By Okello Lucima
I have been wondering what in military parlance and war tradition, it would mean for a private to single-handedly slay a general on the battlefield. Would one be promoted from private to, say, Captain; Major; Lieutenant Colonel or Brigadier?
Surely, those who understand military customs and practices would know. I confess ignorance. Even more puzzling for me and, I believe, for military historians and scholars alike, is the decoration that an untrained civilian, and a woman who looks as fit as a sack of potato deserves when she outmanoeuvres a Major General and former commander of a national army.
It is intriguing what people on the streets are saying. Some have already promoted Lydia Draru to Field Marshal for her improbable feat of killing an experienced, trained, war-hardened and heftily built General in a ‘domestic’squabble.
The death of Maj. Gen. Kazini last week in a Kampala suburb was shocking and bizarre that came as easily as the deaths of four suspected LRA insurgents that he, then a colonel and army commander in Gulu, northern Uganda, released to a mob that he incited to lynch them in 1996.
I am a humanist. As John Donne said, the death of every human being diminishes me and us all. Gen. Kazini’s death, allegedly in the hands of a mistress, cannot be a moral and just retribution, or karma for the lives of men, women and children of northern Uganda that his power, order and command dispatched heartlessly when he prosecuted counterinsurgency operations in Acholi and West Nile. It would have been just, if some day, the court of justice and the law were to catch up with him and his colleagues.
It is enough personal, family and national tragedy that a man of his stature, should die like he did. If his violent death in the’hands of his lover’ was shocking, the nonchalance and lack of obvious signs of grief in the demeanour of those who symbolised the state, and the unhurried nature of the law enforcement and security services that responded to the scene of the crime, was preposterous. Even more curious, is the behaviour of the alleged killer, and how she was treated by the police and the security services.
We know the closeness and solidarity of the brotherhood and fraternity of the military and police. But imagine this: Draru shamelessly declares she has murdered a soldier, a General at that, and a former commander of the national army, the mighty and someone’s sacred UPDF; and neither she nor her neighbourhood is cordoned off and besieged by the Military Police? And the police, when they finally come, what do they do? Oh gosh! They don’t even touch her or shove her around. She is left a free woman to dart from her place, where the mortally wounded Gen. Kazini lay in blood, and her neighbour’s veranda, all the while like a pet parrot, proclaiming to all who might want to hear, that she did kill the General!
Things got more bizarre as the day wore on. When she broadcast to strangers and the street urchins on motorbikes and the first line responders form the security and law enforcement services that she killed the general, she was decked out in a turquoise blouse and a dark coloured skirt. But when we next see her strolling out of the magistrate’s court, on her way to the Central Police Station in Kampala, she is tastefully attired in a blood red dress suit, suggesting that, the detectives extended to her the unbelievable privilege of changing into more fanciful clothes. Moreover, they must have also passed by the hair-dressers before she was arraigned before a magistrate; because her hair was so neatly done.
Watching her walk arm in arm with a woman police detective, I wondered if there was a resident hair dresser at the courts; or whether the handsome police spokesperson, Judith Nabakooba, keeps one at her beck and call, and may have lent out to the ‘confessed murderer’. Experience and keen observation suggest that the behaviour of the security services personnel and the police, and how they treated the alleged killer in a high profile murder case of someone who once was at the pinnacle of state power, raised more questions than answers.
First, soldiers and police are close-knit brotherhood that live and die by the motto “one for all and all for one”. They have been known to rough up civilians for as little as holding placards demanding their rights to be heard on issues of importance to them. We all have recollection of how MP Nabillah Nagayi was bundled and carried off screaming and kicking, allegedly for holding an illegal rally. And she is an honourable member of our national legislature!
It even gets more intriguing for the army. We know that woe betides the woman or man who does as much as cut off or refuse to yield to afande’s motorcade in traffic. People are known to have been shot at for incidents which posed no or very little potential harm to a military officer, even when such an officer is a lowly 2nd Lieutenant or Captain. In this case, we have a General dead; more precisely, a former commander of the national army is murdered by an alleged woman of ‘easy virtue.’Relying on my past experience to flee a neighbourhood where incidents involving the army and civilians or insurgents happened lest I am caught up in the fire and brimstone in the aftermath, I was dumbfounded that no red-bereted UPDF Military Police showed up to turn Namuwongo upside down and inside out. Besides, I thought I would witness the police manhandle, kick, slap and bundle the alleged killer under their benches on the patrol pickup truck as they often do with opposition demonstrators and lowly suspects!
I was sorely disappointed. I was tempted to chalk all this up to Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, who I thought through training and pep talks, may have finally reined in his force to act professionally, assume suspects innocent until proven guilty and not to use excessive force even on the littlest of the Republic’s denizen. To that end, the suspect was never as much as grasped firmly by the wrist or shoved around. The police detectives looked less like arresting officers but VIP protection units shielding a dignitary from a gawking crowd. Many, who witnessed the stroll from the magistrate’s courts to Central Police Station, will agree that it was a leisurely affair than escorting to jail the assassin of an important state functionary who still lay warm in a mortal posture in the bare floor of his alleged lover and killer. It has been impressed upon us that, in these parts, you can play with anything; steal millions meant for drugs for AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis or mint millions of shillings from CHOGM kickbacks and corruption; but you dare not touch someone’s UPDF- his army!
Once I remembered the sacred nature of the army to the mighty ones who own the institution and personnel, I sat up straight to try to come to terms with the significance of what was unfolding right under my gaze. Because, when they finally showed up, those Generals, Majors and Captains looked as awkward as someone who came to satisfy themselves that Gen. Kazini was stone-dead-cold; but not in a coma from which he might still come out. They neither bore any obvious signs of grief, nor did they seem troubled by the gruesome scene before their eyes. They were not investigators; they were colleagues and friends, people who should care. But no one of them could be said to have been spied portraying either friendship or the grievous loss of a comrade-at-arms.
From their behaviour, one would be forgiven if one were to hang his hat on the plausibility that the police, the army and the alleged confessed killer, Draru, were privy to something that we mortal folks can only conjecture. First, a confession puts a stop to any necessary and meticulous investigation. What do you, and why, investigate, when a killer has confessed? Second, an instant confession scuttles any need for a lengthy, adversarial trial. What do you need a trial for, and risk the disaster of the Kizza Besigye rape trial when the killer is known and what is needed is swift justice? Sentence and jail her, making her inaccessible to prying eyes and nosy journalists.
Therefore, the behaviour of the law enforcement officers, the military honchos who turned up as if on cue but without a single military police personnel or angry soldiers who loved their commander, let alone an ambulance, suggests that the President and Mrs Phoebe Kazini are right: It is plausible that it is more than the hapless Draru, who wanted Gen. Kazini dead! Is she a fall girl, the convenient lover, the other woman, the second fiddler who will never take centre stage or inherit the lion’s share from her lover’s estate, but willing to block the emotional and physical intimacy to bait him into his death in the hands of conspirators she knew, for a sum grander than what she could only dream of?
Unfortunately, those who wrote the script for the stage play for Gen. Kazini’s tragic end, lacked character studies of the police and army in our great republic. Even the main character uses a weapon that it would be impossible for her to kill a rat with. And as a lover to the late Kazini, it is impossible to imagine her striking the second and third and subsequent such blood sputtering blows until the General was dead, no matter the depth of the provocation. We have all loved and lost; but very few of us would find such hate and ferocity to kill someone we loved and sleep with, no matter what their transgressions. The ferocity, the multiple blows, suggest a revenge killing or execution that whoever did it, was not a woman, and did it not for heart ache and jealousy for love, but for a very well planned and executed project whose bottom line was, for Gen. Kazini to die!
If Namuwongo was Medelin, Colombia; or Parlemo, Italy, drug deals gone awry or a minion from a rival mafia family sleeping with a rival Godfather’s mistress, would genuinely elicit this kind of brutality as signals to would- be malfeasants not to dare contemplate it farther than daydreams. Namuwongo is no Medelin or Parlemo; and Gen. Kazini was neither of any danger to society, nor to himself. Convicted by the Court Martial, redundant, but a happy-go-lucky guy, he was at peace with himself and the life he had been reduced to lead. Who did Gen. Kazini’s simple life but vast military experience and connections threaten? A heartless like Sophocles Medea, she may be; but Lydia Draru is not a killer; although she knows who wanted Gen. Kazini dead.
The writer is Assistant National Youth Leader of the Uganda Peoples Congress party