Uganda: Defence Minister Warns On Tribal Talk
New Vision (Kampala)
31 January 2008
Posted to the web 1 February 2008
AS neighbouring Kenya is being torn apart by ethnic violence, defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga has made a passionate plea to MPs to stop tribalising issues and see themselves as Ugandans.
“Many of us, including the Honourable Members of Parliament, have lived long enough in this country to know that thinking in terms of tribes cannot be in the best interest of our country,” he stated in a press release yesterday.
“I am amazed to see that our MPs are zealously emphasising how many people of such and such a tribe are in a ministry or department instead of emphasising efficiency or effectiveness.”
Kiyonga was referring to the release by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) of its staff list per tribe, as demanded by the committee on commissions and statutory authorities.
The MPs had accused URA of recruiting most of its staff from the western region, President Yoweri Museveni’s home area.
The defence minister was also referring to repeated accusations by the opposition that the army and the Police were dominated by people from a certain region.
“Tribalising issues can, and in many cases does, lead a country to catastrophic consequences like tribal genocide,” Kiyonga warned.
“I, therefore, appeal to our leaders and the public to desist from these tendencies.”
He repeated his message at a press conference yesterday, marking the beginning of the Army Week to remember the launch of the NRA liberation struggle 27 years ago, also known as Terehe Sita.
Kiyonga explained that the UPDF recruits regionally, according to specified quotas, and does not segregate. He said many soldiers of former armies were now in the UPDF.
The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, also rebuked politicians who raise tribalistic issues.
“These tribalists, why (are they coming out) now, with the violence in Kenya? I would say to hell with these tribalists in our midst!” he exclaimed.
Gen. Aronda recalled that Uganda had treaded the path of the violence besieging Kenya in the past. Instead of re-opening that chapter, all attempts should be made to bury that dark part of history, he cautioned.
Responding to a comment that the NRA rebellion had destabilised the nation, Aronda said the UPC regime at the time was irredeemable.
The rigging of the 1980 elections, the extra-judicial killings, the harassment of citizens at roadblocks and the shortages of commodities necessitated action, he noted.
On the LRA, Aronda again warned that action would be taken against Joseph Kony if he did not sign a peace pact at the end of the Juba talks.
“There is no battle going on now. Kony is still in his holiday camp in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said sarcastically.
“He is required to assemble. If Kony doesn’t talk, military action will be taken against him.”
During the Army Week, soldiers will plant trees, paint hospital wards, donate items to hospitals, construct a wall around the Bunyoro royal burial site and hand over houses built for veterans.