As General Elly Tumwine fights the battle of his life for Nommo Gallery, one aspect of his struggle stands out. While he says the property collectively belongs to Ugandan artists, he has cut a forlorn figure without a single artist coming up to back him in the fight for what supposedly belongs to all of them.
This has reminded Spear News of a period during the early 1980’s when former President Milton Obote (RIP) got particular satisfaction out of asking former Democratic Party President General and Leader of Opposition, Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere to name his his commanders in the contested political space.
As parliament debated the delicate security situation, Obote, would easily divert the house – where his Uganda Peoples Congress held the majority – into raucous laughter by simply turning and staring at Ssemogerere through the rim of his glasses before rhetorically asking: I have my commanders fighting the bandits in the bush and I can name them; Hon. Leader of opposition, where are your commanders?
Although it was a contradiction that a president who purported to have come to power through a clean election should brazenly suggest that his power came from the barrel rather than the ballot, Obote’s question, which quickly became a metaphor for the dominance of Uganda’s politics by the military, is very applicable to General Tumwine’s situation today.
One might as well ask why a man who says he is speaking for many, should fail to summon even 27 artists to stand by him in this fight for ‘their’ property?
It is also instructive that General Tumwine chose a forum outside parliament, where the issue was raised, to answer Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Speaking to one local radio station, Tumwine summoned his liberation credentials. A familiar fallback position for our liberation heroes when cornered over impropriety, this line of reasoning exposes the sense of entitlement that facilitates the unmitigated plunder of this country by people that risked their lives in a shooting game, to pull it from the fangs of bad leadership but along the way, lost faith in their ability to improve the social situation for all and sundry.
Many will remember a similar refrain not very long ago when another liberation General, asked a judge presiding over a commission probing his misconduct in a programme meant to make essential medication available to the sick; where the judge was when they were risking their lives in the bush.
One can therefore only wonder, why all the artists in this country should be so selfish to leave one old man to fight for their endowment. But Spear News has a suggestion for Gen. Tumwine. He can easily silence Kadaga, by simply reimbursing to the consolidated fund, all that money parliament has been appropriating for Nommo Gallery over the years.