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Otunnu is a paper tiger

Ever since the publication of my article, ‘Otunnu must not lead UPC,’ (Daily Monitor), I have been the subject of attacks by Olara Otunnu supporters who view their candidate as a great intellectual. They have persistently challenged me to take on Otunnu at an intellectual level.

I have also constantly told them I am not afraid to take him up at that level. The only problem is that the man has not written on Uganda. That makes it difficult to argue with him. This hitch was removed when Otunnu published an article, ‘Ugandans must enter the trenches and lead the way’ in The Independent of February 16, 2010. The article is Otunnu’s reflection on what he can do to bring the international community to help the Ugandan opposition.

The first thing which struck me in the article is his statement: “In July last year, I began to think of how to engage the international community. I felt that the efforts to date have been as though someone has been hammering a wall with a blunt instrument which does not work.”

I found this statement very curious. Is Otunnu telling us that up to last July, he had not thought of engaging the intentional community in solving the Museveni problem all these years? And this is a man who is being sold to us because of his great foreign relations potential!

Then he goes on to talk about doing rounds with his contacts in Washington DC where he says he”found there was a layer of disinformation, ignorance and misinformation.” Exactly what else did this guru of foreign affairs expect among US Senators and Congressmen/women?

First of all Americans in general are ignorant about the rest of the world. Otunnu should have known this. As a superpower and an economy which is virtually self-sufficient, they have very little need to know about the rest of the world.

Further, Africa, leave alone Uganda for the time being, is very low on the priorities of the U.S. Apart from South Africa and Egypt, there is hardly any economic exchange with Africa.
This is not to say the US does not meddle in the affairs of Uganda. But US policy towards Uganda is not handled by the Senate or the House of Representatives. It is usually handled in the office of the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, the CIA and Defence Intelligence.

These three arms of the US government have for a long time viewed Museveni as perhaps the most useful foreign policy tool they have ever had in Africa.

The first time Museveni proved pivotal to U.S. imperial interests was when Britain and the US wanted to clip the wings of France by removing President Habyarimana from power in Rwanda. With the use of Museveni, the US and Britain got rid of Habyarimana for the cheap.

The next time Museveni was useful to the US was in the removal of Mobutu. Contrary to appearances, the removal of Mobutu was not done by the people of Zaire as it has often been portrayed. It was the work of the US which had reached a point of needing him to be removed.
This is the context in which we have been operating.

This is what made what Otunnu describes as “the efforts to date have been as though someone has been hammering a wall with a blunt instrument which does not work.”

It is naive of Otunnu to think that we simply lacked sophistication. He needs to realise that when it comes to the vital interest of imperialism, the human rights of Ugandans automatically take a secondary position. He should learn further that both Britain and the US are not guided by sentiments like friendship made at school or university. They are guided by their geopolitical strategic interests

Otunnu himself once told me how he talked over and over to his university roommate, Tony Blair about Uganda and nothing happened. He told me that it was only after Blair left office that Blair told him that Otunnu had been right. It seems Otunnu never quite understood that.

Otunnu also glibly writes: “I thought the administration generally, although the Obama administration is more complicated, the Clinton and Bush administration were more sympathetic.”What sympathy is he talking about? It is the two administrations–that of Clinton and Bush– who were deeply in bed with Yoweri Museveni.

Those who have been asking me to take on Otunnu should realise that he is what Chairman Mao Tsetung used to call a paper tiger. It may look menacing, but when you “pierce” it, you will find it is hollow.

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

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