We all woke up to the sad news of the sudden death of Gen. Aronda Nyakairima.
I convey my condolences to the entire nation for the loss of a refined, civil and decent man.
To Linda (the widow) and the entire family I pray for you and ask God to surround you with blessings and give you the fortitude to rise above grief.
There are no words to console you but we hope the memory of Gen. Aronda and the good things he achieved and those he strived for will reassure you that his short life was not in vain.
Gen. Aronda went to school in Kitgum High School. He used to lament the brokenness of Ugandan society.
Like Amelia Kyambadde who went to Sacred Heart SS in Gulu, or my brothers who went to Ntare, these people went to school far from their homes of origin.
That is what build patriotism, not indoctrination or the stigmatization of certain ethnic groups.
“When will it be possible for young people to discover a broader identity than their tribal roots?”, we would lament together.
“When will a Nyakairima, go to Kitgum High again?”.
I dare say Gen. Aronda with all his sterling record of service became increasingly a conflicted man. What he believed in and what he was compelled to do were no longer in tandem.
Forced to respond to accusations in parliament about police brutality, he always found himself in an awkward situation.
I recall the meeting our team of political and civil society leaders had with him together with IGP Gen. Kayihura. It was clear that Aronda saw no justification for police brutality against unarmed civilians.
The meeting was held after we had been violently dispersed in Mbale and Soroti. Aronda knew what was right but was often forced to follow the dictates of the regime. He was caught up.
That means that in a way he was a hostage. The Museveni regime has turned many of its co-creators into hostages.
And like all hostages, they are in danger. As the Baganda say they are the “enkoko y’omutamivu’ (the drunkard’s cockerel).
The cockerel can be dispensed with anytime. But what is making Museveni drunk? He is drunk on power. Excess unbridled power.
The power is unbridled because the people who the constitution says are the sovereign power have been totally disconnected from all the levers of power.
All the levers of power are in Museveni’s hands. The promise of regular, free and fair elections in our constitution is a dead letter! We go through empty rituals and call them elections.
Even the international community endorses such sham elections and say ‘at least Museveni is better than Amin’.
We should feel insulted when our democratic aspirations are measured according to the standards of one of the most notorious dictators in history.
But for Museveni, power has become and end in itself. With every participation in another sham election, where our votes don’t count, we the leaders who seek change are seen as masqueraders in a tragicomedy.
This then is a systemic problem and cannot be solved piecemeal. It has to be confronted holistically and comprehensively. Only action by a unified citizenry can sort out the logjam in our country be dealt with.
This is then the system in which Gen. Aronda was caught up. There are many like him. People need to harmonize what they believe with what they do. It is that conflict that forced key pillars of the NRM to become its fiercest critics.
Byanyima, Besigye, Muntu, Bukenya, Sejusa…The list keeps growing. From the time of the scandalous Kyankwanzi resolution declaring the sole candidature of Museveni, I concluded that Museveni was just one big defection away from defeat.
That big defection has happened in the shape of Amama Mbabazi. As the mechanic and custodian of the toolbox of the yellow bus he knows the system thoroughly.
The system also knows him. Between him and Museveni there can only be armed peace, like in Gaza.
That is why rather than being a Lone Ranger he has joined the ranks of the struggling masses in TDA.
He needs to disconnect himself from the regime and reconnect himself to the democratic turbines of the masses hungry for change.
Unlike Gen. Aronda, Amama has never been a serving army officer. His military ranking is honorary, like Eriya Kategaya’s.
As we head to the 2016 elections senior army officers will continue to be denied the option to retire.
Gen. Aronda could have been retired before Museveni appointed him Internal Affairs Minister.
Our role should be to help our people find meaning in what is going on however meaningless things may be.
A bewildered people can resort to self-destruction. Interpreting reality is our core role. That is what Mandela did to prevent a conflagration in South Africa.
At the heart of the regime are people who know that we can’t go on like this. They see a man drunk on power douse the nation with petrol and is about to strike a match.
It is our duty to tell them that the situation is not helpless. As the saying goes, ‘don’t just sit there, do something’. You have a choice.
The battle lines are increasingly becoming clearer between the Museveni regime and the democracy seeking masses.
As the scriptures say you are either hot or cold. If you are lukewarm, you will be spat out. Aronda could have fallen victim or been sacrificed for his well-known but unspoken convictions. Who knows?
We should demand a full inquest into his surreal and bizarre death. Condolences are not enough. We deserve the truth.
It should not be like the case of my comrade Brig. Noble Mayombo where a commission of inquiry made a report but the report remains hidden. Or Andrew Kayira whose death remains a mystery todate.
I mourn Aronda because in the deep recesses of his heart he had solid values. I dare say Christian values. He was first and foremost a soldier. He was a man of few words.
He used to complain about opening and closing the endless seminars that go on in government. As minister that was his docket.
As a soldier and a Chief of Defence forces he could issue orders and they get executed.
As a minister he was entangled in a bureaucracy where he could issue orders and nothing happens.
Sometimes he shared his frustration. He could not sit easy when the IGP and other powerful and well connected police officers ran rings around him as they executed the ‘orders from above’.
Lastly, I mourn Aronda because he was not a sycophant. He was not one of the grovelers waiting for crumbs from the master’s table.
As much as possible he maintained his dignity. Rest in peace Gen. Aronda.
Norbert Mao, the author, is the Democratic Party president