Why fmr D/IGP Odwe’s letter to Museveni about Lango should touch President’s heart


Former D/IGP Julius Peter Odwe. Photo by Daily-Monitor

With a very good success, you never gave reasons as to why Lango did not occupy more ministries. Before elections, you had Dr Jane Aceng, Betty Amongi, Col Okello Engola and Hamson Obua as the Lango Ministers.

Lira – 21, July 2021: Lango sub-region is going through a number of issues: from cultural wrangles, to high crime (in house murders) cases in recent months; her sons and daughters missing out on high profile government appointments by the President to unexpected famine in the coming months.

Recently, the President appointed ‘new’ permanent secretaries and disappointed Lango by dropping the only son from the high office.

This has angered Lango and “it’s not good” – some said.

One of the prominent Lango sons who has come out to tell the President the sub-region’s predicament is Julius Peter Odwee, the Rtd. Deputy Inspector General of Police.

In his letter to the President, the former Police boss, had this to communicate: Editorial: This letter hasn’t been edited for reason[s] and we apologize!

To. His Excellency the President,                                

18th July 2021

State House,

ENTEBBE.

Ref: The Peril of Lango people due to poverty

Your Excellency, I believe that this letter will reach your hands, as opposed to some statements recently filed in the social media that you were dead. You were not dead really as rightly you proved that you are alive at the time of swearing some balance of Ministers, and if you were dead, you would not have made appointments and disappointments for the permanent secretaries. The Lango people say that if someone wishes you death, you yourself would instead get rewarded by God as challenge to shame the Satan.

For some time, I have not been able to write to you again because there has not been any such significant issue to bring to your attention.  This time, following the concern about employment opportunity and poverty among Lango people, I find it necessary to alert you on the key issues arising from your voters of the Lango community. The issues were sparked by the news regarding the appointments of the permanent secretaries you recently made on the 15th July 2021. Key among many comments made is here was by one TWONTONG- Lango elder who stated as below:

1 …….”Think about it critically, we voted for Museveni, Teso voted for Amuriat and they are given the Vice President and the Deputy Speaker. Acholi voted for majority opposition MPs and they are given Chief Justice and Speaker of Parliament. West Nile voted for NUP and they have the Second Deputy Prime Minister. Basoga voted NUP and they are given East African something.

We now remain a voting machine yet ending up with bones like a hunting dog that goes catching animals for its master to enjoy after taking all the risk in hunting.  God, we need your intervention and good guidance to our Lango Senior who will come out and talk boldly for the regime favour on our people without hypocrisy so that we also see light of the day”………These are the words of one Lango elder said in disappointment of the disappointed only Lango Permanent Secretary who has been dropped and dismissed in public interest.

2 It is from this comment that I found it right to alert you. On the eve of 15th July 2021, news came up in the media informing the country of some appointments and disappointments to the offices of permanent secretaries of Uganda. The news stated that “By virtue of the powers given to the president by article 174(2) of the 1995 constitution of the Republic of Uganda, I hereby, appoint the following as Permanent secretaries as indicated below: and it went ahead to list 35 names, starting with number 1 as Lucy Nakyobe for Head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, and ending with number 35 indicated as Dr. Asuman Lukwago for Education Service Commission.

3 It would appear that the majority of Lango people went through the list and did not see any Lango man or woman in the list. To make it worst, David Obong who was the only Lango man at the level of permanent secretary was nowhere to be seen. The elders also viewed another press release on the appointment to offices of the Inspectorate of Government and again no Lango person was seen.

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To make it  worst, in another press release, stating your powers vested in article 99 and 172 (1) (a) of the constitution, you further disappointed the Lango people when you indicated though,  wrongly named  David Obong  as David Ebong, that you retired him in public interest. The Lango people had not heard of David Obong being a week person for neither being corrupt or he does the corruption himself.  Albeit your recourse to this information to Ugandans and the Lango people. The Lango people themselves know that they are not in short supply of someone to be a permanent secretary.

4 We know that many Lango people have been patiently waiting to see the truth of government of the National Resistance Movement in honouring the Lango people for the many successful efforts it has contributed to Uganda, not only over your 35 years of power, but also much before the British Colonialists came to Uganda as well as during colonialism and its post colonial era.

The pre-colonial character of a Lango person

5 Being a leader of a regime era for the last 35 years, you must have witnessed the merits or demerits of Lango people, if any. You may have also known about the love which Lango people had for President Dr. Apolo Milton Obote (RIP), being their son and your most immediate predecessor. This is on the account of the first assessment of the Lango people made by the Colonial Assistant District Commissioner called Jack Herbert Driberg.  Having stayed with Lango for six years, he identified a Lango person as…which any Lango wish to associate with,

6 “…that the Lango were brave and venture some warriors who have won the fear and respect of their neighbours, delighting in war not only for the plunder, which it brings, but also for its own sake. They were never idle witness to problems of their neighbours……generally honest, as in where a man will leave cattle or goats with a friend for many years. Morally based upon public figure, they are nonetheless individuals in their political life. Each one is as good as his neighbour and disliking interference, is equally averse to limiting his own individuality by an acknowledgement of political dependence. ……… Considered to be the last people in the world to be dragooned into any line of thought or action and while amenable to reason, would actively resent any attempt towards unpalatable compulsion………intensely religious, believing implicitly in the Godly creed of their fathers, bounded upon every action of their life”.

7 Although over the years some of these characteristics may have got fragmented, the greater part is still there, proof of it you may understand from the Lango response to the various government calls for the Lango people to heed ceasefire in 1989, the countering of LRA advances in 2003-2005 and the elimination of cattle rustling through ASTU in 2006-2010.

The Lango of pre-colonial era

8 The Lango people were the most assertive on human rights and security matters of Ugandans.  That is why the two Kings:  Kabalega and Mwanga sought refuge with Lango people.  Earlier on people knew that slave trade pervaded the people of Uganda in two directions, from the South and the North. But that of the North were effectively dealt away with by the Lango Generals between 1860 and 1880, and by the time of Berlin conference was held in 1884 on the elimination of slave trade, Lango Army had already done away with the slave trade threats posed to Northern Uganda. On the 6th March 1872, the slave master one Lazim lost all his 250 slave raiders at Aboke during military response by the Lango army.  Shortly in the same period another contingent of  220 slave raiders armed with 100 guns led by the slave master called Hammed Ali, fell in a Lango military ambush led by General Oluju at Apala and all the slave raiders were killed, then 100 guns charged by the Lango army.

9 Following the threats on Uganda Kingdoms of Bunyoro and Buganda by the British colonial army, Lango was again at the centre of protection. While at least for protecting King Kabalega for four years in Anwangi of Kwera in Dokolo, by Lango Butotok military base, many Lango battalions were sent out to Bunyoro and Buganda on ANTI-COLONIAL peace missions. Though the British used Maxine guns, in 1907 under General Okwanga Acur, the Lango defeated the British at ADAG KOLO, now mispronounced as Dokolo, meaning the place of CEASE FIRE. Then, the Uganda Governor, Sir Hesketh Bell, based on the experience they witnessed in Lango in 1907, had to withdraw the forceful colonial campaign in Lango. This follows a testimony as to why Major General R.C. Macdonald failed to make any agreement with the Lango army in 1897.

10 Following the 1907 Dokolo affair and the statement with Macdonald, Sir Winston Spenser Churchill had to be dispatched from London to speak to the Lango Military Generals. He did it in November 1907.General Odora Arimo led a 400 strong stand by Lango army to the meeting which was held at Mutunda in Bunyoro area. This is why soon after agreement with Churchill the first hoisting of the British flag had to take place on the Lango soil on the 1/12/1908. This is a brief background about the pre-colonial Lango contributions in Uganda. Even when the colonization was in place, the Lango leaders continued to do their best in promoting peace and good services for the development of Uganda.

Lango support in sustaining the NRM regime

11 First is that, through various avenues, the Lango answered the government calls on the Lango people to abandon the insurgency under the 9th October Movement. The insurgency came up in 1987 after the rustling of cattle and the as well as insecurity which generally compelled Lango people to operate the 9th October movement. Though the Lango fighters were everywhere in Lango, when they saw that the war wasn’t important, they called for ceasefire at once in 1989. Many Lango elders in the political, cultural and religious fronts came up together and agreed to withdraw from fighting. The cease fire was a good gesture that the Lango people understand the priorities of development.

12 Secondly, as I have pointed out above, Lango are people of good intention when not dragooned into any line of thought or action and or not treated under an unpalatable compulsion. They would never be idle witness to problems of their neighbours. The LRA had become a real threat to the government, forcing Dr. Yafecy Okullo Epak (RIP) on whom the Lango people had very high regard, to order the Lango MPs out of parliament so as to find ways of self determination against LRA. In deed you saw the immediate outcome when you authorised the armament of about 13 battalions of modern time Lango Amuka army.

13 Thirdly, is answering the call of abandoning of the IDP camps.  Under the quality of not being lamenters on problems of their neighbours, the challenge of LRA was extinguished as fast as possible, allowing the 1.4 million IDPs to receive freedom of returning to their home villages.  Even when it came to a call for people within IDPs to return home to start a new life, it was the Lango IDPs camps which became the first to be knocked down by the leaders of the High Commission for refugees. The knock down ceremonies were held in Otwal and Ogur Sub Counties and by September 2007 all camps were closed. This was a very good gesture by Lango people to reduce the costs of relief supplies.

14 Fourthly, is answering the call for eliminating cattle rustling from the borders of and within Karamoja itself. When in 2005 you called for deployment of ASTU to eliminate cattle rustling, you may not have been aware that two of the top commanders conducting the operations were members of the Lango community. With the culture of commitment to the neighbours cry, the countering of cattle rustling which had eluded Uganda for 78 years (1932 – 2010) was closed down in 2010. Following the investment of about 45 billion shillings in making permanent police presence in Northern Uganda, you will be pleased to identify the regime of NRM with one of the most successful,  well accounted for and corruption free  investments the country has ever had. No any concern of human rights abuse was registered. The Karamojong themselves and their entire neighbour can bear testimony. Permanent modern buildings of high quality work for police can be seen everywhere in 40 districts as evidence.

The immediate post colonial contributions

15 Fifthly, without details to what Lango contributed to Uganda, East Africa and Africa as a whole, you may know that the former President Milton Obote (RIP), used a number of Lango second world war soldiers to convince Ugandans that the British can be defeated. Some of those campaigns realised the independence of Uganda in 1962. During the struggle against colonialism, Adoko Neckyon (RIP) met one county chief in Tororo who doubted the success of independence, saying that the British are so tough. Adoko only reminded that county chief that the struggle was to make the son of that chief a District Commissioner in future. This statement opened the eyes of the chief about what independence was all about.

16 Sixth, to mention John Gideon Okello Etuk, Field Marshall (RIP), this man was an orphan who departed from Amugo in Lango for Otuboi cotton ginnery in 1954, ended reaching Pemba island of Zanzibar in 1959 and as a branch secretary of the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) of Sheik Abed Karume, with the popular support of the oppressed Zanzibaries, the remnants of the Southern slave masters, the Omani Arabs were on the night of the11th January 1964 eliminated from East Africa by Okello Field Marshall. The operation of a few days resolved the conflict which the British failed to do in 100 years since 1884.

17 Seventh, as if that is not enough, even when most Ugandans were under siege by President Idi Amin (RIP), and the situation demanded the return of exile Ugandans, everyone knows the hard and human rights committed role by Mj. General David Oyite Ojok (RIP). The New African paper then curried a front page photo with the inscriptions, saying, The Lion of War. Alongside the Tanzanian army he achieved the revolution and freedom of Ugandans on 26th April 1979. All the two successes express the will of Lango people in caring for the rights of the people of Uganda, East Africa and Africa as a whole. That is their truth of a Pan African attitude of listening to the voice of the voiceless.

Why and how do you come in here?

18 The seven sample cases will be evidence on how Lango people are committed, can be trusted, can be respected and more so to the fact that they are people who interest themselves in achieving public goals. The people who are not idle witness to the cries of people. Therefore, you as the President of the Republic of Uganda, the statement mentioned by one elder is the reasons why you come in. It is also the reason that not all Lango people can raise to you a chorus of their voices at the same time, at least one at a time. It is at this time that probably Lango people wish to let you know through this letter that you may have forgotten about them at the time they know that they have not forgotten about you. You can prove this through the records of elections you have gone through from 1996 to 2021.

19 Basing on the analysis of the elections since 1996, you will agree that the Lango people consistently sustained the growth of votes for you. In 1996 Lango people gave you only 61,608 (16.50%) votes; in 2001 was 77,900 (21.00%) votes; and in 2006 was only 37,611 (12.10%) votes. This means that you had very miserable votes from the Lango people as you lost a lot of votes to the opposition. I then think that you tried to do certain things for Lango people, and not just politicking, a situation which made Lango voters to change their mind, to look more favourably to you could be the construction of Lira-Soroti road. Very well, at the national level, your votes were declining over the same period: from 74.30% in 1996 to 69.4% in 2001, then to only 59.26% in 2006.

20 From 2011, much as your national votes continued to decline, from 68.38% in 2011 to 60.62% in 2016 and then to now 58.60% in 2021, the Lango people continued to give you the highest percentage of votes which you wanted. This can be seen in 2011 when you got 240,476 (57.75%) votes; in 2016 was 290,202 (53.75%) votes and currently in 2021, Lango voted 388,132 (66.50%) votes.

For any political analyst, one would for sure say Lango people really grew and sustained more votes for you despite other parts of the country sidelining you. In politics, this is not a mere achievement; it is great achievement in your own political statements that “this is not a mere change of guards, but a fundamental change.” The voting pattern in Lango has confirmed that they have consecutively given you almost all the little they have, just as the wife of Moses while still in Miciri, once said to their guests that even the little we have we can give you all. Thus Lango is now yearning for your fundamental change.

21 With a very good success, you never gave reasons as to why Lango did not occupy more ministries. Before elections, you had Dr Jane Aceng, Betty Amongi, Col Okello Engola and Hamson Obua as the Lango Ministers. But on the day you announced the cabinet for 2021-26, no new comer was added to the old group. This was the first disappointment of the Lango people. The second disappointment was for you to appoint two Lango ministers in one Ministry: Betty Amongi, Senior Minister and Col. Okello Engola as a junior Minister all in Gender. The Lango are critical about their culture of “Twong Gwen Aryo Pe Nyako Otogo.” Literally meaning that two generals cannot share one office.

22 Looking at what happened at the neighborhood, the Lango people think that they have now become “ALEK TOKE” a culture which condemns the poor attention to a pestle which is always instrumental in pounding TOKE- the hibiscus seeds that make the most delicious food pest.  As has been cried out by one elder, the Itesot neighbor who voted you with only 309,749 (61.4%) got Vice President, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and a couple of several Ministers and Ministers of state among other support. The other neighbor, the Acholi who voted only 200,285 (56.88%) got the Speakership, several Ministers and the NRM party Secretary General, on top of NRM Regional Vice President. Not to mentions the trend in other political areas. Our Engla Sam a renowned NRM is nowhere to be seen, yet you used to appoint such people to somewhere.

The view of Lango elders 

23 Does the first statement of complaint hold water, yes, it does. We had been asked to think about it critically, and it has been so in seeing that there was no clear formula for a Lango person not to become at least one permanent Secretary. If David Obong was a man of contract he then did not deserve a dismissal in public interest.  Why was it impossible for another Lango man to be appointed? If voting is considered a big factor in a political assignment, just as one becomes an MP or president, why does it not become a reward to those who persistently sustained an increased voting for a candidate?

 24 The Lango culture and tradition, time immemorial are convinced with the role played by three mountains: MORUKAU- the rear guard force for streamlining direction just as the arrow in a ranging survey. MORUAPODA- being the presently available guard force used to monitor dangers and prospects in both the rear and the front as a peg in ranging. Then the future mountain called MORUAWELA is the offset ranging rod to determine direction. The position of MORUAWELA is determined by MORUAPODA. When the MORUAPODA is destabilized or not in any position such as employment, MORUKAWELA will not helpful and this is why probably the Lango voters have continued to query the politically and economically position of Lango over these appointments, their cattle and the 500 billion project for Lango people.

25 The loss of cattle from the Lango people is still a fundamental matter for the government to resolve. May be by the time of writing this letter, something which has not come to our knowledge has been complied with. But following the trend of Lango people making efforts to resolve this, it has now become a shame of court decisions and presidential pledge.  Under ordinary conditions, the Lango people were not poor before their cattle were stolen in 1986-88 period. Today if you ask any local person from say Amolatar or Otuke to rush to Lira under emergency, no such a person can do it. Transport alone from Amolatar to Lira and back without food, costs about 50,000. If the local person has no such cash in the pocket or at home or in mobile money or in savings association or in the bank or in form of property at home, then this is a very poor person.

26 The UGX 1 point 9 trillion compensation for Lango claimants still awaits government up to the time of MORUAWELA. The reality of poverty in Lango can be seen by the category of people in the two pictures who turned up in court on the day of judgement and here very clear.

Among some of those who are in picture, most are now dead, killed by poverty. Before the time of theft of their cattle, you would rarely find any Lango people gathered like that in big numbers. Today even in the corridors of Lira City and some towns in Lango, there are so many children who are now called street people. The majority of these children have come up due to poverty, much as some are orphans too.

You can confirm this from concern through the government proposal to send 100,000 to the poor who are everywhere in Lango. So your proposal during campaign to raise the cash payment for court compensation to Lango people from 10 to 50 billion is hot air to the Lango. There are about 60,000 Lango war claimants yet to be paid years later. The two photos here exhibit a clear testimony of the desperateness of the people for you to compensate.

26 The Lango business holdings reported to some Lango leaders in January this year at Gulu and Lira is another hot air for Lango people. The Lango are aware that Salim Sale came up to tell the Lango people that government was to finance a five year economic investments worth about 500 billion shillings. He even had the courage to convince about 200 Lango leaders and entrepreneurs to meet him in Gulu, but this was a mission of real loss. People used their own money and nothing useful came up. Unless something is in the pipeline, and yet without any feedback, the business community who wasted their time and money are not happy. Lango people are now linking that proposal of 500 billion to the forgotten cattle compensation which only comes up during elections.

Recommendations 

It is very important that the government responds to the concerns which have been raised here. There are three alternatives to make a response.

  1. The government can read this document thoroughly and whether it is satisfied with it or not and keeps quiet or chooses not to make any response to the people of Lango.
  2. The government can in addition to reading the document and finds some issues requiring clarification, would seek for clarification and make response.
  3. The government would read the document, understand it and set up a team of government officials to meet and discuss the most pressing issues with the Lango team of representatives from politicians, cultural leaders, religious leaders, leaders of district local governments and leaders of the private sector.

Thank you so much.

 TWONTONG, Julius P.O. Odwe, DSO, JoP, ESO.

 Rtd. Deputy Inspector General of Police/ Senior Consultant of Security Governance.

CC: The Chairperson, Lango Parliamentary Group.

CC: His Royal Highness, the Won Nyaci of Lango

CC: The Chairperson, Lango Religious Council.

CC: The Chairperson, Lango District Local Government Chairpersons.

CC: The Chairperson, Lango Private Sector Foundation.

CC: The Members of Parliament, Dokolo District.

CC: The Chairperson, Lango Media Association.


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