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Kamadhi Series: Of Generals and elections in Africa

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“Young men, in any war it is the victors who tell the story because the vanquished do not have a platform from where they can tell their side,” Joel Kamadhi started off our evening banter at the Mutungo Malwa Group.

Apparently, Kamadhi was drawing the group members into discussions about the Kasese incident in which 62 people including the ‘royal guards’ and government security personnel were reportedly killed, and the subsequent arrest of the ‘Chief’ of the Rwenzururu Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere.

According to Kamadhi, almost everyone connected to the Kasese incident had made a comment on the matter apart from Mumbere himself.

“You see, all politicians in Uganda have discussed this issue, with some berating Rwenzururu Chief Mumbere for being obstinate, while others have come up in his defence,” Kamadhi said, adding that “the only platform for Mumbere to tell his side of the story is in court where he is facing murder charges.”

But before he could carry on with his now seemingly-annoying vibe, one of the group members, Yorokamu Bwambale, a Mukonzo, asked Kamadhi: “Why do you call our King a chief?” And, in a quick and witty response Kamadhi said: “Omusinga Mumbere does not have ‘blue blood’”, before taking thr group members through the lengthy history of the Rwenzururu movement, which he also described as “a political organization that was pursuing a separatist rebellion designed to free the Bakonzo and Bamba from the authority of Tooro about five decades before Independence.”

According to Kamadhi, the Bakonzo and Bamba of the Rwenzururu movement declared their secession from Tooro on June 30, 1962, just three months to Uganda’s Independence on October 9, 1962. But according to Kamadhi, the declared secession did not necessarily qualify the areas occupied by the Bakonzo and Bamba, as a kingdom.

‘The founders of the Rwenzururu movement led by Isaya Mukirania, Yeremiya Kawamara and Petero Mupalya were tribal elites and not royals,” Kamadhi told Bwambale. Kamadhi’s statement led the two men into a protracted argument, with Bwambale insisting that “we have a King and kingdom that resulted from a cabinet endorsement in March 2008.”

Kamadhi took advantage of Bwambale’s ‘slip’ and took him back in time to 1993 restoration of Kingdoms, the 1995 Constitution and the subsequent amendments in 2005.

“There is a thin distinction between traditional leaders and cultural leaders, and unless we get to understand that distinction, we won’t get answers to this question,” Kamadhi said, to the chagrin of Bwambale.

He added: “In Uganda, the government fears the traditional leaders and cannot just arrest any of them like it did with Mumbere. For instance, can government arrest Kabaka Mutebi just like that? In any case, do you remember what happened in 2009 when police stopped Katikiro John Baptist Walusimbi of Buganda from going to Kayunga?”

Unrestrained, Kamadhi turned to the manner in which Mumbere was arrested. “By the way, do any of you young men even know that Omusinga Mumbere is a Three Star General? So, how do you send policemen to arrest a General just like that? The last time government effected the arrest of a Four Star General it had to send a Three-Star General,” Kamadhi said before asking: “by the way, when, where and who pipped Mumbere?”

“Anyway, let us leave matters of Generals to Generals,” he resignedly said, as he tried to moot the theme for his next topic of discussion.

But before he could change the topic, another member of the group, Hitler Eregu, a now-reformed former rebel from Teso, chipped in and sarcastically observed that “rebels, or in Mumbere’s case, separatists” who award themselves ranks while still in rebellion barely succeed “because of the intrigue such ranks create in the rebel movement.”

“Look at Yoweri Museveni, after fighting for over 15 years from 1972; he became a General just in 1987! Also, consider Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who became ‘Commander-in-Chief of the military’ in 1959, four years after he started rebellion,” Eregu said, adding: “these rebel leaders just accord themselves tantalising titles like ‘Chairman of the High Command’ (CHC) in Museveni’s case and ‘Commandante’ in Castro’s case.”

With such titles, Eregu added, the rebel leaders assume an aura invincibility before their juniors, making internal rebellion a distant thought for some of the senior rebel officers who may have a bone to pick with the leader.

“Many of you here do not even know that Museveni is called ‘Afande CHC’ by many bush war colleagues,” Eregu said, posing with an aura of supreme knowledge. He then went on to detail those who had accorded themselves ranks, linking them to failure to achieve their stated objectives.

“But you consider those like the self-styled Congolese Generals Wamba Dia Wamba, Laurent Nkunda, Sultani Makenga and Bosco Ntaganda aka ‘The Terminator’, all these have overseen failed rebellions,” Hitler Eregu said, adding: “Even nearer home other failures include self-styled Major General Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); Field Marshal John Gideon Okello who led a futile rebellion in Zanzibar and Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi who led another futile rebellion in Kenya,” Eregu said.

It was at this point that Kamadhi, who by the way detests interference with his presentations, made a ‘grand return’, changing the topic to electioneering in Africa.

“Young men, one of Africa’s long-serving Presidents called Yahya Jammeh lost the elections in The Gambia, what does this development portend for the continent,” he asked. But before any of us could offer an answer, Kamadhi added that the Ghanaian President John Mahama was facing stiff challenge posed by Nana Akufo-Addo in the presidential race.

“I tell you Jammeh is gone through a free and fair election, and if Addo wins in Ghana, then the electoral commissions of other African countries may have to change their modus operandi; just take a look here in Uganda the elections were contested; in Kenya elections were contested; in Tanzania the elections were also contested,” Kamadhi said, adding: “There is a lot of homework for the Electoral Commissions in the East African region to do.”

It was 10pm and Kamadhi bade us all ‘good night’, promising to give us ‘more bwino’ at the next sitting.

This is a burlesque column that will be running on Friday.

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