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Ibrahim Abiriga Was a Traitor to Uganda
In 1956 the current Arua Municipality Member of Parliament (MP), Col. Ibrahim Abiriga was born in the West Nile region. In 1971, he joined the Uganda Army (UA) and mostly served as the Manager of Pakuba Lodge in the present-day Murchison Falls National Park. Like most of the ‘Amin soldiers’, after the overthrow of Iddi Amin in 1979, he fled to Congo and Sudan. In exile, they formed fighting groups to fight the new successive governments in Kampala. One such group was the UNRF under now Prime Minister, Gen. Moses Ali. Abiriga’s blood relative, Gen. Bamuze was the UNRF Chief of Staff.
In 1986, the 1,200 strong UNRF joined Museveni’s NRA and were mostly formed into the NRA’s 73rd Battalion. Subsequently, Moses Ali was accused of treason and incarcerated for years in Lubiri underground cells. Moses Ali and other prominent people had complained about then Capt. James Kaziini who was commanding the Arua based 14th Battalion.
Kaziini had been a member of UNRF before he defected to the NRA via Nairobi in late 1985. Bamuze fled to Congo again where he formed another fighting group that he named UNRF II. Ibrahim Abiriga who had also joined the NRA in 1986 rose to become the 2nd Division Administration Officer (DAO). He served in that position from 1988 to 1990 when his active military career informally ended.
A decade later, Ibrahim Abiriga contested for the Madi Okollo parliamentary seat but lost to the opposition candidate. Consequently, President Yoweri Museveni appointed Abiriga to the position of Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Arua District. As RDC, he went to Adrava Health Centre at Rhino Camp and personally unplucked the campaign posters of an opposition candidate before harassing and accusing the health workers of ‘promoting the opposition’.
Abiriga became a key Museveni party political mobilizer in Arua. In January 2011 during the presidential election campaigns, he at one time slaughtered cows and gave free meat to residents in order to dissuade them from attending the opposition candidate, Dr. Besigye’s rally but still Museveni lost in Arua.
In May 2011, Abiriga accused the USA and UK of sponsoring the Walk to Work protests prompting the then UK High Commissioner, Martin Shaerman to vehemently protest. In December 2011 during the World Aids Day celebrations at Arua Police grounds, Abiriga called upon security agencies to use live ammunitions in quelling the Walk to Work protesters. He argued that the protests were being backed by donors and were meant to systematically overthrown the government.
In 2012 Abiriga connived with Museveni’s. brother, Gen. Salim Saleh to controversially grab six acres of public land at Biafra in Arua Municipality. During a Teachers strike, he threatened to recruit his own teachers. Generally, his military style administration was characterised by arbitrary arrests and polarising people along ethnic and political party lines.
In 2014, Abiriga was transferred from Arua to Yumbe district as the RDC. However, in June 2015 he quit the position of RDC to run for Member of Parliament for Arua Municipality on the Museveni party ticket. He cited failure to serve people like he would have wished using the position of RDC. It is interesting to note that during his tenure as RDC, Abiriga would sometimes even challenge government programs that did not favour the local people.
To get nominated, he presented academic certificates from Uganda Management Institute and Uganda Christian University, Arua Campus. He beat other rivalries in the Museveni party primaries and was nominated as the flag bearer.
In September 2015, Abiriga was suspiciously nominated by the EC not in Arua but in Kampala. However, a voter from Arua disputed his academic credentials by petitioning the Electoral Commission. It was alleged that Abiriga had only stopped in Primary Three. The above-mentioned education institutions denied ever enrolling a person in those names. In February 2016, the Electoral Commission (EC) disqualified him from contesting for the Arua Municipality. The EC’s decision reversed the District Returning Officer’s earlier decision that had nominated him. A week to the election day, Museveni ordered the Electoral Commission to reinstate Abiriga on the ballot paper.
Abiriga won the Arua Municipality seat but his opposition rival challenged his victory in court on grounds that the nomination forms that were used by the EC to declare him the winner were not the right ones. Because of Museveni’s last minute intervention, the EC had ordered for the printing of the unofficial Declaration Forms to include Abriga.
In May 2015, Abiriga was sworn in as the MP for Arua Municipality. Shortly after, in an interview with NBS Television, he boldly put it thus; “Museveni is a good leader who should rule till death. No prophet is sent by God when another one is still there. Therefore, Museveni should be given his time. If we have President Museveni out, we shall face problems, see what is happening in Libya. Ugandans have accepted to lifting presidential age limits, it’s only Museveni that is 100% correct. Besigye is not even suitable for a Ministerial post. He was only rewarded by the President with a ministerial post because he was from the bush just like Museveni.”
In June 2016, the HC in Arua ruled in favour of Abiriga. An appeal was lodged in the Court of Appeal but it was also dismissed in April 2017. A criminal case of forgery of academic credentials was also lodged at Buganda Road Court but it has since been suppressed. In August 2016, Hon. Abiriga yellow (Museveni party colours) dress code was challenged by his MPs but the Deputy Speaker, Oulanya ruled in favour of Abriga. Since then Abiriga has adopted his controversial yellow outfits both in
parliament and outside.
In March 2017, Hon. Abiriga clashed with Army M.P, Cadre Felix Kulaigye (both members of the Defence and Internal Affairs committee) over the Anti-terrorism Amendment Bill. The bill sought to criminalize the financing of terrorism and terrorist activities. Abiriga sought for clarification from Bank of Uganda officials over the deference between terrorism and rebel activities thus a terrorist and a rebel.
Quoting the Act, Bank of Uganda’s Mulindwa described a terrorist as a person who does an act with intention of intimidating parliament. Cadre Felix Kulaigye was quick to interject by extending the definition to also intimidating the public or section of the public for political, religious, social or economic aim.
Another member questioned why the rebel group, LRA had been classified as a terrorism group. Cadre Kulaigye emphasized that he was more suited to help the committee owing to his military background. Hon. Abiriga called Kulaigye to order before accusing him of misleading the committee thus; ” I don’t want to know, because what Kulaigye knows, I know. I know what a terrorist is and what a rebel is. His knowledge is political but mine is proof.”
Around early this month Abiriga claimed that opposition thieves had broken into his residence and stolen his personal property. He told reporters that; “These must be FDC and DP because they only selected only yellow items (flat screen TV, Refrigerator, and cups). They want to dampen my ‘yellow spirit’ but I am still strong, I am a soldier.”
During the recent Budge Speech, Museveni donated a pair of black sandals to Hon. Abiriga on the floor of parliament. Hon. Abiriga was excited and even promised to paint them yellow.
For those who think Hon. Abriga is a semi-illiterate legislator who is just crazy with Museveni’s patronage, think twice. In 1990 while then Capt. Abiriga was the Division Administration officer for the NRA’s 2nd Division based in Fort Portal, he was arrested by then Capt. Charles Angina over treason. Together with his co-plotters like Col. Matovu who was the Chief of Personnel and Administration (CPA) at the army headquarters, Capt. Ali Chama and a few others were not formally charged but simply held by Military Intelligence in Kampala.
Since that time Abiriga never returned to active military service until over a decade later when he was formally discharged from the army. However, he did some special political and security assignments for Museveni in West Nile region in return for patronage.
Think twice, Hon. Abiriga knows the difference between a terrorist and a rebel. He has been late and been the latter and fell short of being the former just because the Anti-terrorism law was not yet in place. His knowledge “is proof”. However, it’s not too late hence why he interrogated the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill.