By Stephen Lwetutte
LONDON-UNITED KINGDOM/NEWSDAY: In African culture the dead, with a few exceptions, are generally eulogised, regardless of reputation and legacy. On a state level, some will even be accorded the coveted status of a hero. There will be many who defer and in fact vilify them mainly off the record, but also even publicly for the less faint-hearted.
This is by far not unique to Africans, in the grand scheme of things. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s embalmed body, was removed from Lenin’s tomb in Moscow’s Red Square. The body of Vladimir Lenin, who was the leader of the Russian Great October Socialist Revolution, was preserved and has been on public display there since shortly after his death in 1924.
Although it had all along been a public secret that Joseph Stalin, who had succeeded Lenin, was a dictator and had been one for some 30 years until his death in 1953, his remains were embalmed and put on display next to those of Vladimir Lenin. However, in 1961, just eight years later, the Soviet government ordered Stalin’s remains removed from the tomb order reformist leader Nikita Kruschev.
On Saturday 21 August 2021, Uganda and the world woke up to the news of the demise of the “Lion of Mogadishu” (for ejecting Alshabaab terrorists out Somalia’s capital city), Major General Paul Lokech. It is a fact that subduing an entrenched fanatical and brutal outfit, armed to the teeth and running roughshod of human life and rights, would have never been a mean feat.
We may never know the extent of the losses on both sides and among the non combatants, but the mission was said to have been accomplished. Brigadier Lokech, as he was then, as Commander of the victorious forces was credited for that achievement, and for that he was certain to go down in history as a hero, at least in the eyes of the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). For the Alshabaab, the same Lokech must have been this much dreaded and loathed Commander.
In December 2020, on the eve of the January 2021 general elections, the late Major General was appointed as the Deputy Inspector General of Police, in actual the de facto Inspector General of Police for a reason. It must have been a strategic decision by President Museveni probably for a repeat performance to also make Major General Lokech the “Lion of Kampala”, a known bastion of the opposition in the country, to rid to subdue the opposition.
Very few would have been surprised by the conduct of the security services and events in Kampala and Buganda after that appointment. The country and the world is todate still reeling from his performance in terms of abuses of rights meted out on opposition members, supporters and activists. So much so even that President Museveni himself, as recently as two weeks ago, had to come out in a little more than show performance to try to reassure the country and the world how seriously he took the abuses of human rights by his security forces.
As Africans, many will typically eulogise Major General Lokech in public, but for those who are still mourning their loved ones shot dead, or those maimed or nursing wounds inflicted on them, or those disappeared, it will be matter of hushed voices regretting the General’s departure before justice was served.
Nelson Mandela, to all intent and purposes and with all the world accolades he received, including the Nobel Prize for peace up his sleeves, was universally acknowledged as a hero. Yet he was once considered a criminal in South Africa and a communist in the eyes of the United States, where he remained on a terrorism watch list as recently as until 2008.
Museveni himself was labelled a bandit during the regime of Obote II, but to those who supported and harboured him, he was a liberator. Today he claims to be a freedom fighter, yet others see him as the worst dictator this country has had.
As Lokech is eulogised in line with african tradition resplendent with all his career and heroic achievements through his life journey, let us spare a thought for those whose mourning and hurting he is responsible for – they and their loved ones are as human as the General was, and ought to have been treated as much. They will only miss the opportunity to have had justice while the fallen General was alive.
So it is really always the same subjective story: Joseph Stalin, Nelson Mandela and Lokech may well have been heroes, but there are and always will be those who strongly disagree and consider them to be villains, depending on which side of events they stand. While the jury is still out on General Lokech, l would like to say, true to my african roots: Rest in Peace General.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant
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