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Opinion | Dec 5, 2011

The Murder of Charles Ingabire reminded me of my grandparent’s ordeal in Bugerere in 1990s

Charles Ingabire, editor of the Inyenyeri News
Charles Ingabire, editor of the Inyenyeri News

It was very sad to learn of the murder of Rwanda journalist, Charles Ingabire(RIP), who was gunned down in Kampala on 30th November 2011. He was a known critic of Paul Kagame, and if it can be proved that the state of Rwanda is responsible for the death of this journalist, it is the responsibility of every African to make it a life mission to make sure that the culprits are brought to justice. I have always admired Kagame's leadership compared to other African dictators but I think this is one of his weakest points, i.e. killing his political opponents abroad instead of calming things down. This is where Uganda's Museveni is better than him, i.e. at least, he kills some and bribes some. Killing is allegedly a last resort for Museveni, at least. He uses mainly 'amafalanga'[money] to cool down political opponents which is ethically wrong but it is effective and saves lives. Otherwise, people like UPCs Hajji Badru Wegulo and Henry Peter Mayiga, NRM's Eriya Kategeya, former chairman of FDC who replaced late kiggundu, and others, would all be dead. But the president reportedly paid them off to stop opposing him and that was the end of the story.

It's difficult to say that I wouldn't be looking over my shoulders while in Kampala because Museveni is more of a 'MAFALANGA' guy compared to Kagame who targets the part between the eyes, but all I know is that Museveni and NRM do not kill their opponents in broad day light unless if you are protesting on streets as we saw with the 'Walk to Work' this year, and he only eliminates serious opponents but then again, I may be killed by some people to prove otherwise. Please don't kill me. OK!

Secondly, I have a feeling that Kagame is a very emotional, no- nonsense, unreasonable guy compared to Museveni. The later, on the other hand, is allegedly a good listener, very patient, and knows how to control his anger and emotions. In other words, he can kill you when you least expect it, he can be easily become anybody's friend or he can easily sense danger before other people. I don't know whether this makes him more dangerous than Kagame because of the unpredictability around him, but I think he is the best political strategist Uganda has ever produced.

Kagame comes across as a sadist/ mafia: he can easily put a bullet in one's mouth without thinking twice. I'm sorry to say this but I think most Rwandese/Banyarwanda (35 years and above) are like this. Their past especially the 1994 genocide has had a big effect on their value of human life. They find killing someone so easy compared to other nationalities in Uganda. I have watched documentaries about the genocide but the stories there are so horrible.

Let me tell you a story that happened when I was doing my O' Levels. I used to help out with the management of my grandfather's farm in Bugerere during the vacations. We employed a lot of Banyarwanda as our 'Balalo'[herdsmen]. So, one day one of my uncles from Canada, Dr. Abdullah Kirumirah, visited us in the village. During those days, whenever someone's son or daughter from abroad visited, the whole village got to know about it. So when Uncle Abbey (as we used to call him) arrived, I personally had to take him around the village to say hello to almost all the elders in the village.

Hajjati Mayimuna Nabagereka, my grandmother Hajjati Mayimuna Nabagereka, my grandmother
To cut the whole story short, there was this group of men who used to rob people's homes at night. One of the boys in that group called Katende Mabilizi, was very well known to our family because he used to work for us in our shambas. My grandfather had a policy of treating workers and the family members as the same: we could eat the same food; share milk; some slept on boys' quarters, e.t.c. We even used to treat former employees as part of the family.

So, the third day uncle Abbey was at the village, this boy Mabilizi managed to sneak into the house, got himself under one the bed of one of my cousins, and later opened up for other robbers in his group to come inside our house. Like I said, Mabilizi was known to us but we did not know that he had joined this gang when he left our home. In any case, his father was a good friend of my grandfather, and I also used to treat him as a friend.

On that terrible night, his gang friends first broke into my grandparents' room and started chopping their bodies in pieces demanding for Canadian dollars. Mabilizi had locked us up in our rooms while we were sleeping. So we could not come out to help at all yet we could hear the noise and screams from our grand's bedroom. Actually, the thumb of my grandfather was chopped badly such that we had to fly him to USA to repair it later on. Mulago could not fix it. He sustained serious cuts on the head and arms too. I even don't want to remember this because there was a lot of blood in the bedroom before our Banyarwanda/ Balalo came to my grandfather's rescue. There was never any noise from grandma as she was the first to be silenced.

Fortunately, one of the 'Balalos' managed to break the window to my grandfather's room from the outside. So the thieves run away but my grandmother was assumed dead because she lay on the floor breathlessly with a serious deep cut on her head. Uncle Abbey later came out and found some pulse on her but we had all thought that she was already dead. So, we rushed them to Nagalama hospital before they were transferred to Mulago.

The following day, the whole village (Kisega, to be precise) was hunting down the gang leaders including Mabalizi. The mother of the gang leader helped us to track down his son as we found him hiding in some hut somewhere in a forest. He had built a hut for himself in the bushes and it was only his mother who knew about it. He was dragged out and the decision was made by the villagers to take him to Kangulumira police station.

While on the way to police station, one of our Banyarwanda 'Balalo' got his pang out and cut his throat in broad day light, as if he was cutting a goat's head. I still remember his first name as 'George' but he actually looked like Kagame in the face. He used to be the head of the 'Balalo' but he was as tall as Kagame, and he used to keep a smile on his face. I will never forget his face. The gang leader died immediately and his body was left in the middle of the road by the villagers for almost a couple of days.

My grandfather made it 100 years old in 2011 My grandfather made it 100 years old in 2011
It was the saddest moment of my life ,i.e. watching both my grandparents/guardians in pain in Mulago hospital for over a month. We could not transfer them abroad straightaway till they had gained some energy and life in them. My grandfather had lost his memory as soon as he was discharged from Mulago. He had developed some form of mini-dementia but the experts in USA did everything possible to help him get back his memory. With God, everything is possible. He celebrated his 100th birthday this year. My grandmother came off worse as there was a large concentration of blood around her brain and she could not talk. So, she was taken to Canada with my uncle as soon as she left Mulago.

I believe there are lots of families out there that are facing such ordeals everyday because there is no security and hospitals in their regions. Instead of the government investing in police departments, they have instead allowed people like the president's brother, Salim Saleh and Prime minister's daughter, Nina Mbabazi, to start up security firms that fill in this void in urban centers, but people in the rural areas have been left with no teeth to bite anything. As a result, so many Ugandans lose their lives carelessly because the nearest hospitals are miles away and have no means to reach there. It is really sad.

Since that day, I give myself an arm's length whenever I see a Munyarwanda who has got a pang or knife or those long sticks of theirs. Their faces are beautiful but their minds need serious counseling. They can easily kill anyone. May be Kagame finds it easy to order for the murder of anybody because of his past? Just think about it! Will African leaders ever find a different way of treating their political enemies other than killing or poisoning them while in prison? Why do some people cheaply look at human life? Why do they find it easy to kill someone?

May be I've generalized a little bit about the Banyarwanda/ Rwandese but frankly it is the feeling I have got for the present generation of Banyarwanda/Rwandese because they have all been affected by the genocide. I, however, have hope in their kids. They will hopefully value life more if we don't get another genocide in Rwanda.

Anyway, let me end this by sending my condolences to the family of Charles Ingabire. Nobody deserves to be killed like that. The decision to have a life was taken out of his hands by some people with ugly hearts and minds. Till when we find a long lasting solution to such people, the society will continue to lose young people, such as Charles [RIP].

Byebyo ebyange
--
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
UK

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba, © 2011

This author has authored 157 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: AbbeyKibirigeSemuwemba

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