An ordinary citizen’s advice to Ugandan authorities

A few days ago, I accidentally listened to a conversation by a group of people talking about issues in our region. It was really accidental.  I did not eavesdrop; they were loud enough for anybody with good hearing to follow what they were saying. It made very interesting listening.

The conversation had been triggered by news of yet more Rwandans dumped at the border with Uganda after many months of illegal detention and torture in that country.


One member of the group said: “Ugandan authorities love fishing in muddy and turbulent waters, and have become experts at it.”


Another one answered: “That shouldn’t surprise you. They are the ones who muddy the waters and create the turbulence.”


A third person, who had just joined the group and had not heard the beginning of the conversation but was keen to contribute wondered why they did that when they had so many fresh water lakes and rivers teeming with so much fish.

The others quickly corrected him. It was not about lakes and rivers, muddy though they are, or the plentiful fish they were talking about but relations within the East African region.

The first person then went on to explain what he meant. Ugandan authorities, he said, had, for the whole of three decades, been fomenting various forms of rebellion in neighbouring countries.

Some they had instigated; others had been in existence, and more were tottering to failure. Indeed the current administration in that country had made rebellion fashionable and also a key instrument of foreign policy.

But clearly much of that had not worked for them. Instead it had cost them heavily in terms of money and men, as well as regional goodwill. It had also succeeded only in creating destabilisation and insecurity and destruction.

It is not even clear whether they had benefitted from it, except, of course, if destabilisation is an end in itself.

It may very well be the intention, another person suggested, and added that some in the ruling elite actually gained from the turmoil, and this, regardless of whether their country’s reputation suffered or not.

But given the not-so-good results, it may well be in their long term interest to abandon a failed policy and adopt one of cooperation instead. That’s the advice he would give them, especially with regard to relations with Rwanda.

He then continued to explain what his advice would be.

First, they should dump the genocidaires of the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and its many mutations, as well as the terrorists of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and its different factions. 

They are so stained that they can never be laundered clean, no matter the amount of detergents or their potency. They are so rotten and stink so much that no amount of disinfectant can make them wholesome again or air fresheners cover the stench no matter how sweet the scent.

Give up these fellows; they are not good company, unless, of course, it is a case of birds of a feather flocking together.

They also tell you a lot of lies about so many things in Rwanda, for instance that the population is divided and a big part of it is opposed to the government. They tell you that sections of the military owe allegiance to certain individuals outside the country.

Can’t you see they are lying to you? They have not set foot in this country for very many years. They are out of touch with the situation here. Things have changed.

He then went on to remind the Ugandan leadership how they used to denounce what they called backwardness. They lambasted backward leaders and practices, particularly those rooted in the past that they regarded as impediments to moving forward. They were all for modernisation- in philosophical and material terms

Among such backward practices, they singled out revenge killings as an obstacle to progress. That seems to have changed. Now they keep inzigo or bitter grudge (enzigo where they come from) which they say can only be settled through revenge.

The urge to settle inzigo has so consumed them, taken up their time and energy that they have been blinded from working together with neighbours. If they carry on like this, they might destroy themselves and their country.

But this need not happen. There are good lessons to learn from the neighbourhood about reconciliation and working together in harmony.

But if they are still intent on destabilising Rwanda, they could at least pick new rebels from inside the country who are more in tune with the times, twenty-first century types, not leftovers from a bygone era.

It is difficult to say how much luck they would have with this type. Their thinking is light years ahead of today’s leadership in Uganda. Still, they might give it a try if they cannot help their aversion to calm, placid waters.

This is the bit of the conversation I heard. I found it absorbing, especially the advice part, and hurried to write it down and share it with you.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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