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The next president might need more sympathy than votes!

Ramathan Ggoobi

The next president might need more sympathy than votes!

I warned you, Mr. President, against Bukenya; now I gather you are determined to take the same route against Gen. Tenyefuza!  

The next president might need more sympathy than votes!I warned you, Mr. President, against Bukenya; now I gather you are determined to take the same route against Gen. Tenyefuza!       

Most of the contents of this article were first published, in these very pages, in October 2011, under the title, “Mistake + Mistake = President Bukenya. Nearly two years later, someone may be pardoned for thinking it was not written by normal person but a seer! Go ahead, read, and see why it is not wise not to listen.

In June 2008, “Through Intricate Corridors to Power.” The timing for the launch of the book could never have been accidental. Mid-2008 was a time when Mengo, owing to the land amendment bill 2007, had drawn the red line with inscriptions, “You are either with us or with them.”  

The contents of Bukenya’s book left no doubt in me, and I presume in many other sophisticated minds, that he had taken notice of the red line drawn by Mengo. On page 46 of the book, he stated, “I am Bukenya Gilbert Baalibaseka, son of Benedicto Mutawonga Kagugube, now resting at Bukoma-Kikela kya Kabaka, our ancestral burial place. My mother is Francisca Nabulo, daughter of a clan leader of the Ngeye clan. I am a grandson of Lodovico Mwogerabulungi, the son of Bakidde, son of Muvawala, son of Ngabotekyala.

“My clan head is Omutaka Nsamba, who resides at our ancestral headquarters at Buwanda in Mpigi district. In the ancestral clan hierarchy I belong to one of the building pillars of the clan (essiga) headed by Yiga at Mitanga-Mawokota in Mpigi district. I belong to, and also head, the trunk clan lineage (omutuba) of Baalibaseka of Bukoma in Mpigi district. I am a direct descendant of the family (olujja) of my great grandfather Kagugube. I was enthroned with the bark cloth which is the original dress of the Baganda, and I am really proud to be so deeply rooted in Buganda.”

Bukenya’s book also came out at a time when you, Mr President, had just challenged NRM leaders to choose between being “national leaders or clan leaders.”  Self-inflicted downfallTrue to his political naivety, VP Bukenya invited Kabaka Ronald Mutebi to officiate at the launch of “Through Intricate Corridors to Power” at his empire at Garuga. And of all names, Bukenya named his Garuga hotel, Katomi Kingdom (emphasis on kingdom). Not even the increasingly deteriorating and menacing relationship between you and Kabaka Mutebi could deter Bukenya from getting too close to your ‘enemy’.

Mr President, at the time the Kabaka launched Bukenya’s book, he had continuously turned down your own invitations for talks, or even a courtesy call at State House. So by accepting to visit Bukenya and owing to the demeanor and the coziness with which a known reserved Kabaka Mutebi presided over the ceremony (he was visibly in high spirits), we were only left to watch the space. But I knew the political barometer was not deceiving me — Bukenya, the self-styled mahogany, had started on his self-inflicted downfall.

In the book that the Kabaka was launching, Prof. Bukenya had written thus, “Buganda culture is very interesting and trying to erase it from people’s minds would be futile. It would be like trying to end a lineage. President Obote had tried his best to remove this living history (Buganda culture), and his overthrow was the climax of getting rid of a reviled being.”

When I read these words I immediately picked a pen and inscribed the following words, “When a man writes himself out of job.” Why? Hardly a month earlier, while delivering the State of the Nation Address on June 5, 2008, you, Mr President, had warned traditional leaders for what you termed “sabotaging the country’s economic development”.

You went further and said that traditional leaders failed to defend Africa against colonialism and that this was a direct vote of no confidence in them. So, when I read Bukenya warning you not to become another Obote, and then he invited the very traditional leaders you were castigating (the Toro Queen mother was also in high spirits at the book launch), I knew sooner or later he will pay for his ingenuous disloyalty.   

Bukenya’s slippery tongueAny Ugandan cognisant of our political fête knew that Bukenya’s troubles had everything to do with wrong timing and political naivety. In addition to the above-mentioned mistakes, below is a summary of some of the long list of utterances and actions that finally delivered Bukenya to Luzira.

In September 2009, Bukenya called a Press Conference at his Kakiri home to dismiss media reports that he had, for the first time, preferred President Museveni to Kabaka Mutebi. He faced cameras and emphatically said, “Kabaka is my best friend, there is no way I could say such a thing.”   

A few days after his press conference, Bukenya attended the coronation anniversary of his ‘best friend’ at Lubiri Mengo, and contrary to what his boss had announced on WBS that there were no more negotiations between Buganda and central government over federal system of governance, he assured the Baganda that, on his part, he was ready to negotiate with them over the issue of federo and other grievances.

Bukenya has always been playing in the hands of his political rivals. In calling a hasty press conference to dispel a matter as simple as a rumour that appeared in Kampala’s official gossip pamphlet (that calls itself a newspaper), Bukenya thought was responding to his political enemies whom he had baptized as “political mafias”.  Little did he know that that is exactly what the mafias wanted him to do — to jump out and confirm that he rated the Kabaka more highly than his own boss.  

His slippery tongue had betrayed him years earlier and he thought he would perpetually be lucky. Quite new to the political arena, in 2005 Bukenya solicited an interview from the Monitor newspaper (specifically he talked to Conrad Nkutu!) and in it, he accused some of his seniors (in politics and the NRM party) as political mafias. In the same piece, he also baptized himself a Mahogany that no one could break. A friend, well schooled in political mathematics told me back then, “Bukenya will one day pay for this utterance.”  

Unsophisticated politicianTalking of uncalculated utterances, towards the 2011 general elections, Bukenya told a newspaper, “I am retiring from politics.” This statement sparked off scary whispers and I asked in these very pages, “What if Bukenya stands in 2011?” He may not have stood against his boss but he never campaigned for him either. Definitely, he knew he was on his way out of government but a sophisticated politician would not have come out prior to cabinet reshuffle shouting, “I care less about losing the vice presidency; the only thing I care about in this world in my mother!”

Days later, immediately after results for NRM primaries were announced, confirming that Eng. Ian Kyeyune had lost his Wakiso LC V seat, Bukenya, a political nemesis of Kyeyune, told Bukedde newspaper, “Let those who have been sponsoring him to fight me appoint him RDC.” In this utterance, the then VP left no doubt among us whom he was attacking because we all know who appoints RDCs.

Then the Namboole debacle came. While campaigning for Secretary General of NRM, a position Bukenya had earlier downgraded to being one for taking minutes, he told NRM delegates thus, “Time has come to reduce dominance of people from one region.” Of course he was referring to dominance of westerners in a government he was as number two!  
Sympathy president The list of Bukenya’s mistakes is endless. Mr President, I was gladdened when you heeded to Napoleon Bonaparte’s wisdom in the way you had handled Bukenya. Napoleon advised you thus, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” And you didn’t interrupt Bukenya.

But what amused me was that Napoleon’s maxim also turned against you.  By taking Bukenya to jail, you, and your PM Amama Mbabazi, a known political adversary of Bukenya, took a similar route that mahogany had paved for his own downfall.  I thought this was not the time to create new enemies. At the time, a number of events and factors had created enough enemies for you, Mr. President, in person and your NRM party.

It was inconceivable that you had learnt nothing and forgot nothing from past mistakes. Kizza Besigye became a national hero the day he was sent to Luzira under unconvincing circumstances.  My conscious tells me this was a grave mistake, in equal measure with Bukenya’s own mistakes. Secondly, the fact that only Bukenya was prosecuted among many top leaders cited in the CHOGM scandal mobilised a lot of sympathy support towards him.

I don’t know why, but I have a feeling the next president might need more sympathy than votes. Yet I gather that you are determined to take the same route against Gen. Tenyefuza! I’ve already heard Ugandans asking, “What crime has Tinyefuza committed? Asking what every Ugandan would want to ask?”



Ramathan Ggoobi

Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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