Recent developments pitting bush war hero and NRM vice chairman for Western region, Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, against youthful Odrek Rwabwogo should interest everyone without necessarily taking sides.
The wrangle is a case study in the overhead debate of young versus old (or new guard versus historicals). The good thing about generational politics is that it is guided by natural trends of progression (in age) and can for that matter be argued for within a certain limit. Nobody can stop the hand of time. What is meant to be must be but some of our people are not ready to admit this.
Odrek is an exposed young man connected to the first family. Before attacking him for seeking to exercise his leadership skills, one should ask themselves the following questions: is it a crime for him to contest? Is he of age? Is he Ugandan? What is his background? Is he qualified?
Answers to the above questions are simple. His only ‘crime’ is that he is a member of the first family (by extension). Some dishonest politicians have deluded themselves that once one belongs to or is remotely connected to the first family, then one has no right to be or do anything else.
Odrek is a Ugandan, educated, of age and from a good family. It is those qualities that endeared him and made him acceptable to the presidential family as a son-in-law. It is well-known that the father-in-law in question is an extremely intelligent man. He couldn’t have betrothed his daughter to ‘anyone’.
That private matter aside, political legacies aren’t uncommon in the world. It all depends on the conduct and viability of an individual. Next door in Kenya, we have President Uhuru Kenyatta in the shoes his father wore till death in 1978. He went as far as inheriting Kanu, the independence party. Uhuru has proven to be a progressive leader whose links to his father have only worked to hone his family’s legacy.
That is not to say he hasn’t any failings. There is a way he conducted himself in the face of charges before him at ICC: when he set a record by handing over his seat, privately heading to the ICC and returning to find his seat of power intact with all Kenyans behind him. He showed that being son to the founding father of the nation was not all that shaped him but he was a generational statesman.
Joseph Kabila, too, has managed to keep his sprawling nation, DRC, at the other end intact after his father’s untimely demise. The Bush family has an enduring legacy in the United States. There are many cases if one chose to find out.
Here in Uganda, when NRM ushered in freedom, it was freedom for all. That is why in UPC, for example, Jimmy Akena is now wearing bi-gender shoes of both his parents. In DP, if Paul Ssemogerere and John Ssebaana Kizito had so wished, their relations could have walked in their tracks; but who knows why it didn’t happen?
Leadership is for those who can subject themselves to the people’s wishes. Odrek’s interest is the interest of many – the children of the Movement. It is up to voters to choose from among those vying. Historicals who still want to remain on the scene and relevant should ‘apply’ to the voters and allow them choose freely.
Some of the old guard have been, rather, disappointing in their deployment as they had become untouchable and authorities unto themselves. Some are stuck on old ways of doing things. Historicals are gradually becoming ceremonial – for occasions such as January 26 (liberation day), February 6 (Tarehe Sita) and Independence day when we remember their past exploits to inspire new leaders.
Interestingly, all Ugandans in a way contributed to past struggles, such as me who lost my people during those difficult times. We are all, therefore, entitled to make a claim on Uganda through offering our service and that shouldn’t be stifled by those who should groom us to emulate them. All that is needed is fairness and a level playing field.
The writer is a presidential aide for media management.