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THE LAST WORD: Atubo’s disappointing lamentations



THE LAST WORD: Why African elites are deluded to think the “international community” has our best interests at heart

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda |  Last week, I read with sadness, disappointment, disillusionment and frustration an article in Daily Monitor by former minister Omara Atubo. He was explaining why he signed a petition to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict President Yoweri Museveni. I have known Atubo for decades and have always held him in high esteem as among the most thoughtful politicians in Uganda. His article is widely quoted below to provide perspective.

“The long story of Museveni in power for 33 years now has been characterised by militarism, corruption, abuse of human rights and freedoms, rigging of elections, nepotism, tribalism, power greed, amendment of the 1995 Constitution, disrespect of and weakening of Parliament, undermining multiparty democracy, and violently repressing Opposition. I am very worried about the future of Uganda which should be rooted in strong institutions that can guarantee stability, peace, unity, development and humanity. What we have under Museveni is a strong personal rule, which is not sustainable.” Atubo wrote and went on.

“The ICC Petition is a desperate appeal to an external international body to assist Uganda solve its problem since there are now no available internal options. Parliament is very weak and works like an extension of President Museveni and the Executive. The Judiciary has failed to deliver justice in all the presidential election and age limit cases. The ordinary citizen and the voters are terrified and politically blind. The churches are divided, compromised and lack courage to speak for the voiceless. The elections are militarised, commercialised and rigged. In the circumstance, the only viable option is the ICC and the international community.”

Atubo’s lamentation is neither new nor unique. It is supported by many Ugandan (and African) elites who think there are kind and generous people in the international community who care deeply about our destiny and would save us from ourselves. Many people in the Western world see themselves as saviors of Africa and therefore share this view. The problem is that all these people suffer from historical and even contemporary amnesia.

Let us recall that colonialism was justified on exactly the same basis. It claimed to promote 3Cs: Christianity to save our souls from devil worship; Commerce to liberate us from our poverty and misery; and Civilization to emancipate us from the tyranny of our customs and the despotism of our chiefs. What Africa got instead was land alienation, extortionate taxation, forced labor, mass murder and racial discrimination. Africa’s struggles for independence was thus born.

It is true that many post independence governments have repeated many of the abuses of colonialism and in some cases in worse fashion. But it is our responsibility to improve the quality of governance in our countries through continued political and economic struggles. We cannot surrender such a responsibility to the international community. To say we have no capacity to liberate ourselves is to say we have no capacity to govern our countries. The picture Atubo presents above is of Ugandans as helpless victims of Museveni’s misrule and whose efforts cannot overcome one man.


  1. Dr Eng Kant Ateenyi

    Really, causes of today’s problems of Africa are to be found in heads of people like Atubo: Apparently learned, but pseudo educated. In all honesty, how can one ‘terribly bad’ man – M7 – hold a country of millions of ‘intelligent and diligent Atubos’ at such ransom for three decades, and still counting? Either the man himself is super human or the millions are ‘fake’ in their imagined intelligence and diligence.
    These stupid cries for foreign help by people who are supposed to have studied and understood long-past and more recent History is really worrying and disturbing for Africa. Which foreign power or even peoples represented by such powers care about our (African) interests – vis-a-vis theirs? And who says both interests are coincidental: (i.e. our current and future well being necessarily matches theirs)?
    Their (leading foreign powers) words, mis-advice and actions against us in the past and today – all point to a clear intention to perpetually dominate us, and if possible exterminate our pure kind in due course. And here, you have the Atubos and Co running to them —— for what???????? Isn’t this is real TREASON against the African peoples?
    If we are really sick of an ‘unpopular and terrible’ Museveni, we must legitimately mobilise ourselves and get rid of him. Legitimate here does not even have to be legal (since we claim he makes the rules): after all, did he not use ‘illegal’ means to push the then Atubo-like government(s) out of power? If we are too timid for that, then we as a nation, MUST wait him out rather than seek pseudo help from our sugar coated enemies.

    Pan Africanist, Dr Eng Kant Ateenyi

    • Dr Eng Kant Ateenyi

      Winnie sister,
      I assume that by saying many people want M7 to be like Mandela, you want to imply the latter did much greater things for South Africa than M7 has done in relative terms for Uganda.
      This is a common misunderstanding perpetuated by western powers and their relatively unsophisticated supporters world over. Make no mistake: Mandela did some work in liberating South Africa. But it seems to me much of the credit given to him is out of sympathy for the 27 years of imprisonment by the racists following which, he did not push for their punishment during his one term of old age service.
      But let us face it: from an economic point of view, did he have a choice? The economy had always been managed and owned by his oppressors. Our own people lacked any serious skills to understand, maintain and run the economy. This was not their fault – for they had been subjected to a stupid ‘Bantu education’ system that denied them of any scientific and management skills required to run an advanced economy that South Africa had then.
      It is now 25 years since independence. The situation on skills has hardly changed (Actually overall, has become worse because of retirements and migrations to Australia mainly) – and indeed the economy peaked in Mbeki’s time and then started a steady decline. From the number 1 economy on the continent, it slid to number 2 a few years ago and now has gone further down to number 3 after Egypt overtook it. If East Africa were to be one country (one of my greater wishes), it would easily slide to Number 4. Consider M7’s Uganda in the same 25 years. In spite of the revenue leakages, there is no doubt about the phenomenal growth. Not just of public infrastructure, but particularly of private enterprise. I hear the cries on government thieves building schools, hospitals, private farms and hotels, houses, etc: the fact is they still serve Uganda (but I am not amused by those siphoning funds to outside safe havens). Even the noisy opposition members have benefited from the so called M7 mismanagement. Is it not true, KB, Lukwago, Ogwal, —–, even the young musician have extensive businesses in the country?
      Now to the topic of the day: Given the above, is it not crazy or madness to even entertain the idea of dragging M7 to our tormentors in these circumstances – when we know age is catching up with him. And anyway, how do we expect him and his supporters or hangers-on to react when he hears of such wild dreams? Some of these people need to learn basics of a Chess game: think of how your opponent will respond before you make an attacking move!!

  2. 1.M7 has some many positive attributes some of us are just waiting for him to be declared the Lee Kaun Yew of Africa.
    2.The elites have this mindset that M7 should be like Mandela not knowing that the conditions in S.Africa and the one in Uganda were different.
    3.Ugandans should not think that poverty is exclusive to Uganda only across the world;life is getting tough that’s why governments are being kicked out left and right.
    4.The level of desperately at which Ugandan politicians love to be in the limelight is so alarming. First of all most politicians in Uganda are a heap of lazy fellows they get psychologically satisfied by attacking M7.I personally dont take their utterances seriously they are shameless in their quest to be in the limelight.
    5. Do Ugandans know the caliber of criminals arraigned before the ICC?There are serious crimes committed against mankind in Congo, Yugoslavia,Czechoslovakia those truly deserve to be prosecuted but no our Dear M7 with just his tear gas can you even compare the amount of tear gas used to quell riots in Hong kong and the one used in Uganda?

    • But Winnie, what is positive about someone who categorically told Ugandans and the world that he is nobody’s servant nor employee; that he is only fighting for himself and family and belief. In other words, the 5-year Luweero bloodletting and skulls was nothing but Mr. Museveni manipulating and using other Ugandans to fight for him and retain him in power to date.

      Winnie, doesn’t every life matter? Did the UPDF for example use teargas to suffocate (gas chamber massacre) the hundreds of fellow countrymen, women children in Kasese in November 2016?

      Didn’t you see fellow countrymen in Kasese their hands tied behind their backs, being thrown off 10-feet high UPDF trucks onto the concrete like bales of mivumba in Kisenyi? Did you see the horror and terror in the eyes of the Kasese massacre victims.

      Didn’t you see the mangled dead bodies, in rags or naked bodies of men, women and children piled on the shop veranda in Kasese? Didn’t you see the heartbreak of the relatives of the UPDF terror in the Musinga’s palace?

      Didn’t you see unidentified countrymen/women being buried in unmarked graves, dug out by an excavator inside UPDF Barracks in Kasese (is there no Municipal Cemetery in Kasese- why the barracks)?

      Does such treatment of fellow countrymen look like VIP treatment done out of respect and love for fellow human being?

      My other question is; if it is not for the love for money, why do some Ugandans have respect, to the extent of worship, glorify and praise some of the worst criminals in his country?

      • Dr. Eng. Kant Ateenyi

        Dear Brother Mr. O.,
        First, apologies – I may not be competent enough to answer for our sister Winnie, nor do I have sufficient details on what transpired during the Kasese debacle or how and why it did happen that way. If what you are saying is all there is to it, then something is terribly wrong with our humanity – but this must be sorted out by Ugandans even if it means going the illegal route(s).
        I can however confidently comment on your first point on whether somebody who claims to be nobody’s servant, but fights for his/her belief, can still be positive to society. And here, I will beg not to be constrained by the circumstance that M7 said so in reference to himself.
        Yes – it is indeed possible, particularly for persons ‘at the top of their games’ in the process of ‘self actualisation’. Such people are at that stage driven – not by worldly material gains but by a strong urge to make a difference that could be interpreted as a legacy after they depart. In fact, such people could even sacrifice worldly leisure and privileges to push their agenda. The bottom line is that such an agenda should in long run, benefit a concerned section of society.

        And that is really ‘cool’ and nice. It is not something anyone in a similar situation should shy away from. What may be ‘funny’ is a lack of humility in advancing and expressing the agenda. But this does not take away its inherent good qualities.

        Cheers brother.

  3. Museveni has made a positive contribution and is credited for that, but he has long past his optimal point. Diminishing returns in terms of performance and service delivery have already set in, the curve that was ascending is already in descending mode. He ascended to presidency with the highest political capital of any Ugandan president. 95% of Museveni critics were once his supporters, as well as 90% of all media in Uganda. But diminishing returns have set in and there is nothing he can do about it that he has not done in 34 years.
    Whatever happens to Uganda after Museveni the blame will much lie on Museveni, as it lies on the late Gadaffi for the chaos in Libya now, after entrenching himself in power for 40 years. He has had the time longevity to shape the destiny of Uganda after him, but for whatever reasons the leader has decided otherwise, yet geopolitics has shifted and the strongman syndrome is getting obsolete. Zimbabwe barely survived the worst by creating some change when Mugabe was still alive. Any leader who has had more than 21 years in power and didn’t create solid institutions of justice and oversaw an orderly transfer of power is solely to blame when chaos erupts after his departure. The land grabbing, patronage and use of state resources to maintain a cabal or coterie of privileged few elbowing out other people through corruption money to buy out peoples land is a recipe for future disaster. As Bismarck said might is right, but when you live long enough the cookie crumbles. If I may ask you, did Uganda have safe houses in 1998? Was there land grabbing in 1994. Every national asset that was conserved by default by previous regimes has been sold and there is nothing to show from the proceeds, except fake investors that are a front for corruption. Mwai Kibaki performed more for Kenya economically in 10 years than Museveni the last 24 years.
    In Uganda currently constituted the unsaid is most scary. Since the constitution has been trimmed like a dress to suit one person, we are sailing into the unknown territory and no one can predict the future. Amin nationalized the land and NRM reclaimed it, only to land grab it too and the quest to reclaim it is now the struggle and is a public secret. Uganda’s resources are very limited in comparison to population, but when the leadership’s preoccupation is 95%, how to stay in power manoeuvring this makes a difficult situation very complicated. Manipulating and winning elections is the easy part, but there comes a time when all sectors are cosmetic to a leader and any support is rented support of mercenary nature.
    The popularity of this chap Bobi Wine is actually a cry for help, he is not the best candidate but folks with potential have been decimated due to lack of courage to tackle the deep state status quo. Both Bobi like Museveni may have the charisma and courage, but Museveni has the money and Bobi has the time. How did Ugandans get into this desperate situation, decadency has pushed them. Ugandans are perishing in the Mediterranean too, trying to cross into Europe and yet Uganda is not at war. Girls are slave traded in Arab countries in disguise for work or prostitution in alarming numbers, due to lack of fair opportunity. Can anyone look his child in the eye and tell him or her that you can become the Ugandan president if you behave well, work hard and stay focused?
    The Ugandan situation is more complex even when seen as a slide show. People are clearly saying that enough is enough we prefer change though we are hostages of a longevity cabal system that throws dimes for manipulating support. How did a leader wait to hobnob with the Full Figures, what love of power is that? Full Figure’s only acclaim is insulting people as a profession, if this is not sinking low then we are in the pit itself. Who feels comfortable to pay high taxes only for the money to be given to the Bebe Cools, Buchaman, Kusasiras and Full Figures? These are legitimate concerns that even us regime supporters feel as if we are in a post rape soliloquy. Of course change will come with collateral damage and people are slowly understanding that.

    • Thanks Mr. Ruyondo for expressing yourself from the heart. The country is bleeding but not many see it. If the leadership cared about the well being of all Ugandans, we should not be where we are today, with 87% unemployment rate for the youths (dehumanized and enslaved in the Middle East) and 86% in grinding poverty and uncertainty.

      The ancient wisdom has it that; “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of (Confucius).” Instead of making the country Great something we can all be proud of, our current leaders are preoccupied with their self-importance and being “the Great” (Museveni the Great), at the expense of the whole country.

  4. @ Ruyondo:
    1.NRM’s performance curve is a normal.
    2.There are enough solid institutions that Ugandans proudly take refugee in times of need for example, IGG,Courts,Public Service,Parliament.
    3.Land transactions in Uganda are between a willing buyer and seller.
    4.Every serious nation has different security organs whose role is to guard their nations from both internal and external aggression for example Britain has MI6,Metropolitan Police,USA has FBI,Navy Seal,Israel has MOSSAD.
    5. Libya is what it is now because they choose to believe lies about Gadaffi
    6.Why are the youth in Uganda so desperate of late its coz of social media they want to live like the Kardasians but it doesn’t come cheap those girls in Dubai are in voluntary prostitution.
    7.By giving out money ,M7 is simply sharing government resources with the Wanaichi.
    8.M7 was taken aback when Ugandans voted a known drug addict like Bobi Wine as their MP he simply appointed Full figure and Bucahman as advisers for purposes of research they are actually guinea pigs for democracy.
    9.I dont know why some sections of Ugandans love confusion nothing will happen after M7 leaves power because we will need to protect the social infrastructures M7 has put in place and the private businesses that are worth billion of dollars.

  5. Thanks Dr. Eng. Kant Ateenyi. Call me Adyeri. Thank God you adopted Kant’s name, whose virtue ethics and character should also inform your thinking and actions.

    Kant’s categorical imperative e.g., argues that if something is good or bad, then it must be universally true for everybody regardless of race, tribe, social class, country or continent. E.g., if causing harm to Mr. Museveni and his family is wrong, or preventing harm to Mr. Museveni and family good; then it must be universally wrong to harm anybody and his/her family. And it is good to prevent harm to anybody and/or family members.

    In other words, you talk about Mr. Museveni and like-minded “legacy concern” after they have departed visa-a-vis “good quality”; out of the Kasese debacle, in whose interest and what “good quality” did Mr. M7 role in the Kasese carnage add to his legacy? Instead of violence, why didn’t Mr. Museveni adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence? Unfortunately he inescapably now has the legacy of shedding the blood of the people Kasese right on his hands and head.

    Suppose Mr. Museveni had learnt a lesson from the Obote’s legacy of 1966, commanding the UA (Uganda Army) to storm Kabaka Mutesa II Lubiri Palace, and cause mayhem and Mutesa fleeing into exile and die thereof, would he (M7) repeat the same mistake to command the storming of the Omusinga’s Palace by the UPDF, arrest the Omusinga like a chicken thief, imprison and exile him in Kampala?

    33 years and still counting, dehumanizing corruption (both for the corrupt and victims of corruption) has been the NRM leadership trademark, what good quality does it added to Mr. M7’s legacy concern?

    On 4th December Mr. Museveni took some Ugandans for an anti-corruption wild-goose walk; which instead left thousands of motorists and commuters stranded and cursing obscenity in a 6-hour standstill traffic jam. What good quality did Mr. M7 anti-corruption gimmick walk add to his legacy?

    I can go on and on. But the gist of the matter is: Ugandans and the rest of the world are weighing Mr. Museveni’s “legacy or good quality” on what he says with his own mouth (verbatim) vis-a-vis what he does. But from get go, including going to the bush in 1986, Mr. Museveni’s legacy is fundamentally wrongdoing. And according to your namesake Kant Emmanuel, right and wrong (good and evil) is not in the action but in the motive.

  6. @ Mr.O: By the President claiming that he is not a servant…. was just figurative speech.

    Regarding the Kasese incidence;M7 has been at the helm of the pacification of Africa there is no way he can betray Ugandans.

    The Kasese incidence was as a result of primitivity in the Kingdom. World over; when security requests you to surrender you comply but the subjects of the King were behaving like Shaka Zulu’s guards their behavior raised suspicious within the security they even had the nerve to throw petrol bombs at the army.

    • But Winnie, are you blaming the victims of state violence and terrorism? This is because the use of uncalled for raw violence on your so call “primitive kingdom” is the antithesis of peace and/or pacification of Africa, therefore unjustified. In other words what is the difference between the former Colonial masters’ raw violence on “Backward and Primitive Natives” of wherever they colonized (dark continent), and that of Mr. Museveni violence on the “primitive” people of Kasese?

      In other words, between the primitive people, and the ones who massacre primitive people, who is more primitive? I am just asking a moral and ethical question.

  7. The kasese massacre came to the limelight by a freak journalistic leak but certainly all the apologists were caught pants down. Ironically the police spokesman at the time who wa.s gloating is quoted to have cried (oh my children) when the assassin, s hit his car. For all l know the ICC has little meaning to these starving widows and orphans as the elite debate the merits of the action. However I think the Atubos of this world reason the way they must in the same way as economic growth figures have to quote some journals in far off Washington. But one thing I know is the strong belief the bakonzo have in the ability of mother mountain to avenge innocent blood.

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