By Faruk Kirunda
Last Thursday, when President Yoweri Museveni addressed the nation on the security situation in the country, many Ugandans, and well-wishing non-citizens, tuned in to listen to what the head-of-state had to say. Coming in the aftermath of the bomb attacks at Komamboga and western Uganda bound Swift bus, the address was much-needed to reassure the nation and give direction on which way to take.
No doubt, most Ugandans who listened to the president agreed with his position on various aspects of the security situation and the preparedness of the government to get on top of the situation. Ugandans are reassured, and supportive.
Unfortunately, there are spoilers in our midst at this awkward time.
One source of dissent is from Nakawa West MP who doubles as NUP spokesperson, Joel Ssenyonyi, who came out on Monday and challenged President Museveni’s assertion that terrorists behind the bomb attacks harbor political motives.
While addressing the press at the NUP headquarters in Kamwokya, Ssenyonyi disputed the president’s take in a familiar bid to shoot down anything that Museveni says or does. Ssenyonyi represents a class of Ugandans who think and breathe politics. They see opportunity to build political capital at every turn regardless of the issue at hand.
By disputing Museveni’s conversant position, the MP sets himself up for a very stiff challenge. Can he tell the public, with incontrovertible evidence, the “real” motive of the terrorists, and how he can help defeat them? What do they want to achieve? Who are they? Who do they work with? Who are their sponsors? What next are they doing and where? How does Ssenyonyi know these things? It’s a Pandora box of demands! Public communication is a very delicate area. Having regular press conferences is going to cause some of these parties’ foreseeable and unforeseeable problems.
Aside from appearing as lacking focus and depth, they can well blow cover on their role in unspecified activities. It’s understandable that there is pressure to perform, the need to remain in the news and the irresistible urge to cook up things to feed gullible supporters with what they want to hear. In the circumstances, that is not only reckless and dangerous, it’s counterproductive and insensitive. Lives have been lost, property has been damaged; the public is alarmed and the enemy is at large.
We can’t afford to send or spread uncoordinated messages.
When Ssenyonyi disputes the statement of the commander-in-chief, the biggest consumer of intelligence, the most experienced security and political expert in the country, does he adequately believe that he can measure up by any chance? What does he hope to achieve; to suggest that Museveni is not in charge and doesn’t know what is going on, trying to cover up a trail or serving strange interests?
In terms of being informed on any issue, Ssenyonyi doesn’t deserve to tie Museveni’s shoe laces. That is not to diminish the MP’s standing in society but that is reality. As a first term legislator and one of the leaders of NUP, a young party, there is a lot of ground to cover before earning talking rights on serious matters such security and the dynamics of terrorism.
By virtue of his position, Museveni knows what Ssenyonyi and the group know but they don’t know what he knows. Museveni does not speculate!
The MP, for reasons most apparent to him, may have felt pressed by the words “political motive” and reacted to deflect attention from the fact that some politicians in Uganda, while seemingly engaged in civilian political activism like everyone else are, in fact, consorting with bad company. Certain opponents of the NRM government are hell-bent on undermining it by all means possible, including unconstitutional ones. They are willing to risk anything to achieve their objective of change of government or making the country ungovernable, both pet subjects of some in the opposition.
It’s very probable that deadly elements have joined the chorus of “change of government” and are working behind-the-scenes with formal opposition, or working independently but supplementing the effort. It matters that all politicians of good repute distinguish and distance themselves from any crude and underhand methods that could lead them into trouble with the state-which has good records of who is doing what, where, how, when and with whom.
While the bomb attackers may be motivated by thirst for blood, financial gain, sadism, fundamentalist indoctrination, hatred, lawlessness or any other factor, the round summation of their actions is that they are pushing a political agenda intended to destabilise government and cause a shift in political alignments. Nobody should risk sounding like a sympathiser to anti-people interests unless he or she is prepared to pay the price for the treachery.
Ugandans remain the most peace-loving people on account of having paid a high price for the freedom they enjoy. They are very sensitive to any attempt to take that away and can react very decisively when suspicious or threatened. No one can try to use crude methods to win their hearts; they reject and expose you! That is what will happen to anybody who insists on testing their patience and national cohesion.
In the face of terrorism and endangerment of their collective security, Ugandans are ready to set aside personal, political, religious, ethnic and other differences to first sort out the common enemy who has shown a desire to harm them indiscriminately.
Ssenyonyi and group should fully stand on the side of peace-loving citizens, play politics of ideas, fully denounce any temptation and stop politicising every issue that comes to their ears! The generation of young leaders needs to learn certain lessons faster!
The author is Deputy Presidential Press Secretary. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org