MYTHS AND REALITIES: OBOTE’S 1968 LETTER TO A LONDON FRIEND-Part Twelve

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Dr. Apollo Milton Obote on his missive with a London Friend.

It is true that there was a letter in that paper written by one of the recently arrested persons on the Constitutional Proposals, but there is nowhere in that letter anything questioning the legality of the Government of Uganda.

 “Africa Confidential” last year came out with a story that I had a private army, that I was planning to remove the Commander of the Uganda Army and appoint in his place an Army officer from my own tribe; and that anything was likely to happen within Uganda in the near future.

 

I would now like to turn to the present situation in Uganda. Here I would reveal that I do not bet, nor do I swear, but the allegations and awkward innuendoes printed in your newspaper on October 27, 1968, which if you must have assessed were all against me and the Government of Uganda, will be proved or disproved by the passing of time. I would like to begin with that edition of your newspaper. It was the belief of your correspondent that the recent arrests in Uganda may “indicate that I feel less secure than I claim”.

I have made no claims either publicly or privately to anybody, that I am secure or less secure, but if your newspaper or any other would like to interpret every action taken by any African leader in terms of his personal security, the paper cannot be very different from a number of publications which are always deadly against African Governments, and only support the Government when leaders of those Governments do something which pleases not the citizens of a country of Africa, but foreign interests.

Thant your newspaper should sink so low as to expose itself to the shallow logic that the Uganda Government, in taking action against certain persons, represents that the leaders of that Government are necessarily less secure than they claim, is to say that I and the Government of Uganda are not interested in integrity of Uganda or its security, but only in our own positions, it would follow, therefore, and this is indicated in the rest of the article, that the Government of Uganda is an alien body composed of self-seekers who do not take the interests of Uganda seriously and only act for their own self-interests. I do not need to say any more on this matter, but I have taken the point.

Then there was the other point in your newspaper that those recently arrested must have been arrested because another paper published in Uganda has been “conducting a debate in its columns on the legality of Obote’s rule”. I have had occasion since you wrote to me to look through the columns of this other paper and I have not found this debate on the legality of Obote’s Government. It is true that there was a letter in that paper written by one of the recently arrested persons on the Constitutional Proposals, but there is nowhere in that letter anything questioning the legality of the Government of Uganda.

All the correspondent’s views were based on what he saw as shortcomings in the Constitutional Proposals. If “shortcomings” mean the same thing as “legality” or “legitimacy” in the editorial office of your newspaper, there is nothing that the Government of Uganda can do about it. We have got to accept that situation. Again, if one letter in a newspaper by anybody at all amounts to the writer of the letter conducting a debate as a prosecutor, it is something which only your newspaper must understand. The issue is that your newspaper was seriously suggesting that the editor of the Uganda paper and the correspondent do not accept the Republic Constitution. I am grateful for that revelation for it shows the falsehood of the two men to what they profess to be.

Your newspaper and a Uganda paper went on to say “that the debate and criticism from Makerere have been of a fairly rarefied academic nature and are less of a threat than certain wider political and military discontents”. In the first place we know of no criticism from Makerere.  I should be grateful if you would arrange for me to receive notice of where such criticism was published, but if it is personal expressions of lecturers at Makerere to your correspondent, it is certainly bad journalism to put that to the world in a manner that would indicate that there were certainly criticisms from Makerere.

Even if it is accepted that there has been criticism of Government from Makerere, where is the evidence for the assertion that that any such criticism was merely academic and cannot be compared with criticisms of discontent emanating from a political or military source?

The issue of discontent from military sources is not a new thing to us. “Africa Confidential” last year came out with a story that I had a private army, that I was planning to remove the Commander of the Uganda Army and appoint in his place an Army officer from my own tribe; and that anything was likely to happen within Uganda in the near future. The story was read in Uganda with appropriate interpretation. The officer who was said to be a member of my tribe and who was going to be appointed Chief of the Army was known by everybody in Uganda and was of course, not from my tribe.

The private army was something which existed in the editorial offices of “Africa Confidential”. This is the same story which we had from the British press towards the end of 1965 and the beginning of 1966, when those who pretended to understand the state of affairs in Uganda went out to tell the world, in print, that in the political crisis in Uganda between the Northerners and the Bantu, the Army stood aside because the Army was controlled not by the quarreling parties but by the half-Hamites. When we took action, as I have described above, the story changed to one of the Northerners being in control of the Army, and this is the same story as was published in your paper of October 27, 1968, where it was stated that the Baganda, or Bantu, resent Northern domination. As to how an Army which was controlled by half-Hamites changed overnight to being controlled by Northerners, was never explained by experts who write in the British press.

We shall continue with the missive in our next series.

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