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I urgently need to inherit Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere’s Big, Black Book

OBITUARY | Alfred Geresom Musamali | Now that former Democratic Party (DP) President-General Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere (aged 90 years) is dead, I urgently need to inherit one of his intellectual property items – to wit, the Big, Black Book in which during the 1980s he conceptualised recording the names of all the perpetrators of human rights abuses in Uganda. And for that purpose, I will as soon as the mourning is over begin raising funds to hire perpetual rubble rouser Tom Gawaya Tegulle, to apply to the Office of the Administrator General, for rights to that property.

Between 1980 to 1985, cool-headed Ssemogerere was a Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP). At the time, there were military operations codenamed Panda Ggali (Jump on the Vehicle) and the vehicles were ill-cleaned military trucks sometimes probably used to ferry dung-infested, looted cattle from the war-front in Luwero to the barracks around Kampala. In the operations, a combination of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), the National Security Agency (NASA), the Uganda Police and some over-zealious youth wingers of the ruling Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) would swoop parts of the city at any time of the day or night and arrest everybody that seemed likely to be one of the “bushmen or bandits”. That was the expression used to refer to the then handful of men who had disputed the 1980 Presidential and General Elections and launched a guerrilla war to overthrow the government of Dr Apollo Milton Obote, also the UPC leader.

The criteria used to judge whether you seemed to be one of the “bandits and bushmen” was the length and shape of your nose (especially if you had a name similar to that of the Banyarwanda or did not have on you a graduated tax ticket or did not have on you a UPC party card or did not know the full names of your UPC village chairperson). How they were herded into the dirty trucks, where they were taken, how they were accommodation in their new places of aboard and whether or not they survived their ordeals, has since the so called “bandits and bushmen” successfully emerged from the war, made sad reading.

Dr Ssemogerere, like many of us preferring peaceful means of confronting the situation, is quoted to have said that he was compiling, in a very Big, Black Book, the names of the inhumanity perpetuators. Rebel leader and now President Yoweri Museveni later appointed Ssemogerere Internal Affairs Minister. The ministry oversees citizenship, immigration, Police and Prisons Services. It ought to have been a vantage point from which Ssemogerere not only expanded his list in the book, but also added, details of what happened to each victim.

Gawaya Tegulle, a New Vision reporter around Fools Day in 2000, caught up with Dr Ssemogerere to enquire about the book. AllAfrica.Com, an online archive, does not provide the exact words in which Gawaya – now a regular columnist in a local daily paper, advocate of the high court, church pastor, gospel guitarist, former contestant for the Kabweri Constituency (Kibuku) Parliamentary seat and several other roles wrapped into one not so giant body – demanded the book. Neither does the archive quote verbatim, how Ssemogerere responded.

But I know Gawaya Tegulle quite well. I worked with him in the same newsroom during that year, attended with him the Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Policy and Governance at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI) in 2014/15 and have also ever hired him before, to represent me in a financial dispute for which I am yet to complete paying him and he is, as a consequence, yet to complete the assignment. I know the semi-box shape in which he cuts his cute, fastly greying hair on the head that is not promising to go bald any time soon – although he is advancing in age. And I know how he twists that head at an angle, nods, looks you into the face like he does to the suspects and prosecutors alike he cross-examines in court these days, as he asks a totally unexpected question.

One day, for instance, we were in a UMI class discussion on recruitment and retention of competent human resource. I narrated how I had desperately sought the post of communications and public relations manager at the National Forestry Authority (NFA) but lost the race to Gilbert Kadilo, only for Kadilo to walk away from the job within a short time and cross to the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). Gawaya Tegule, who was seated in front of me, turned behind, leaned against the desk, looked into my face, and asked, “With that UPC background of yours, did you expect to get the job in the NFA?”

To be fair to government, I held a public service job for 14 years till February this year and my having or not having a UPC background never mattered for as long as I had no individual criminal record and I exercised strict non-partisan conduct. So, I can imagine that is the same posture Gawaya Tegulle cut when he caught Dr Ssemogerere unawares then alliteratively asked, “Where is the big, black book”? I can also imagine the elderly man looking at Gawaya Tegulle, who broke into publication around 1997 by writing for The People newspaper owned by UPC’s Milton Obote Foundation, and responding, “The big, black book was simply a concept designed to scare rogues who were perpetuating human rights abuses”.

And that is why I wish to hire Gawaya Tegulle. Nobody may dare claim widow Germina Namatovu Ssemogerere and her children like what happens in some uncouth households in Uganda these days. Still, all sorts of people will beginning tonight descend on the late party leader’s home to claim his land, houses, motor vehicles and other material things painstakingly acquired. They will even claim what was acquired singlehandedly by Germina, an accomplished economics academic. Do not, moreover, be surprised if one or two persons in their 70s even claim paternity through Ssemogerere!

I, too, intend to descend on the home, not as his kin or other relative, not as his political supporter and not even as a person he knew. I only wish to rescue his presumably now Very Dusty, Big, Black Book concept and, if he had populated it ever since he talked to Gawaya Tegulle at the turn of the millennium, the statistics therein.

In a country where almost 40 years after liberation armed persons are still traversing in unbranded motor vehicles and abducting some citizens, but government says it knows neither the abductors nor the victims, where some people still wake up to find victims hit by iron bars overnight lying dead by the roadsides, where some sections of society still fear belonging to differing political convictions, if I cannot do anything else about it I can at least inherit Dr Ssemogerere’s concept, populate it into a full blown, big, black book, then pass it on to posterity, whenever my time comes.

So, fellow bereaved, I need money to hire Gawaya Tegulle.

Meanwhile, May the Almighty Rest in Peace Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere!

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The author is Founding Director of Vicnam International Communications Ltd, a private firm of communications, public relations and information management consultants. He specialises in the Proofreading and General Editing (PAGE) of documents and can be contacted by Tel: (+256)752-649519 and by Email: agmusamali@hotmail.com.

 

5 comments

  1. Before you get there please pay a visit to the Catholic Church at Kisule

    • It is actually St. Joseph Katikamu Kisule
      A preamble

      • One popular news paper described a gallant son of this country for his great achievements

        What a nice way to wish away the occurrences of the past

        Indeed there is a virual version of certain records

  2. The HSC student who forgot an identity card at home, and has never returned to date, never had the ” nose” that you refer to
    So did many others(RIP)

  3. I feel some philanthropist bought the publishing rights of the black book just like happened to the one of Mr Francis Bwengye.

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