Opinion: I miss Olara Otunnu, already!
After this General Election of 2016, he promised to step-down after the continuing process of keeping him away from the Presidency of Uganda People’s Congress as there we’re a strange placement of UPC in connection with the NRM government, as they got cabinet positions. The fighter and long-time human-rights activist and politician said he would give up politics.
“Tension at the opposition Uganda People’s Congress Party hit the boiling point on Friday, as supporters of the newly elected party President Jimmy Akena, battled with outgoing president Dr Olara Otunnu” (…) “The latter, who announced his resignation at the end of his term, is unsatisfied with the process through which Mr Akena was elected president last week, citing irregularities that characterized the entire process that must be probed” (…) “Sources in the party told us a new committee led by one Patrick Mwondha was set up, which will provide interim leadership until the July Delegates Conference when the new President will be endorsed” (…) “The council will handle all party activities leading to the July 10th National Council and July 11th National Delegates Conference” (…) “All this took place in the presence of president elect Jimmy Akena, who was occupying the party Vice President Joseph Bossa’s office” (Segwa, 2016).
This continued with a long process where Jimmy Akena finally overpowered Otunnu and kicked him out of the party, together with others who has essentially cleared the party of the loyalist behind Otunnu.
Therefore the realization that we do something bold again could appear, but instead he did this: ““Ambassador Olara Otunnu, the embattled UPC president’s time at the helm of one of Uganda’s oldest political parties is up. The man eagerly waiting to hand over power says his attempts have since been failed from 12th of June 2015,when he scheduled to officially hand over power only to be sabotaged by what he calls the Akena faction coup – d’état” (NBS TV Uganda, 10.05.2016).
Now months after I have to drop a few words for this man. Who has a long history in Uganda Politics and all of sudden has silently disappeared, something he didn’t deserve and he could have become more vital if people had given the man a chance. That is not something I alone could believe as he has been important for many during his years in the UPC. A place and heart of a fraction that Akena never can carry, because honest political craft isn’t Jimmy Akena’s way, if it we’re so the battle for Presidency of late would have been without tension, court dates and kicking out people out of the famous Uganda House.
But when looking away from the hurt, let look at the gentleman that Ugandan people now has lost, as he turned civilian and surely has a position with good people around him. Because he has the experience and the wisdom to lead and to focus his capacity at greater things!
In 1982 – New York:
“’There’s been a mistake,” he told Mr. Otunnu, who is Uganda’s representative to the United Nations. ”We don’t accept diplomats.” Mr. Otunnu kept looking, and found another apartment. ”Everything looked O.K.,” he said, ”but when I came on the appointed day with my check, I was told it was no longer available. I had a friend call up and cross-check, and he found the apartment was still available. So I went back with him, and they were embarrassed – they said the apartment was indeed available, but they couldn’t give it to me because I was a diplomat.” (…) “He found a third apartment, but he was again rejected and again for the same reason. Mr. Otunnu, who eventually found an apartment in a new building, remembers his experience with anger. But, he said, it is a ”common story” for diplomats.” (Bennetts, 1982).
In 2009 – ‘About his role in 1985:
Melina Platas Izma asks: “Some of your critics have alleged that you were involved in the coup of 1985. What is your reaction?”
Otunnu: “That is absolute falsehood. It is a vicious smear campaign being peddled for political reasons. At the time of the coup, I was based in New York. First, there were those reports about tensions in military barracks on the outskirts of Kampala. When I contacted my superiors in Kampala, I was assured that the incidents were not serious and were nothing to be concerned about. But then, in very quick order (and to my great shock), came the coup itself. I knew absolutely nothing about it and had no part whatsoever in its planning or execution. After the coup, I travelled to London for a previously scheduled meeting of the Commonwealth Commission on Small States. While in London, I was summoned home. At that time, I called Mzee Milton Obote from Shafiq Arain’s office. He told me how the coup by Bazilio Okello had unfolded. He knew I had nothing to do with it. He concluded the conversation by telling me: “The situation in Kampala is very dangerous. Be careful. And stay in touch when you can.” I did stay in touch with him. During the Nairobi peace talks, I travelled to Lusaka to consult Mzee. Much later I would visit him while I was now based in New York. From time to time, he would send me messages. In fact one of the persons who carried an important personal letter from Mzee to me on one occasion was Chris Opoka, the current Secretary General of UPC. When I reported to Kampala, at the urging of Paulo Muwanga and Tito Okello, I accepted the assignment to initiate and facilitate the peace talks. That was my primary responsibility as minister. At the time, in a television discussion with Col. [Zed] Maruru, I defended the record and programmes of UPC from what was a wholesale visceral condemnation of the party without any regard to facts. I argued for an objective assessment of UPC’s record across the board – both its achievements and mistakes. Incidentally, soon after the coup, and before I left New York, Museveni had called from Gothenburg in Sweden (my telephone number was given to him by Betty Bikangaga from Geneva), urging me to return home to facilitate contacts and eventual peace talks: “The people who are in charge in Kampala know you and we know you; you can serve as a go-between and help to build confidence for talks.” (Izama, 2009)
His own statement in 1994 as member on the Commission on Global Governance:
“I think it would be equally difficult to have Germany and Japan join as permanent members without seeking some way to redress the imbalance which will be accentuated–the North-South imbalance within the Council. At the very least during this transitional period, we would need to have what one might call “tenured members” of the Council. Those who would serve for a period longer than two years–maybe five, six or seven years–but who would not be permanent members. A possible formula would be three-plus-one. Three tenured members would be drawn from the three regions of the world which are now not represented on a permanent basis–Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia. The remaining one would be a global seat, tenured, elected on the basis of some rough standard of good UN citizenship. It would allow a number of countries, who would not necessarily belong to the three regions mentioned previously, but who contribute very actively to the purposes of the UN, to be invited to serve on this tenured basis” (…) “Now I come to the use of the veto, which obviously has to be discussed in any context, whether it is transitional or long-term. In the long term, I am not sure what the fate of the veto is going to be. I have a feeling that it will be a major issue of discussion. As we move into a world that is more democratic (in spirit if not always in practice), the veto will increasingly be questioned. But in the transitional package, I see the veto being retained by those who now have it, for purely practical purposes. They will not cooperate on anything that prejudices their right of veto” (Otunnu, 1994).
In 2005 – His work for Children in Conflict:
“Reacting to his departure as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF said today that it was deeply grateful to Olara Otunnu for being an outspoken advocate for millions of children caught in conflict around the world” (…) “She praised Mr. Otunnu for insisting that egregious violations of the rights of children in armed conflict cannot be overlooked or forgotten, and that the cloak of impunity must be lifted for all war crimes and abuses committed against children” (…) “Ms. Salah also hailed Mr. Otunnu for his close work with UNICEF in negotiating the landmark resolution passed by the Security Council last week, which establishes a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system for children affected by armed conflict” (UNICEF, 2005).
In 2007 – Otunnu could return:
“The Ugandan Government would not accept &rewarding8 the disaffected diaspora and &terrorists8 through the peace process. Museveni argued that if regime critics such as former U.N. Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict Olara Otunnu wanted to return to Uganda to run for office, they could do so. If northern Uganda was &thirsty8 to have Otunnu represent it, then a member of Parliament should vacate his seat for Otunnu to compete” (WikiLeaks, 2007).
In 2010 – Leadership role:
“Last weekend, UPC delegates gave you a hoe to get back to work for Uganda, and the job is very big. Luckily, you bring to the job two very distinct qualities that will allow you to become part of nation building. Foremost, as a former diplomat on the world stage, you are known across the globe; when you call, leaders pick up their phones to listen. Your ability to network, and to connect internationally will serve Uganda well as a developing country” (Opiyo, 2010)
In 2013 – liberate Uganda:
“The selection of Prof Omara-Otunnu who comes from northern Uganda may raise eyebrows to many in Uganda but a source close to FUF told The London Evening Post, that the front’s leadership is determined to have leaders from all regions of the country and that no particular tribe would monopolise the front as is the case in the ruling National Resistance Movement. Omara-Otunnu will need all his international experience in bringing together many Ugandans who have for years been frustrated by Museveni’s leadership and are being united because they all share one desire, that of removing Museveni from power and returning the country back to the people” (…) “A practical idealist and visionary, Prof Omara-Otunnu has devoted most of his adult life to promoting democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and the ideal and practice of a common humanity around the globe. He engages these causes as a scholar advocate and a practitioner, by shaping policy and building structures and alliances through which to effect positive change in society. For his achievements, Professor Omara-Otunnu has received international recognition, including the luminary award given by the international affairs council to individuals who have made significant contributions that have profoundly impacted the world” (Gombya, 2013).
When you see this kind of words and his rich history from the cradle and in the midst of battles as the rise of Museveni was happening, while he also became a negotiation partner for the government of Obote. So he was on the losing side of history. Olara Otunnu we’re a man who at one point of time, though if I remember correctly that the youth had a say in the Obote government after the fall of Idi Amin where Museveni we’re Minister. So the turn of the coup of 1985, made him flee and also his reputation after years abroad made him a candidate for international works in the United Nations Organizations and partners. Therefore he is man with wide knowledge of the world and of his own nation.
Therefore it saddens me that he is now totally silent. That a man of this stature we wing-clipped by James Akena. That a man of hypocrisy and deceit like Akena could bring a man like this down! Otunnu had deserved another outcome. He has been steady and wanted the positive change of an accountable-government and a transparent election where a government like that would be elected. Certainly a vision he hasn’t seen in his time. Where also a transgression in his own party lead to his fall, as Akena made power moves and in the end cut the ties with the man of a rich history and also knowledge.
Otunnu, the diplomat who has a long career has now been gone into oblivion. The reality is that the man who has worked hard for justice for children and against war-crimes. As well as working of peaceful change from Museveni. That hasn’t occurred instead a man who turned loyal against all odds to Museveni got control over UPC. The Party that are old and stood against the Museveni paradigm is now gone. The UPC that stood against and lost that is well known now.
Otunnu has had many transition and been through many storms, been in exile and been through the worst of the worst. Many might not know this, but they should. He is not a relic or forgotten man; he should be a treasure to counter the NRM propaganda and the NRM control of the historical facts. He has been in the midst of the creation of the NRM from the outside and knows what the losing team looks like. He knows the struggle to get back their legacy and recharge a broken party. A party that betrayed him and took him for granted.
UPC was too good and to deceitful to be connected with Olara Otunnu! Olara Otunnu deserves credit for the work for the cause and I miss him from the public sphere. I am sure it does him good to be out of the spotlight. But the politics and the history of Uganda needs men like this. Who fights within reason and with enlightenment, with the tact and procedure and not with brown-envelopes and impunity! Peace.
Bennetts, Leslie – ‘DIPLOMATS HAVING TO SCRATCH FOR APARTMENTS’ (06.06.1982) link: http://www.nytimes.com/1982/06/06/realestate/diplomats-having-to-scratch-for-apartments.html?pagewanted=all
Gombya, Henry – ‘EXCLUSIVE: Otunnu set to lead new Ugandan liberation front’ (10.10.2013) link: http://www.nyamile.com/uganda-in-south-sudan/exclusive-otunnu-set-to-lead-new-ugandan-liberation-front/
Otunnu, Olara A. – ‘1994 Conference – Statement by Olara Otunnu’
Former President, International Peace Academy 1990-98; Member, Commission on Global Governance) link: https://www.globalpolicy.org/the-dark-side-of-natural-resources-st/water-in-conflict/32794-1994-conference-statement-by-olara-otunnu.html
Opiyo, Oloya – ‘Olara Otunnu, UPC has given you a hoe get back to work’ (17.10.2010) – New Vision
Segawa, Nixon – ‘Olara Otunnu Overthrown as UPC President’ (05.07.2015) link: http://www.chimpreports.com/olara-otunnu-overthrown-as-upc-president/
Melina Platas Izama – ‘Olara Otunnu on the way’ (06.07.2009) link: https://melinaplatas.com/2009/07/06/olara-otunnu-on-the-way/
Unicef – ‘UNICEF thanks Olara Otunnu’ (03.08.2005) link: https://www.unicef.org/media/media_27835.html
WikiLeaks – ‘UGANDA: A/S FRAZER DISCUSSES LRA, CONGO, AND SOMALIA WITH PRESIDENT MUSEVENI’ (14.09.2007) link: https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07KAMPALA1449_a.html