Thursday, May 18, 2017

The more things change, the more they remain the same - Is it 1980 0r 2017?

One day in 1980, my dad did not come home. This was not unusual since as a child of 4 years old, no one told me much. In fact he was gone for over a week and I did not experience any angst (may have had something to do with the fact my mother was away on a pilgrimage to the holy land).
Back in those days we used to stay in Najjanankumbi and we used to buy milk for the baby from Makindye barracks. So about 8 days into my dad's disappearance, on the drive home from school, our driver parked outside the barracks to go get some milk.
As Christopher the driver, crossed the road to enter the barracks, a figure, wearing a bloodied long white coat, came running through the barracks gate. But the fellow did not notice the ditch just outside and he stumbled and fell, allowing the chasing soldiers to catch up to him. As they lifted him back into the barracks with accompanying slaps and kicks, I noticed it was my father. 

Christopher had noticed this too and was now frozen in the middle of the road. Thankfully for him, the soldiers were too busy enjoying the torture of my father that they didn't notice him standing there. Once they took my father back inside, Christopher run back into the car and we drove home without milk for the baby. 

A day later my grandparents showed up and another day later I returned from school to find daddy at home too. I remember my sister and I giggling about the fact his mummy on return from his long trip bathed our daddy. Then there was that long white coat of his that was covered in blood. I remember it remained unwashed for a long time. Plus the scar at the back of his dead that never went away.

According to my uncle, my father's problems started when he stopped off at the same Makindye barracks to buy milk for the baby. Outside the barracks was a bar and he decided to enjoy a few drinks before going in to buy the milk. Soldiers from the barracks across the road patronized that bar as well. At the time, my father used to work for Shell and BP as a sales rep. and he was wearing a long white coat with their logo on it. This was similar to how white-collar workers in the 90s (especially those working for the telcos) went everywhere with their ID badges around their necks. To make matters worse, my father was driving this very sleek convertible Mercedes Benz sports car. 
The envy factor in the bar that day was through the roof and so when my father starting bragging about his family, the soldiers had had enough. They drove both him and that Benz into the barracks and began to try to extract a confession from him.

My uncle reports that they spent anxious days looking for connections to get him out of detention. They tried to get help from late Captain Erima (before he - Erima - in turn disappeared, showing up in 1986 with the NRA and then disappeared again never to be seen again!). They finally got assistance from General Tito Okello Lutwa (later President of Uganda), his assistants Basilio Okello (later coup plotter of the uncoordinated troop movements fame), and James Olara-Okello; who personally escorted my uncle and the Benz to Najjanankumbi. They were lucky that my uncle's wife worked at the Military Hospital Mbuya and the three officers were together in Mbuya when they asked for assistance.
Image result for kamwenge mayor tortured
I remembered this story when I saw the exposed flesh on the knees of the mayor of Kamwenge. You see, at that time, Museveni was in charge too and he still could not control the errant soldiers who extra-judicially arrested and tortured my father. To write lecturing letters is to bury your head in the sand. I would like to see some heads roll over this torture business.

The saddest thing, though, is that the more things change, the more they remain the same. God help us all.

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