Gen. Museveni Advisor's Misplaced Attacks on "The Observer" Unwarranted

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Museveni advisor Nagenda-- too much truth for his own liking? Photo: Observer.ug

[Africa: Commentary]

Last Saturday, John Nagenda devoted a section of his Saturday Vision column to vitriolic attacks against The Observer, particularly and especially the paper’s news editor, Robert Crispin Mukasa.

The Observer’s "crime" was the choice of a headline given to a long and winding interview with the 77-year-old senior presidential advisor on the media and public relations. The words Nagenda used to describe Robert Mukasa, and The Observer as a whole, are too despicable to be repeated here.

This is the same Nagenda who, not too long ago, referred to Ugandans as "dregs" and "unwashed" of society. The Ugandans Nagenda savaged had committed the ‘crime’ of being supporters of opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, who remains a constant irritant to State House courtiers.

But one wonders why a man ostensibly well-read,well-schooled in decorum, a wordsmith, and a senior citizen at that, can engage in gratuitous insults when a simple note clarifying whatever misrepresentation he thought had been committed would perfectly serve the purpose.

For starters, Nagenda does not say that the published text of the interview says anything that he didn’t say; rather, that the headline was the opposite of what he said. So, what was the headline that elicited a rusty and acerbic response?

"Nagenda warns Museveni on son": That was the headline in The Observer of Monday April 13. Now, Mzee Nagenda found this offensive and therefore necessitating a litany of abusive and denigrating statements directed at the paper and its news editor.

The key supposedly "offensive" word here is "warn". Perhaps unknown to Nagenda, the news editor does not necessarily make the final call on, and therefore is not responsible for, the front-page headline.

Also, the person fully responsible for the editorial content of a newspaper is the overall editor or managing/executive editor, and not a news editor. At any rate, Nagenda’s ill-thought foul language went beyond Robert Mukasa to the entire editorial establishment at The Observer, moreover in a totally unwarranted manner.

Let’s consider what Nagenda said, from which the editor(s) picked the ‘offending’ headline. Asked to comment on the deeply-held belief that President Museveni is grooming his son who also commands the nation’s Special Forces Command, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Nagenda responded, in part, as follows:

"But if President Museveni is grooming him [Muhoozi] cautiously to take up from him, then I think the president would have depicted himself very badly…, I would hold him in contempt because everything he has ever talked about the subject leads me to believe that he will never do it. It is done in many countries, but it’s always a disaster."Clearly The Observer’s editors aptly construed Nagenda as "warning" his boss that it would be ‘disastrous’ should he dubiously pass on the reins of power to his son. So the issue here is not that Nagenda was misrepresented because clearly he wasn’t; the point is that Nagenda, like many around the presidency, is so wary of annoying his boss. 

For the rest of the commentary please see The Observer 

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