New York to Entebbe “without a passport” is pointed out as one of the indicators that there could be other forces facilitating him.

“On his arrival, Dr Otunnu had no passport but only presented passport application forms. He was cleared to enter and was referred to the passport control officer, Kampala for further management,” a CMI memo, a copy of which The Independent has seen, reads in part.

The memo further states that: “There is no way Otunnu could have travelled without any travel documents, he only refused to show it and thought he would be refused to enter into Uganda so that he could make news thus earning [the] sitting government bad image.” The report adds that the alleged loss of one of Otunnu’s bags at Entebbe Airport was calculated “to put bad image on the handlers and airport administration”.

Intelligence is convinced that Otunnu has the backing of some Western and regional interests. They are therefore playing for time to see all these interests come to the fore before President Museveni can be advised of the best form of action to neutralise a rather unfamiliar opponent.

Whatever the truth or falsity of the matter, Otunnu’s rhetoric against the president during his tours has only served to reinforce the fears that he is the Trojan horse of yet unknown forces.

“Who is Museveni? His mother produced him like I was. He cannot intimidate me. Those of you who fear and feel threatened by Mr Museveni should go back to your mother’s wombs,” Otunnu reportedly told a rally in Gulu in reaction to reports that the government’s intelligence machinery was planning a smear campaign against him.

It is still early times but the events of the last two weeks could only be the curtain-raiser for a much bigger fight in 2011.

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