Kalinda’s death at the hands of Museveni regime operatives may have crossed a line
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
As it hurtles towards another sham presidential election, Uganda has in recent times witnessed a cycle of violence that has brought back memories of an ugly past. Ugandans go the polls in about 530 days’ time but the country has been plunged into a spiral of violence from which nobody is apparently safe.
On August 4, Michael Kalinda, a young artist going by the stage name Ziggy Wyne, succumbed to horrendous injuries inflicted on him thorough torture by unknown people. Missing two fingers and an eye, and his torso bearing burn marks, Kalinda was dumped by yet to be identified people at the casualty ward of Mulago Hospital. There he languished, in the coma he never recovered from, for a week before family members discovered him.
In a statement yesterday 6 August, the Police which up to the time of his death was professing ignorance about how he ended up in the hospital, and talking of “reviewing CCTV footage to unlock the puzzle”, suddenly made a ‘breakthrough’. In a highly ridiculed statement, Police Spokesman CP Fred Enanga said Wyne’s death was caused by an accident when “the motorcycle the deceased was riding crashed”.
Attributing the death to an accident brought to life the echoes of another mysterious death, this one 42 years before, when Idi Amin’s men claimed Anglican Archbishop Janan Luwum and two cabinet ministers had died in a “fatal car accident.” Also, but for choice of place, the circumstances surrounding Mr. Kalinda’s disappearance and unfortunate demise are reminiscent of the Idi Amin era.
That is a time when Namanve Forest tended to be the preferred dumpsite for the regime’s political and other victims. Terror stoked the land in those times. Terror stokes the land now.
Although Museveni’s officials are quick to deny it, observers see the latest cycle of targeted violence, of which the youth have borne the brunt, as a response to the rising political profile of performing artist turned legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. Used to an opposition of malleable and mostly dubious characters, Museveni is this time playing on unfamiliar territory.
He is opposed by a generation he has conditioned to believe his predecessors are responsible for his failures, but which now believes its time has come, or “Museveni’s time to go is now”. Initial efforts to compromise or divide them using money have fallen flat. Against this wall, Museveni is trying to show that he will stop at nothing to deal with anybody that poses a serious challenge to his power.
Kalinda is the third person associated with Bob Wine to die under unexplained circumstances in the space of just three months; and he’s the fourth since the targeted shooting of Yasin Kawuma, Bobi Wine’s departed driver, in Arua last August. Bobi’s coordinator, Raphael Walugembe a university student, was shot dead in Kampala on May 14.
The circumstances leading to Walugembe’s death remain unresolved. A month earlier Justine Ssekandi, another People Power activist was abducted from her Kamwokya home, beaten savagely and left for dead in Mulago Hospital mortuary.
According to Kyagulanyi, countless others who support him have been pulled off the streets, tortured and warned not to associate with People Power.
Exploiting the public concern about deteriorating security, Museveni is regimenting thugs posing as Local Defense Unit officers. Already a nuisance, it is believed that Ugandan taxpayers are funding a terror outfit that will be used to ensure that few of them turn up to cast their ballots or witness the count in the January 2021 polls.
Already, these thugs have become a menace, robbing and killing citizens during their night patrols. These developments come at a time when the Museveni system appears to be in free fall with many power centres that are often in conflict emerging within his government. Besides diverting public attention from more subtle issues this apparent confusion has created the perfect atmosphere for stripping public resources and diverting them to himself.
A case in point is the mock struggle over Uganda Telecom between the junior finance minister in charge of investment and privatization, Evelyn Anite on one hand and the Attorney General and Treasury Secretary Keith Muhakanizi on the other.
Portrayed as a dead horse, UTL which has a monopoly over all public servants, continues to make money that is not being accounted for by the regime’s appointed receiver. Elsewhere Museveni’s bush-war comrades have opened another front, belittling public institutions and making it clear they are not accountable to anybody but themselves.
People Power has frightened the living daylight out of the entire bunch.