Distorted Reporting Of Otunnu's Kasubi Visit

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[Africa: Uganda Commentary]

Media have carried many erroneous accounts of the visit to Kasubi by Dr. Olara Otunnu, Uganda People's Congress (UPC) president to pay his condolences over the destruction of the Royal Tombs and loss of life in the aftermath when President Yoweri Museveni's Security forces reportedly fired at civilians.

I was present and helped organize the visit. It's not true that Buganda Youths attacked Dr. Otunnu in the context the media reported. It is their right to report as they see fit. But they don't have the right to ignore important details or to distort incidents.

My eye witness account follows:

(1). Media reported the arrival time accurately. Yet readers were not informed that Dr. Otunnu’s convoy of more than 10 vehicles was granted access to the Sacred place where they parked without any obstruction. Other vehicles were restricted, with access limited to outside the gate at the east end.

(2). On realizing that Dr. Otunnu was at the site, youth and guides mobilized and sung the Buganda anthem for him before they led a tour around the ravaged shrine. The Buganda youth --some were crying-- expressed anger at the demise of their Shrine as indicated by their remarks, which included: "We know them, those who have destroyed the kingdom"; "We need change and Dr. You mentioned about opposition uniting to get rid of the common enemy, we are ready and we shall fight alongside you"; and "Kabaka bamuwamba, Uganda bagiwamba you said it yesterday at NBS TV," ("The king and Uganda are held hostage.") Dr. Otunnu listened patiently and expressed his regrets. This experience took us about 45 minutes.

(3). Some media reports erroneously claimed Dr. Otunnu was "chased away" barely "surviving by a whisker." In fact, he travelled to the Sacred shrine with no policemen or automatic rifle wielding guards, unlike other politicians, and stayed on the site for almost an hour without any disturbance.

(4). At the end of the tour of the shrine, the youth who guided the delegation requested that Dr. Otunnu deliver some remarks. At this stage, the crowd had grown large. People started singing the Buganda anthem a second time. Dr. Otunnu joined in, while clapping. Television images show clearly that things were going smoothly. It was at the last stanza of the anthem that a group of four youths started inciting the crowd to demand that Dr. Otunnu address them in Luganda. Henry Mayega, tried to calm them down and they complied.

(5). I went to the parked vehicles to bring the megaphone. Upon returning, I heard some men within the audience saying, "He should not speak from here." Another man said, "Go on; stop him from talking. If they refused President Museveni to speak why should they allow UPC and even sing the anthem for him." These few individuals started shouting while the larger audience demanded for order to be restored so that they could listen to what Dr. Otunnu wanted to say. One of those who wanted to hear Dr. Otunnu said, "mwagala kutulemesa naku bera namikwano, wama Dr. Yogera." ("do you want to stop us from having friends? Dr. Go ahead and address us.")

(6). Our delegation then realized that it was useless to reason with the men who insisted on arguing with the youths that welcomed us since, moreover, the Prime Minister of Buganda, J.B Walusimbi was waiting at Bulange, the Buganda Parliament, to meet with Dr. Otunnu and the delegation.

(7). At this point the men who were clearly stage managing the chaos moved forward and started shouting at the officials of the Party. Many of the youths who had welcomed us confronted them and questioned their actions. They also urged Dr. Otunnu to move out to avoid further chaos. After all, it was only the previous day that three youths from Buganda kingdom had been killed when President Museveni had visited and several protestors tried to block his vehicle.

(8). A young man wearing a black jacket and a black cap picked a stone and threw it right into the rear wind screen of Dr. Otunnu's Land cruiser while the larger audience comprising those who had welcomed us, looked in disbelief.

(9). Some media, even though they witnessed what I have described --and recorded-- published accounts implying that: Dr. Otunnu did not receive a warm welcome; that he did not even stay on the site for a minute; that Buganda looks at UPC as their enemy; and, that Dr. Otunnu was hurt and assaulted in the process. These falsehoods are meant to insults the newly elected UPC President and the Buganda kingdom. Why should actions of a few individuals be quoted out of proportion by media as if they were representative of the entire community? If that was true, how is it that the Buganda Prime Minister officially welcomed UPC? What's more the next day, Dr. Otunnu was warmly welcomed at the prayer services conducted by the Bishop of Namirembe. At the prayer, Dr. Otunnu chatted with, the former Katikiro (Prime Minister) Dan Mulika, J.B Walusimbi and Jaberi Bidandi Ssali before the service and after the service.

(10). After the visit Dr. Otunnu proceeded to Bulanga where the Katikiro, J.B. Walusimbi was eagerly waiting to receive the UPC delegation. It was a great meeting of the two parties in a very long time. The Amarula family led by Paddy Bitama and other Directors chatted Dr. Otunnu, an internationally known human rights activist and diplomat.

Some journalists who travelled with the delegation never reported on the visit to Bulange and the welcome extended to the UPC delegation. Nothing was mentioned in the print media about the warm welcome, including cultural entertainment provided, at the Kingdom headquarters. WBS, Records and NTV did provide good coverage.

Kanusu is the Youth Leadership Council Coordinator of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) political party in Uganda

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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