In the days of Amin and Obote II it was very easy to know who was a spy. They used to make their presence felt by visibly wearing pistols on their waists. When they thought people did not notice them and were thus not fearing them they could utter out things like: “Do you know who I am? Wewe ndio nani … kama na furafura uta ona … “. Some would even pull out their guns and put on the table at drinking joints so that people could know clearly that they were security agents. Others would even shot people dead over simple things like food. Those were the days of half-baked, trigger-happy spies, but those sad days are now gone.
Today Uganda probably has one of the most professional security agencies in Africa – composed of highly educated, sophisticated, meticulous and professional men and women. A Uganda government spy of today can be the least person you would expect to be a spy. They can be the loudest critics of Museveni or simply very quiet. They can appear and disappear without registering in your conscience because they are no different from the average person on the street. They can be so down to earth that you can even urinate on them without the slightest response. But make no mistake – our security personnel of today are very efficient and effective at information gathering.
Having said that I can now state with confidence that Phillipo Oruni is not and has never been a spy. I have known him for several years – since the early 1990s. Oruni is a man of peace. He has been vehemently opposed to armed rebellion against the NRM government. He is one of the few northern Ugandans who saw the devastating consequences of rebellion long ago and tried to call on northerners not to go down that path.
Phillipo Oruni, Fred Opolot and I belong to a similar school of thought. During various times when many of our people were preoccupied with the thought of armed rebellion against Museveni’s government we have been urging our people to embrace dialogue with the government instead of fighting. That is perhaps why Oruni and I have been lebelled as spies and threatened with violence and death by our own people (Langi and Acoli). But we stood our ground. Had people listened to us in the early 1990s the senseless war that devastated most of northern Uganda would have ended long ago.
I highly respect Oruni for his patriotism and principled anti-war stance. I believe that voices of people like Oruni have helped bring northern Ugandans closer to the rest of the country. There were times when our communities seemed to have broken off from the rest of Uganda but thanks to people like Oruni we managed to stay connected with the current government and rest of Uganda.