On Wednesday, President Yoweri Museveni went to Parliament to deliver a speech on “defeating challenges of insecurity” in Uganda following a spate of unresolved murders and a general state of insecurity in the country, especially in Kampala recently.
Once at the podium, Museveni turned to a favourite topic of his that those who know him well say is characteristic of him whenever he is under intense panic: the ancient history of the great lakes interlacustrine region.
This topic tends to restore some confidence and a psychological shot in the arm that gives off the impression that he is a man in charge, especially when the pressure he is facing in areas that tend to be his soft under belly.
In this case, Museveni had come to parliament to speak about peace and identity. Speaking about peace seems reasonable given the topic he had come to address parliament about; however, it is when he began to raise questions about his own identity that the Members of Parliament, and even those watching on their television sets at home, wondered what exactly had rattled Museveni.
“I’m not an immigrant from anywhere”:
Museveni spoke for over two hours. Almost an hour of that time was spent lecturing the MPs about the people of the great lakes region in a tone that was rather patronizing. “What you call history I call current affairs. I know because I was there,” he told the MPs, before bragging that he was “unearthing history” for them because “you know about everybody else except yourself.”
If you know Museveni, then the self-indulging isn’t new. However, what was most perplexing was how he kept repeating that he was not “an immigrant from nowhere.” It is as if Museveni had been summoned by Parliament to bring his birth certificate.
And so, to “prove” that he was not a foreigner he turned to “Museveni’s own facts.” He seemed to locate his “heritage” to Mutara, a place he claimed “was part of Mpororo, Nkore, before colonialism.”
Of course, anyone with some knowledge of history immediately sensed that Museveni had unwittingly committed an own goal.
For sure, the confrontation between “Museveni’s Own facts” and the real facts was about to produce the opposite of whatever he had intended to achieve by invoking this story of a time past.
For those who don’t know, Mutara has never been part of Uganda. Not before colonialism (Uganda had yet to come into existence). And certainly not after the formation of Uganda by colonialists.
Rwanda did exist prior to colonial rule. Indeed, no part of contemporary Rwanda has ever been part of any neighbouring country; on the contrary, during colonialism Rwanda lost territories to present day Uganda (parts of Kigezi, Ntungamo, Igara rya Ruhinda that was later named Nkore) and in North and South Kivu in the DRC.
The place that Museveni is referring to was – and still is – Mutara. However, prior to colonial rule, Mutara was referred to as “Umutara w’Indorwa” meaning that it was part of the area that was known as Ndorwa, in Rwanda. In fact, Mutara still exists today. Again, in Rwanda.
Unlike Museveni’s “own facts”, Mpororo was, and remained, part of Rwanda decades after the Berlin Conference and for much of this period the Bahororo (who are of Banyarwanda extraction – the clans of Abagina, Abashambo, Abagahe, etc – have their relatives in Mutara, Rwanda) were identified as Banyarwada, hence the proverb among their Nkore neighbours that goes something like, “ko ocumita Omuhororo oyita omunyarwanda” which loosely translates into “if you kill a Muhororo, you will be in conflict with a Munyarwanda.”
If Museveni says that he is from Mutara and Mutara has never been part of Uganda, then this might explain why the gentleman protests too much about his identity.
At any rate, Museveni didn’t need to invent facts that shift the territory of Mutara to Uganda to qualify as a Ugandan. After this Banyarwanda “heritage” is recognized under the 1995 constitution as citizens of Uganda. Moreover, his continued distortion of facts and history will only serve to invite the real facts from those who believe the truth matters and that it will set him free from what is clearly an identity crisis.
In other words, it’s high time that the two ‘contending lines of thinking’ between Museveni’s own facts and the real facts will have to ‘resolve itself.’
No longer at peace:
The other subject that Museveni belabours in his speech is on peace. Museveni is known to talk down Ugandans that until he came to the scene they had never had a taste of peace. He never misses an opportunity to remind them that since he took power they are able to have a good night sleep.
Here, at Parliament, was a man whose claim to fame was that he brought sleep having to deal with the reality before him that the purpose of his visit there (at Parliament) was to acknowledge to the same people of Uganda that he had run out of peace.
Like the story where Museveni was convincing himself that he was not an immigrant from anywhere, here he was convincing himself that Uganda was at peace and secure “from corner to corner.”
Yet another gem of his “own facts” that are in contrast with reality. Again, in his own universe with its own unique facts.
Indeed, anyone following the speech must have come to the conclusion that what psychologists call cognitive dissonance was no longer adequate a description of what was unravelling.
Even as Museveni turned to his own facts in the frantic declaration “I am standing here authoritatively,” it was visibly clear to all that the life president was in dire need of a life jacket. In the same bible that Museveni quoted at Parliament says, “Let those with ears hear” and for Museveni the voices he keeps hearing in his head that are prompting concerns about his own identity are a Swan Song along the tune, “We wawo omusajja yatuletela emilembe. Naye kati jiliwa?