Sunday, January 28, 2024

Nigerians say, “No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.” Cecilia Atim Barbara Ogwal, the estranged former Assistant Secretary General of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), turned FDC honcho and Dakolo Woman MP being buried today was nasty and had hot anger toward the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and President Yoweri Museveni. It’s sad she died as NRM commemorates 38 successful years in government which rabidly fought, although had lately given up, and now leaves Uganda in better stead than she ever predicted. In a sense, her hot anger didn’t cook for her the yams.

The dead can no longer defend themselves and so sometimes, we let the past rest, see and speak no evil of them. But Cecilia Ogwal who until NRM’s advent in 1986 was an obscure politician behind then male-dominated trade, became a household name, bidding Milton Obote’s tidings from Lusaka sanctuary having suffered a second military coup. A calculative and manipulative woman, Ogwal advised leading UPC stalwarts to go exile claiming NRM intended to kill them.

But her real ploy was to remain the only prominent soul, after all, Paul Muwanga, Obote’s former vice president was in prison. Ogwal knew that with UPC badly split, the Acholi and Muwanga having toppled Obote, and Ankole divided between Science and Syndicate, she would firmly grip the remnants of Obote’s discredited loyalists from the rest of Uganda as she didn’t want UPC leadership to get out of Lango tribal orbit which she accomplished well. In toe were Yefusa Okullu-Epak, Ben Wacha, Dick Nyai, and Patrick Mwondha as her sidekicks. But her stratagem ran out when she believed that she had built her own national profile and defied Obote who from his exile had decreed that no UPC member let alone leaders should participate in the 1996 parliamentary elections organized by NRM under the no party system.  

Following Ogwal’s defiance, Obote replaced her with Dr James Rwanyarare as head UPC Presidential Policy Commissioning. Undone, an obtuse Ogwal rejected the changes, organized a violent takeover of office, but was outmaneuvered when Obote surrogates led by Sam Odaka brought private court bailiffs who on 22 August 1996 violently evicted her from Uganda House. I still recall as a journalist covering Ogwal’s eviction from first floor as files and other personal belongings were strewn through the windows on to Kampala Road.

The public eulogies extoling Cecilia Ogwal’s political virtues as a moderate arbitrator who reached across political isles, in my view bone by decades of scrutiny isn’t entirely accurate. Ogwal only became a moderate when she was kicked out of UPC, and old age tamed her confrontational bluster where she infused Uganda’s modern-day politics of intrigue, venom, calculated lies and hate. She continued to cultivate poisonous belligerence when they campaigned for Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere as presidential candidate in 1996, and during the four-time she slugged for Kizza Besigye that came to naught. 

But when her bidding for Lira Municipality in 2006 fell under Obote’s son Jimmy Akena, who returned from exile upon his father’s death, Cecilia Ogwal sued for peace with NRM and Museveni because the creation of Dakolo district mid-term the 7th parliament salvaged her political career to-date. Her softer side then mellowed with NRM’s accommodative politics and so those writing obituaries need to dig a little deeper than just scratching the surface. As Uganda commemorates 38 years in victory, NRM’s genuine spirit of inclusivity and accommodation have been ably demonstrated in the befitting sendoff of its former adversaries, Obote, Akena Adoko, Adoko Nekyon, Peter Otai, Aggrey Awori, Ssemogere and now Cecilia Ogwal. Adieu!