Dear Duncan Abigaba

I am obsessed with you for a reason. You, I consider you family. We share too many mutual friends and acquaintances. Heck, your younger brother was under my wing for his O level and I believe I taught him well. 

Let me tell you a story about the NRM.

I have always warned you about that party. In 1989, the first split occurred. Some felt they should be more aggressive in the war up North, others believed it was a negotiated settlement. I mean, the war was at an end and the illiterate movements could peter out. This wasn’t ideal.

There are 3 reasons people join the army:

  1. To be fed.
  2. Family craft. 
  3. To kill. 

Some officers were already enjoying the spoils of war by acquiring prime real estate all over the country and setting up relatives for lofty positions in the new dispensation. Others were cementing their rank and file by scrambling for new positions in the army. Ranks were being awarded for a laugh with mates giggling and others trying to keep a straight face as they couldn’t believe their luck. 

Others were just used to the smell of blood that they couldn’t mind the affairs around Nakasero, they were hunting down country men far and wide as Mukura and Pece. Of course at substantial embarrassment to the new Overlord who wanted hard to be believed to be civilised. 

That is where the whistleblowers emerged. 

You may have heard of the Officer’s letter to the Lord, or what is informally termed as the first coup of 93. Another followed in 97. Of course, by now we are familiar with the winner of these tests. 

Then emerged that dreaded term “KATEBE”. First, within operational lingo, you were sent to Gologotha or purgatory to atone for your sins. 

This happened in many ways, like my father you ended up with a very useless task like in Mbale doing protocol work for the Sudan and Kenya handover teams. Diplomatic work is the biggest killer of political ambition.

When you are deserted, the real purge begins. First, your juniors confess openly to your transgressions real or imagined. You shake it off wondering what audacity that young fella could have gotten to attack a big dog like you. Imagine you, fresh FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, ready for bigger things. The people at the top all of a sudden are now clamping down on corrupt cadres. It is laughable because you shared the loot as fairly as you could. You remember the nights of delivery. You are sure of your honour among thieves. You remember the risks, in your case it is big. I mean you lost a whole Facebook account because wali oyiwawo omubiri. You have been loyal. 

In the case of my father, it was 5 bullet wounds, a wife with PTSD, a dead brother riddled with bullets in a foreign country. 

You surely can’t be treated like a village dog????

The title and perks are taken away. The invites dry up. Your wife(s) walk away. The disbelief follows. The letter writing begins. You even start trailing convoys and knocking every door in this town. Meanwhile, you remember that duplex you built in Kiira, it is under investigation and repossessed by the AG as part of the ongoing investigations about corruption. Like my father, you find your Hotel has a fake land title and your farm in Jinja has squatters who claim they are tired of soldiers grabbing land. 

If you are clever, you look around for friends. Men with spine who can take the heat and get finer moulding or you crumble. You remember that your uncle is a PM in the next country and you cut your losses and cross borders. 

Not so fast. As a convicted felon, you just can’t run and start afresh as an international warrant is issued for you. Only below-the-table threats keep you barely free and able to work in exile. 

Your children are probably studying at the mercy of your captors under the many dreaded scholarship schemes. Imagine what they call poisoned benevolence, you are now a lesser man to your own progeny. You are now being told to write and apologize Publicly and accept ridicule for your bad behaviour. Your wife who now works with URA has contacted your relatives that she is ready to honour the marital home if you understand these things. 

The fruit is dangled. If you are skilled and connected, you are sent off for treatment to South Africa and then flown to Juba to begin working with the new national army being formed. If you are Kategeya, you crawl back crestfallen and sit at the dreaded table. Your children seeing the coward you are are now hugging the chilly winters of the west. Trying to distance themselves from the trauma of your politics and home. At this point, death is not mercy. Are you even sure your family will respect you anymore? 

Duncan it is possible and probable NRM don’t want you anymore. Look away and flay your talents elsewhere. 

In all this, I discovered many men who have honour if you have any yourself. I was granted decent lodgings and pocket money all through the years and a guiding hand. No one told me of the game of politics being played above my head and understanding. I learnt it the hard way. 

When you are finally an old man or irrelevant, you could be allowed back into the country to share your last breath with your mother and those who care about you. 

It will be a very indistinguishable day when you will die. We will drive down to your ancestral home in memory of the man you are now, not the one who died crestfallen. We will make a spectacle and narrate your great days at GCIC. The change you brought to the country. We will then hightail.

I am not in any way scaring you but I have seen this story many times. I wanted it not to be your way for you are a simple country boy. Alas, it is now your fate. I will help but you are on your own good sire…

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Written by Zeno Othieno Owora (1)

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