Saturday, April 18, 2009



April 18, 2009
By Barrack Muluka

You don’t negotiate with a person like Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. He does not understand that kind of language. But you don’t go to war with him either, for that would be worse than foolish. You simply deny him oxygen for a few days.

The trouble with people like Museveni is that they have the memory of a warthog. The warthog is a little animal with strange facial features. But it is not these features that confound you about the little fellow. It is the brevity of his memory. Occasionally, he comes under attack from the bigger predatory animals. He naturally runs away to safety. But he quickly forgets that he is under assault, shakes his ears this way and that way and bends down to begin browsing at the grass. He forgets very quickly.

That is why Museveni has forgotten that in the early 1990s, his undisciplined NRA brigands were fooling around the Kenyan border when President Moi decided enough was enough. He denied Uganda oxygen. Mzee Moi closed the Kenya-Uganda border and mobilised the Kenya Police on the Kenyan side of the border. After a few days, Museveni began understanding the meaning of the word asphyxia. Museveni quickly ate the humble pie. He dropped the warlike pronouncements he had been making on Uganda Radio. Moi summoned him over to a little tent in Malakisi in Bungoma and read him the Riot Act.

That is how you deal with Museveni when he begins itching for little islands that do not belong to him. You don’t waste valuable resources like ministers’ working time and Kenyan taxpayers’ money sending them to Uganda to talk about Migingo Island. Nor do you detract from important business in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss Migingo with Museveni. A man who came to power by the proverbial sword, Museveni lives by the sword. He holds dialogue in contempt. Like the German general who was called Otto Von Bismarck, Museveni believes the great questions of the day shall not be solved by speeches and resolutions of the majority, but blood and iron.

In 1986, Mzee Moi was working hard to help take peace to Uganda through dialogue. These were the famous Uganda Peace Talks. The bush military elite around Museveni derisively referred to them as the ‘Uganda peace jokes.’ Mzee Moi thought they were talking peace. Museveni and his men knew they were joking about peace. While they kept talking, Museveni was blasting his way to Kampala. He reached Kampala and installed himself as a successful warlord. He has since maintained himself in power with a blending of unbridled militarism and a mockery of democracy.

But Museveni, for all his self-proclaimed military prowess, is hardly more than a spoilt bully. He has never defeated a disciplined army. He takes a lot of futile pride in the fact that he scattered away the drunkards and serial robbers that Idi Amin, the Obotes and the Okellos – Lutwa and Tito, misnamed an army. These hoodlums fled at the sound of rocket and mortar fire of the advancing children that Museveni used to install himself into power. Hardly four years after the children of Uganda made him President, he was spoiling for a fight with Kenya. It was then that Mzee Moi denied him oxygen. Elsewhere, his fabled NRA almost succumbed to the primitive army of Alice Lakwena, who mobilised an army equipped only with sticks and stones. They believed they were fighting under divine instructions from the Lakwena spirit. Lakwena’s army eventually succumbed to Museveni’s gunfire. But this is hardly the kind of thing to thump one’s chest about. In the north, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army goons have given him hell for 23 years.

It was only in 1998 when Museveni rode on the discipline of Paul Kagame’s RPF to claim a share in the events that overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko from Zaire and installed Laurent Desire Kabila. But it is instructive that once again they defeated an army of drunkards and thugs. When they fell apart, Museveni tried fighting Kagame over DRC’s mineral wealth in the East. That was when he got to know what it is to fight against a disciplined army, even from a small country like Rwanda.

But it is not worth fighting Museveni over Migingo or anything else. The President of Uganda may like behaving in hostile fashion towards his neighbours, but the people of Uganda are our brothers. And even Museveni rules over them by force, having become a serial rigger of elections. Unfortunately, in order that we may sort him out, it appears necessary to deny our brothers oxygen for a few weeks. Then their man will wake up. It is unfortunate that we will also pay a little economic price, as will our other brothers in Rwanda and Burundi. But how else do you deal with a bully who thinks the army is everything? Close the border.