Saturday, January 10, 2009

JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi) on Kony war and Uganda's oil

Thanks to a Uganda Watch reader for emailing in a link to an open letter (copied here below) authored by Uganda's former Minister of local government, Jaberi Bidandi-Ssali. The letter is addressed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and refers to Uganda's oil and the war in North Uganda which is why I am copying it here today, in full. Note, JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi) is a former supporter of President Museveni. As this extract from Wikipedia shows, the president purged cabinet minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali from office in the run up to the last election:
Under Museveni, Uganda is governed under the Movement system. All political activities are banned and although to some degree people are allowed to air their opinions, any public gathering whose purpose is political is considered treason. Anyone standing for office must do so as an individual without any supportive system behind them. In a violent and heavily rigged presidential election in 1996, Museveni defeated Paul Ssemogerere of the Democratic Party. The rigging of the 2001 presidential election also let to Museveni's triumph over his former personal physician Colonel Kiiza Besigye. In 2003, a campaign was started by Museveni's supporters to open up the limits to the presidential terms imposed by the 1995 constitution. Museveni started feeling isolated and moved to purge his administration of his former supporters like his childhood friend Eriya Kategaya and a cabinet minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali. The western world, which had been a firm supporter and financier, started expressing concern over this apparent move to change the constitution by Museveni. In March 2005, the Irish Rock star and anti-poverty campaigner, Bob Geldof, publicly called on Museveni to respect the constitution and desist from any move to change the constitution. Museveni's government staged a demonstration outside the British embassy in Kampala to condemn Geldof and the British government and to express their support for Museveni.

On May 1, 2005, a former U.S ambassador to Uganda, Johnnie Carson, wrote an article in the Boston Globe, in which he attacked Museveni's record and accused the Ugandan leader of seeking to prolong his stay in office in order to protect his family which had consistently been accused of buying up most of the companies privalized by the government and plundering national wealth.

Britain, Uganda's former colonial ruler, announced in May 2005 that it was cutting back on its foreign aid to Uganda and was followed by the government of the Republic of Ireland. The World Bank later followed the same course by issuing a report severely criticizing the Museveni government and the embezzlement of government money by the Museveni family. As the support that he had enjoyed from the West began to crumble, Museveni moved to revive his damaged international standing by hiring a British-based public relations firm. The Museveni government also moved to imtimidate the Ugandan media, accusing it of spreading the negative image of the president and his family that was developing rapidly in Europe and North America by late May 2005.
Uganda today worse than in 1986, Bidandi tells Museveni
Written by Jaberi Bidandi Ssali (pictured here)

JB Ssali (Jaberi Bidandi)

Published at
Wednesday, 07 January 2009
The nascent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) held its first delegates conference last year at which its founder, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, was named chairman. In a New Year letter addressed to Yoweri Museveni, the President’s former campaign manager and long-serving minister urges his former boss to “look at the ceiling with 1986 eyes.” Below is a slightly edited version of the letter.

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the membership and leadership of the People’s Progressive Party and on my own behalf, I extend to you our appreciation for what you have been able to do for the country in this year 2008, the third year of your 5th term in the office of President of Uganda.

A number of commendable achievements had been recorded, especially in the first three terms of your leadership save of course for the people of the north, especially the Acholi region, which experienced a glimpse of hope only for the first four months of your reign.

As we look yonder to 2009 Mr. President, we discern a course that may lead the country into storms and tempest which will be attributed to commissions and or omissions of your leadership. In the short run many of us see a troubled Uganda which is as chaotic as you found it 22 years ago and in fact much worse off in many respects.

Corruption and disintegration

Mr. President, many of us who have experienced the brunt of the various regimes since independence will give testimony to the fact that at no time in our history has corruption and nepotism reached the current despicable levels. The prevailing extreme poverty and suffering that have engulfed the people of Uganda are a direct consequence of these maladies over which you are presiding. What perplexes many Ugandans is the impunity with which Your Excellency seem to be condoning these vices.

Mr. President, one of these nights lie down on your bed, look at the ceiling with your 1986 eyes and look at a number of issues under your leadership today, including the Temangalo saga, the Shimoni or Nakasero land give-away, the rot in the roads construction contracts, the Kananathans of yesterday, the amendment to the Constitution in respect of term limits, the re-emergence of safe houses, the Kiboko squads, the source and cause of the Muslim wrangles which are now destined to once again produce two Muftis - one claimed to be appended to State House. The list is endless. What comes to your mind?

Your Excellency, one of the worst crimes committed under your leadership has been the tribalisation of the politics of Uganda, setting tribes and ethnic groups against each other and each being tethered to your whims for identity and salvation.

Give a few moments of thought about what is simmering between Bahororo and Bahima in Rukungiri and Kanungu, between Japadhola and Banyoli in Tororo, between the Bahima and the so-called Bairu in Ankole, between Maracha and Terego in West Nile, what your administration is fanning amongst the Baganda, Baluli and Banyala. All these ethnic groups had settled amicably together in harmony. Why do we now sow seeds of disharmony and most probably a violent future for our children? Why do we not learn lessons from our recent post-independence history?

Buganda question

We are in a multiparty dispensation. For the first time since independence, Buganda has become part of the mainstream national politics albeit after a great sacrifice evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of skulls found in the Luwero Triangle. The country had attained a stage where one could no longer hear of Mengo “alagidde” or the Cardinal, Archbishop or Mufti “agambye” in national elections. Why stir up animosity amongst the various ethnic groups comprising Buganda who have lived in harmony since the colonial times? How is it possible that Your Excellency could come out with a weird proposal of redrawing the boundaries between Buganda and Bunyoro? Why did we swine the late Idi Amin when he proposed the redrawing of the boundaries between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania? What were the consequences?

Busoga saga

New embers of cession are simmering in Busoga all because of your administration’s interference in the selection process of their Kyabazinga. Why should a military unit keep vigil on the premises where the election of Kyabazinga is purported to be held in spite of a court injunction? It is now held in Busoga that Your Excellency directed that the election of the Kyabazinga must be repeated! What has happened to the rule of law?

Election rigging

As you continue staring at the ceiling, recall the 1980 elections where you lost in Nyabushozi and I lost in Nakawa. What crimes did we apportion to the Muwanga government; constituency gerrymandering, falsification of results, harassing of voters and stuffing ballot boxes for the government sponsored candidates? You opted for arms and the bush. Now focus on the 2006 elections or even more recently the by-elections in Bukomansimbi, Kyadondo North and Sembabule. What accusations are being apportioned to your government? Intimidation, harassment and torture of voters by state agents, bribing of voters, using the Electoral Commission to rig for the NRM! Wear the shoes of the declared losers and compare them with the ones you put on in 1980. What do you fathom? Or do you?

Kony war

Ever since the start of negotiations with Kony, the people of Uganda, especially the affected areas of the north, have had a positive lull which even encouraged the people in camps to start returning to their villages. Now out of the blue you attack Kony and there is a resurgence of reported killings and abductions. Once again the people of the north are gripped with fear and apprehension. Some are even contemplating returning to camps!

Over 20 years of military confrontation with Kony only created more and more camps, suffering and death of thousands of Ugandans, with over one million people displaced from their homes. After three years of negotiations we saw closure of some camps and rays of hope for the people in that area. Why the attack on the flimsy ground of Kony refusing to sign the Peace Agreement and not on ground of his having resurrected atrocities in the north?

His Excellency Joachim Chissano while briefing the UN Security Council, is reported to have placed the responsibility of Kony’s refusal to sign the agreement on the ICC’s continued wielding of its indictment over the head of Kony. Yet there have been no concerted effort on your part to factor in the ICC indictment of Kony as part of your effort to convince him to sign the agreement.

Let us imagine that Kony is finally netted and probably killed, what lessons do we draw from the killing of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by George W. Bush and Tony Blair to which you appended your thumb? Where is peace in that country since then and how many Iraqis have died and continue to die? Your Excellency, will it be far fetched to discern a replica in Uganda after killing Kony?
The economy

Your administration has been credited worldwide for the macro economic policies that have stabilised the Shilling against foreign currencies to date. However, any economic policies that do not translate into a betterment of the plight of the ordinary citizen only play in the international gallery.

Mr. President, the people of Uganda are reeling from extreme poverty and misery every passing day. This is in spite of Bonnabagaggawale which is not backed by political will. Some of us have little doubt that the scheme is bound to follow the Entandikwa scheme fate.

Mr. President, your globalised effort in persuading foreign investors to come to Uganda is no doubt commendable. However, the same effort should be extended to encouraging and boosting the local investors not only because they have held the fort in very trying times, but also because the majority have no option of relocation as some have done, but to collapse which has been the fate of many. Besides, a stringent sieve must be applied through which Kananathan or Shimoni kind of investors can be left in the chaff.

Oil discovery

We definitely commend Your Excellency and your government for the discovery of oil. We have no doubt that it could make a big contribution to our effort to better the lives of the people of Uganda. However, judging by what has been the effect of oil discovery in some other countries; a lot of apprehension is felt by many Ugandans. This is not helped by the extreme secrecy surrounding the country’s oil.

We strongly urge you to stop considering oil discovery in Uganda as a personal achievement but as a national one. We urge you further to initiate debate and extensive consultations involving all Ugandans, civil society organisations and Parliament to finally come up with a national policy on oil.

This must also be the approach if the country has to come up with a national policy on land which will take into account interests of all stake holders, including land owners, bibanja holders on customary, mailo, lease or institutional land. Your Excellency, I again urge you to develop a stance of finding solutions through consultations and negotiations. What can be construed as dictatorial or commanding approach will only estrange you from your colleagues and partners and create more disharmony in our society.


As we enter 2009, all of us people of Uganda, especially we the leaders captained by Your Excellency, must rededicate our responsibilities and obligations to our people and our country placed on our shoulders by our Constitution. Let us listen with our inner ears to the message of the founders of Uganda enshrined in our national anthem which is now sang as a ritual and not a conviction.

I wish Your Excellency and your family a happy new year!
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Note from Uganda Watch Ed>

For the record, Saddam Hussein was not killed in Iraq by George W. Bush and Tony Blair as erroneously stated in the above copy letter to President Museveni. Saddam Hussein was returned in fine health to Iraq for the Iraqis to decide what to do with him. The Iraqis decided not to free or jail him but to execute him. It's hard to take the above letter seriously when it contains such a blatant error that can be easily verified.

Further reading

MyUganda News January 31, 2008: Bidandi cautions Museveni on tribalism

Museveni inauguration

Photo: Museveni was sworn in as president on 29 January, 1986. Source: © William Campbell/CORBIS via Wikipedia.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (born c. 1944, Ntungamo, Uganda) has been the 11th President of Uganda since 29 January 1986. Museveni was involved in the war that toppled Idi Amin's (1971–79) rule and the rebellion that subsequently led to the demise of Milton Obote's (1980–85) regime. With the notable exception of northern areas, Museveni has brought relative stability and economic growth to a country that has endured decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity and civil war. His tenure has also witnessed one of the most effective national responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa.

In the mid to late 1990s, Museveni was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders. His presidency has been marred, however, by involvement in civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Great Lakes region conflicts. Rebellion in the north of Uganda continues to perpetuate one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies. Recent developments, including the abolition of Presidential term limits before the 2006 elections and the harassment of democratic opposition, have attracted concern from domestic commentators and the international community. (Source: Wikipedia)


Satirical cartoon commenting on attempts to change the constitution. The Movement is depicted here as a puppet controlled by Museveni, writing "third term" into the Ugandan constitution. (Wikipedia - Museveni)

Note, up to date news regarding Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army can be found at this site's sister blog Congo Watch.

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