By The New Times
Rwigema is a war hero who—like thousands of young Rwandans in Uganda at the time—had sacrificed his life to liberate Uganda, and later led them on a mission to liberate Rwanda.
On October 2, 2019 Uganda’s state newspaper, the New Vision ran an article titled “Rwigyema rescued us – Janet Museveni” that ostensibly was about celebrating the life of Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema.
Rwigema is a war hero who, like thousands of young Rwandans in Uganda at the time, had sacrificed his life to liberate Uganda, and later led them on a mission to liberate their own country, Rwanda. On October 2, 1990 an enemy bullet hit Rwigema on the head on the frontline. He died. Rather than celebrate this fearless hero, Uganda’s authorities chose to caricature him.
All Saleh, a supposed best friend, can attest to is that he put up his family once Rwigema died. Museveni’s memory can only recall “young boy.” An article of almost 1500 words is littered by recurring reference to the “escort.”
It is as if the young man Museveni met in the 1970s straight out of high school had not grown at all well into the 1990s. But this patronizing attitude that arrogantly refers to grown people as “young boys” includes the audacity to complain to foreign leaders that authorities of a sovereign country “never listen to me.”
Rwigema might have been a young man at some point and an escort. However, he died a Major General in the National Resistance Army (NRA), the precursor to the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF). He was Deputy Minister for the Republic of Uganda. Rwigema was also Army Commander from 1983 to 1986 when the NRA captured power.
In 1983 he had taken up the position after Gen. Elly Tumwine had gone to Nairobi for eye treatment. Tumwine stayed in Nairobi for the entire period of the decisive battles from 1983 to 1986. He returned from Nairobi to reclaim the position of Army Commander from Rwigema after the war had been won in 1986, according to William Pike in “Combatants: A memoir of the Bush War and the Press in Uganda.”
Why had Rwigema only served in deputy positions? Rwigema was open about being a Rwandan. Consequently, he could not serve as full minister of defense or as Army Commander. It would be politically untenable. “Rwigema could not be made Army Commander because he was a Rwandese refugee,” Pike writes on page 209.
However, some of his opportunistic colleagues had assimilated into a Ugandan identity by branding themselves Bahima.
Rwigema and many Rwandans who liberated Uganda and later liberated their country were principled individuals who would not do what their colleagues had done out of greed and self-hate. He like many others were willing to forego the opportunities that came by them abandoning their Rwandan identity.
He, like many others, was about principled causes, not the opportunistic and selfish amassing of material resources. Surely, Fred Rwigema wasn’t going to brand himself a Muhima for the sake of opportunities and greed like Maj. Gen. Pecos Kutesa, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, Brig-Gen Abel Kandiho, and many others even at the highest level of Uganda’s army who selfishly chose comfort and greed by assimilating into the Ugandan identity while projecting hatred towards their real identity.
Rwigema had sacrificed his life in the NRA in order to bring about dignity to Rwandans who were the subject of all kinds of abuse in Uganda, most notably during Obote’s regime. This had driven thousands of other Rwandans into the NRA.
Therefore, Rwigema had liberated Ugandans because he loved Rwandans. Those who liberated Uganda because they loved themselves stayed behind and continued to deny their Rwandan roots. They still do, to this day.
Rwigema must be rolling in his grave seeing that the people who are showering him with pretentious praise are the same people who are harassing the people he had joined the NRA to protect: Rwandans in Uganda. You cannot torture Rwandans and then claim to love Rwigema.
That is impossible. It shows that the authorities in Uganda are celebrating a man they have long forgotten or one whom they never took time to understand in the first place because all they cared about was to use him to get to where they are now.
If the authorities in Uganda want to remember Rwigema, they should release all Rwandans in illegal custody across the country and to commit to ending the harassment of Rwandans in that country. After all, they would be respecting the law.
Ironically, Rwandans who assimilated into Ugandan identities by calling themselves Bahima are the ones giving hell to their kith and kin in Uganda. In their haste to act more Catholic than the Pope, they are convinced that they prove their Ugandanness – which is always doubtful in their minds – by hating Rwanda and Rwandans.
They will do anything to fight this demon they carry with them: the identity crisis. Imagine turning to a hero like Rwigema to use as a wedge to divide your own people, even when you don’t claim them as such.
Rwigema loved the people he went to battle with to liberate Uganda and at one time he was their escort. He took risks for them and got them in power. The soft spot he had for them was because they shared the Rwandan identity. Like him, they were Rwandans. Unlike him, they despised their origins.
Self-hate for your own is responsible for unprincipled politics that has the two countries in a conflict, and in war previously. It’s like a monster that must be fed. Caricaturing Rwigema’s memory in a state newspaper is a new low.
Source: The New Times