Ugandans must take action against the NRM government now
I have not made any public comment about the mysterious, treacherous, tragic and outrageous death of Honourable Cerinah Nebanda for one reason. I was utterly devastated so much so that I wanted to first come to grips with the grim reality of her untimely death. Hon Nebanda is a person I first knew as a Uganda Young Democrats (UYD) activist at Makerere University where she was also a students’ leader in the Faculty of Social Sciences, a faculty I served as a students’ leader and which I remain attached to date. UYD is a youth wing of the Democratic Party (DP), so Nebanda was a DP member while at Makerere. Hon Nebanda was lively, full of life, frank, honest, upright and upfront, values that the Democratic Party cherishes.
I have a hunch that Nebanda stood on the NRM ticket not because she was an NRM supporter but because she knew the voting patterns of her constituency being an NRM stronghold. DP President has always stated that DP is a spirit. Accordingly, the DP spirit of fighting for justice, human rights and embracing the truth remained in Hon Nebanda. No wonder in the words of Fred Opolot the government media centre Executive Director, “She was a young Member of Parliament, extremely vocal and was advocating for transparency in government. She stood for values of parliament and this is what all of us should aspire for, especially young people”.
What exactly killed Hon Nebanda?
So many theories as to what could have killed Hon Nebanda have been postulated. But what remains vividly clear is that virtually all the accusing fingers point to the executive arm of the government. Let me draw the attention of the readers to the filthy remarks by the Police shortly after her death that the late Hon Nebanda could have died of drugs, the stern warning that President Museveni made that whoever speculates that it is government that killed Hon Nebanda will be arrested and the arrest of Dr Sylvester Onzivua, a pathologist who had been sanctioned by both Parliament and Hon Nebanda’s family to do an independent investigation in South Africa.
The police remarks came before a toxicological study and/or any other tests were carried. The remarks by the President were only intended to muzzle people from pointing out the suspects and remind me of the common cliché which goes that “the guilty are always afraid”. The arrest of Dr Onzivua leave me without any doubt that the top government officials and the police know exactly what killed her and don’t want any other person to know.
After the revelation during the requiem mass at Christ the King on Tuesday, December 18, that pathologist Dr Sylvester Onzivua was arrested, Hon Nebanda’s mother almost broke down. She retorted, “Gavumenti enjagazza ki bamazze okutta omwana wange” meaning “what does the government want with me, they have already killed my child?” Nebanda’s father remarked, and I quote, “When my daughter died, a team of people who introduced themselves as workers of the New Vision came and told me, Mr Mukasa, your daughter has died but allow us to pronounce that she died of heart attack”.
I also watched the NBS Morning Breeze programme on December 19, 2012 where Mr Opolot the Government Media Centre Executive Director was hosted online. Mr Opolot exonerated the government and called for patience as the investigations are done. When asked as to why other reports such as the Buddo Junior inferno report and Kanungu/Kibwetere massacres report, he said with Nebanda the government has special interest and thus it shall be expedited. Does it mean the government is not interested in other people who die mysteriously like flies? Doesn’t the NRM government respect the sanctity of life? When President Museveni had just captured power, he remarked that Ugandans should only die of natural causes, how come there’s no sound explanation for mysterious deaths? I raise all these concerns well aware that I may follow Nebanda after all they have used so many subtle means to kill me in vain.
I read very strong posts on facebook pointing accusing fingers to the government but I refrained from making any comments hastily. Following what has been done and said, one is left convinced that already there’s circumstantial evidence to prove that there was foul play – especially orchestrated by the government. And I don’t want to name any particular individual in government. At least, in the court of public opinion, the government led by Yoweri Museveni has been found guilty. If at all the alleged boyfriend to the late Hon Nebanda had a hand in her death, I can comfortably argue that he might also have been a state operative. At least, my belief is corroborated by a senior political science don at the prestigious Makerere University.
My take on the death of Nebanda
From the foregoing, one can surmise that the government is not entirely blameless. I now turn to the First Lady, Mama Janet’s remarks about Hon Nebanda that “I don’t believe that the government of the Movement killed Nebanda. Surely, Nebanda was not the most critical”. I would like to punch holes in Janet’s remarks. To begin with, dictatorial regimes don’t necessarily kill the most acerbic critics for many of them have a high degree of immunity even from the international community. But I would also like anybody including Hon Janet Museveni to tell me whether there was anybody who was more critical internally than the late Hon Nebanda. I hereunder reproduce only two of Nebanda’s quotes:
1. His Excellency, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni says Bigirimana has no problem. What kind of president is that?
2. The problem of Uganda is Museveni. Remove him and Uganda will progress.
How many of the so-called rebel NRM MPs has come out openly to indict President Museveni? Many of them skirt around the issues, blame ministers, permanent secretaries and principal accountants for the corruption monster yet they never point a finger to the president. Here is a Member of Parliament who knew the exact malady and prescribed the right medicine. She wanted Museveni evicted from state house. Sadly, she has been evicted from the universe when Museveni is still a problem.
Any Machiavellian regime (and there’s no pretence that the NRM is one) would at such a person as a snake which is in the house. If you have a snake in the house and you don’t crush it what happens? It will definitely kill you. Hon Nebanda must have been viewed as a snake in the house or a child who openly tells his father that he is not a worthy head of the family. If you as a father don’t show such a child the exit, he or she will show you the exit.
But all this is cause by the Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means. Museveni being a typical Machiavellian is only interested in power politics of capture, consolidation and retention of state power. Definitely all politicians aim at capture of state power, consolidation of state power and retention of state power. The difference between some of us and the ruling cabal is that we aim to capture power democratically, consolidate power democratically and retain power democratically. Any contrary means are morally repugnant and politically imprudent, ethically abhorrent and must be shunned with utter contempt. I must state that I hate, I despise and I abhor Machiavellian politics of the end justifies the means.
An inward critic is more dangerous to the regime more than any opposition critics. Once an opposition member calls for the exit of the president, it doesn’t surprise anybody for that is what opposition politicians say.
Hon Nantaba couldn’t be ignored like any other “noise maker”. She was privy to some of the NRM information which the opposition is not privileged to access. She was earning Shillings 22 million which means she had the mobilisation capacity but as a Member of Parliament she had unlimited platform to fight Museveni using the microphone.
Many of us are not safe
Definitely, some of us have consistently criticized Museveni. We have done that much longer that Hon Nantaba but we have limitations. However, we are also not safe. Personally, there have been several physical and pharmacological attempts to assassinate me but I am still alive by divine intervention. I am not yet dead because I have not yet accomplished the mission for which God called me. I also don’t fear death as long as I have put in black and white beliefs, values and ideals I stand for. I have no material property to bequeath to anybody. The only bequest I can leave to Ugandans, Africans and the entire family of humanity are the values of selflessness as opposed to selfishness and greed; honesty as opposed to treachery and hypocrisy; courage as opposed to fear and cowardice; truthfulness as opposed to mendacity, justice as opposed to injustice, uprightness as opposed to crookedness, excellence as opposed to mediocrity, transparency and accountability as opposed to secrecy and corruption, justice as opposed to injustice and so forth and so on.
I have authored several articles in the press and I hope those will form part of my legacy. If I die, I should be remembered as a person who attempted to fight for social justice using a pen and a tongue.
What should be done?
As for the people of Butaleja and all friends of Nebanda and lovers of humanity, I would call upon them to one day, converge between 10,000 to 30,000 to mourn the treacherous death of Hon Nebanda. Many Ugandans have died mysteriously and these include DP’s Anthony Sekweyama , Dr Andrew Kayiira and Vincent Lugonvu, NRM’s Francis Ayume former attorney general and James Wapakhabulo, UPDF’s Brigadier General Noble Mayombo and Major General James Kazini, FDCs Joseph Musasizi Kifeefe and human rights activist Robinah Kiyingi, among others. All the four regions have lost people and we must come together and say enough is enough.
Let me also reproduce some of the remarks of the NRM MPs about the death of Hon Nebanda:
“I am ashamed to belong to this government because the leaders in it are murderers. President Museveni has confirmed that this young girl was murdered. He has tampered with the investigation and he is coming for me next. Let him come for me, but we must get the truth” Hon Theodore Ssekikubo.
“Nebanda fought for transparency but the process of investigating her death hasn’t been transparent. And we are seeing that even in death she has resisted untransparent processes” Hon Wilfred Niwagaba.
“I almost had a fight with my colleagues who when news came in of Nebanda’s death alleged that NRM had a hand in the murder. I now salute those colleagues because I am in utter shock that it is the same NRM I have been defending over the years. We must now demand for the final truth” Hon Hatwib Katooto.
“The cause of her death was suspect but the arrest at the airport has become more suspicious. Why didn’t they call all other parties before the arrest?” General Jim Muhwezi.
Finally, we must demand to have legally accepted independent criminal investigation agencies like it is in America. Otherwise, we cannot trust the police to investigate crimes including those they are involved in. And I am not saying the police was involved in the death of Hon Nebanda but I cannot rule out anything. The filthy remarks by the police that Hon Nebanda died of drugs subjected her to double death for they were meant to kill her legacy as a person who was reckless with her life to the extent of abusing drugs. The NRM under President Museveni has consolidated and retained power by use of cooption, deception, intimidation and muzzling of critical voices. They have rendered the constitution irrelevant and Ugandans must heighten civil disobedience to oust Museveni. I have no illusions that we can remove this deeply entrenched Machiavellian regime using the ballot box. The time for action is now. Meanwhile, I am waiting for the Uganda Human Rights Commission to pronounce itself on this grave matter where the right to life is deprived like one is a fly and why police arrests an independent pathologist sanctioned by parliament and the bereaved family. For God and my country.
Vincent Nuwagaba is a human rights defender