|Written by Gaaki Kigambo|
|Wednesday, 13 October 2010 19:15|
|Dr Olive Kobusingye’s book – The Correct Line? Uganda under Museveni – makes no pretences at objectivity in its dissection of what the author presents as the ironies and contradictions between President Museveni’s style of governance today and what, 29 years ago, compelled him into armed rebellion against Apollo Milton Obote’s government.
The book’s consignment remains held at Customs at Entebbe International Airport since last Friday, October 8, when DHL shipped it in because, according to its author, it was deemed anti-government.
But Sarah Birungi Banage, the Assistant Commissioner Public and Corporate Affairs Management at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), says the book is pending a thorough review of its contents by the revenue agency, which is mandated to review all such material for any inappropriateness.
She, however, couldn’t commit herself on how long it would take URA to review the 213-page book. In any case, she added, they would have to wait for the other agencies they’re working with to complete their reviews as well.
The Police and the airport’s Joint Security Operations (JSO) unit have taken keen interest in the book. However, information from Police indicates it’s JSO that’s right at the centre of it. JSO brings under one command all security organs based at the airport.
The book is causing great discomfort within government circles. Its scheduled launch today, October 13, at Kampala Serena Hotel was cancelled because, according to Kobusingye, the management didn’t want to take any chances were the Police to insist on stopping the launch midway.
But Kobusingye says she hadn’t received any indication the Police had any such plans. The hotel’s management declined to speak to The Observer about the matter. There are unconfirmed reports that the hotel had received calls from within government circles advising them against having the book launch on its premises.
The book likens Museveni and his government to George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm. Published in 1945, this allegorical novel tells the story of pigs who led a rebellion of animals against their oppressive master, Mr. Jones, off Manor Farm only for them to turn around and do exactly, if not worse, what they had rebelled against.
The book weaves the personal story of the author with that of Uganda under Museveni. Its point of departure is a Kizza Besigye rally in Rukungiri in March 2001 which, while it had been well-attended and peaceful, quickly disintegrated into wild commotion following a spate of rapid gunfire allegedly from state agents. Some people died and others were seriously injured. Kobusingye is a younger sister to Besigye.
“This incident of premeditated state terror on unarmed and non-violent civilians was not the first that had taken place during that campaign,” writes Kobusingye. Yet for her, “it was nevertheless the first close encounter.”
From here the book’s mostly short chapters afford it a fast pace like a thriller as the author winds and turns, with surgical accuracy, through Museveni’s proclamations and promises and the substance of his, and his government’s, actions. This accuracy is most powerful in emotive chapters detailing human rights abuses.
Every chapter but the first is preceded by a quotation from either Museveni’s autobiography Sowing the Mustard Seed, or two collections of his writings: Selected Articles on the Uganda Resistance War, and What is Africa’s Problem?
Then relying on familiar incidents, used largely for their microcosmic value, a wide range of interviews and reports, Kobusingye digs in, revealing in many instances where Museveni has stood for one thing and acted completely contrary to it.
In Chapter Six, for instance, Museveni is quoted from his autobiography thus: Our mandate was a limited one: to fight to restore freedom, by which we meant that the people should be given the chance to decide on their own destiny, without manipulation.
Kobusingye then recounts the story of Okwir Rabwoni who, on February 20, 2001, was physically and forcefully denied identifying with Kizza Besigye.
In Chapter Seven, Kobusingye upends one of Museveni’s main reasons for going to war in 1981 – election rigging and depriving people of their right to vote – by suggesting the amount of election rigging and disenfranchisement under Museveni’s regime puts to shame what happened in 1980.
Moreover, she adds, Electoral Commission (EC) Chairman Badru Kiggundu’s pronouncement during the 2006 elections that nobody else could release election results but the EC, smacks of the 1980 situation when Paulo Muwanga told the nation that only his Military Commission could announce election results.
In Chapter Nine, Museveni is quoted from What is Africa’s Problem? thus: The security of the people of Uganda is their right and not a favour bestowed by any regime. No regime has the right to kill any citizen of this country, or beat any citizen at a roadblock.
Then in a heart wrenching account of the horrors of safe houses, in which innocent people have lost their lives or been permanently disabled, Kobusingye lays bare the ultimate parallel between Museveni’s words and his government’s actions.
It’s this juxtaposition, which runs throughout, that is the book’s greatest strength. It makes it by far the finest rebuttal yet on Museveni’s central claim. While swearing in as president in 1986, he emphasised how he and his victorious rebel group had not ushered into Uganda merely a change of guard but rather a fundamental change.
As former Army Commander Mugisha Muntu, who is quoted in the book, notes, “When we got in [power], we were as tempted as those who had been in those positions before. So we had two choices: to succumb, or withstand the temptation on a sustained basis so that we govern the country on the principles of transparency and zero tolerance to corruption…”
Many people, Muntu goes on, were tempted, and they succumbed, including President Museveni.