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Olara Otunnu is an empty suit

By Yoga Adhola

How could he not know that Museveni is a tool of the US?

With all my ideological disagreements with Andrew Mwenda, I have to say I am very greatful for his recent article,”Museveni’s mission to Somalia” (The Independent Aug. 24). The article spells out exactly what I have been telling my colleagues in UPC, and the opposition at large, that President Yoweri Museveni is not only a tool of U.S. imperialism but is the best one the U.S. and British imperialists have ever found on the African continent.


I came to this realisation sometime in the early 90s and many of my friends in UPC and the opposition at large never accepted my views. They thought they could argue a case of human rights violations by Museveni or the undemocratic practices of Museveeni to dislodge him from American favour. This was total misjudgment.

The only person who came close to agreeing with me was Anne Mugisha, formerly of FDC. When she first arrived in the U.S., she was full of vigour, going around trying to teach Americans about Museveni. At one time I tried to save her the wastage of effort and told her there was nothing she was going to teach the Americans which they did not already know. She did not agree.

However, to her credit she used the Freedom of Information Act to request information from the state department. The state department sent her copies of the brief they were getting from Uganda. When the file reached her, she was amazed by the information the embassy in Kampala was filing. She was to tell me the information was by far more extensive than what she could gather from her sources.

This matter became even more serious for me and UPC when Olara Otuunu came into the political scene. Totally ignorant of what conditions American and British foreign policy, the sponsors of Olara Otunnu embraced the illusion that because Olara had vast connections in London and Washington, he was a knight with shining armour.

They argued that Olara had been a roommate of Tony Blair in Oxford. He had gone to Harvard. They even concocted stories that he had taught Barack Obama at Harvard. Then of course he had been a high official of the UN. From this they easily concluded the man was going to simply blow Museveni off the scene.

When I tried to argue that the foreign policy of both Britain and the US is not based on sentiments built up in school days, I received a barrage of insults. I was told I was envious of Otunnu’s great achievements. Otunnu’s aide, Okello Lucima even had the temerity to ask me: who are you? In other words, as compared to Olara Otunnu, I was so insignificant that I should not question anything about Olara Otunnu.

There were the wise Japadholas in UPC, such as Amos Ochieng and Jesse Alecho, who told me to produce my resume so that they could compare it to Olara Otuunu. Of course the length of resume was not the issue. The issue was being able to analyse the sources of foreign policy. As it has eventually come out, much as I do not have Olara Otuunu’s credentials in foreign relations, nor do I have the names of the so-called great schools behind my name, I have demonstrated much better understanding of foreign policy.

Olara Otunnu himself shared this illusion.  In The Independent of Tuesday, February 16, 2010, he published an article: “Ugandans must enter the trenches and lead the way?” This article will remain a classic study of a politician’s ignorance of foreign policy. In the article Olara Otunnu made all sorts of wild claims. Reading them one may wonder whether what was being said about the great attributes of the man was really true. The article shows a man who has no clue about foreign policy.

He, for instance, wrote: “…… I was not interested in that. I thought the administration generally, although the Obama administration is more complicated, the Clinton and Bush administration were more sympathetic.” What sympathy is this man talking about? I thought Otunnu has been in the foreign relations establishment all these year. How could the fact that the US and Britain have been using Museveni all along escape him? They made use of Museveni to get rid of French influence in Rwanda. They used him to get rid of Mobuto Sese Seko, their erstwhile agent in then-Zaire (now DR Congo) who had become and embarrassment.

Here is another example of Otunnu’s naivety: “Ugandans have to understand how this works and what is important about this. It is showing Museveni that he is no longer invulnerable. Previously he would have thought it impossible to get something like this or resembling this to the American Congress because of all his supporters. This means there are ways that are very sophisticated; that can be used to mobilise a network of people we know in a covert way. When we do, he is vulnerable; he is no longer invulnerable. The US Congress is the most important and democratic institution in the world.”

Olara Otunnu also wrote: “Two, they direct the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, again very unusual, to do a mandatory report. They even specify at what rhythm that report should be given; about promoting democracy generally in Uganda and very specific about free and fair elections. They are very specific; free and fair elections, the motion will begin now, not two months before the elections.”

We only need to note that the elections came and went without Washington ever saying even a word.

Then there was that time when he told a press conference that Dr Badru Kigundu would no longer be the Chairman of the Electoral Commission. It should be recalled that he said this soon after he came from a trip to the US and immediately before the US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs was due to arrive in Uganda. This was really bizarre and one wonders where he even got the idea.

I believe all these Otunnu delusions of grandeur have been put to an end by Andrew Mwenda’s article. Andrew mwenda has made it clear for everyone to know that, not only is Museveni a tool of the US, but that Museveni knows how to ingratiate himself with the U.S. He knows how to make himself useful to the U.S. In such circumstances, Olara Otunnu should lose hope of getting the U.S. to support him as long as Museveni is a very important cog in the wheel of U.S. foreign policy in Africa.

With the publication of Andrew Mwenda’s article, it should get clear that Olara Otunnu is a classic case of what the Americans call “an empty suit”. By that they mean: “Someone puffed up with his own importance but really having little effect on the lives of others. It is often used as an insult to disparage others who really do not deserve the title. The true empty suit, which conjures up the image of a business suit of clothing without a person, really does not know what he or she is doing. He or she is ineffectual, perhaps a phony, and is about as relevant or helpful as a suit on a rack.

To call someone an empty suit implies that you think they are a complete waste of time. Editorials on politicians love to use the term empty suit to describe people seeking presidential office. This or that politician is just “an empty suit,” to quote the words of numerous political critics, and is thus undeserving of our attention.”

Yoga Adhola is a leading UPC ideologue and former Editor-in-Chief of the party newspaper, The People.

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