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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Museveni's phobia of "Jaluos" explained

President Museveni has been secretly worrying that Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was supporting his political opponents and building a secret Luo power alliance in the region, leaked US diplomatic cables show.

Ms Kathleen FitzGibbon, the former political affairs officer at the US Mission in Kampala, detailed the President’s phobia in a June 29, 2009 dispatch to Washington, made public by whistleblower Wikileaks website. The publication of the cables comes only a few days after Mr Odinga visited Uganda for talks with President Museveni – and then drew criticism from the opposition after he accompanied Mr Museveni to the campaign trail.

The leaked cables provide progress updates on a regional anti-LRA rebel offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo led by Uganda, but raises official uneasiness about bonding of Luo communities across the region. The cables reveal that UPDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye told Ms FitzGibbon last June that “Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga may be making common cause with the Acholi opposition in Uganda and Diaspora elements in Nairobi to advocate on behalf of LRA leader Joseph Kony”. It adds: “Kulayigye said the government suspects Odinga of supporting the Ugandan opposition because President Museveni supported Kenyan President Kibaki during the Kenyan elections.”

The Defence and Military spokesman confirmed to Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper last night that he did discuss the subject captured in the cable but said the reporting by the diplomat had “a spin”. He said their talk centred on a letter written by former LRA negotiator, Mr Ayena Odongo, in which he “requested the Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga to intercede on their behalf to US President Obama”. Lt. Col. Kulayigye said: “Whether the Prime Minister wrote the letter or not, I don’t know.” However, the cable suggests the Kenyan leader notified Mr Obama requesting the US stops its operations against the LRA.

Mr Odinga, an ethnic Luo, reportedly is attempting to unite the Luo-speaking communities of western Kenyan, south Sudan and northern Uganda, Mr FitzGibbon noted, without giving reason for the rallying call.
The cable singles out the fact that most Ugandan MPs from Acholi sub-region, who are of Luo origin, are members of the opposition. Mr Museveni and the top brass in his government are mainly from Bantu-speaking tribes. It is further reported that Ugandan government sources alleged that Mr Odinga met with South Sudan President, Gen. Salva Kiir, and his vice Dr Riek Machar with a similar request to push forward the Luo agenda. The diplomat, however, said the embassy did not know how Gen. Kiir responded.

"Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga may be making common cause with the Acholi opposition in Uganda and Diaspora elements in Nairobi to advocate on behalf of LRA leader Joseph Kony”. It adds: “Kulayigye said the government suspects Odinga of supporting the Ugandan opposition because President Museveni supported Kenyan President Kibaki during the Kenyan elections.

Relations between Mr Museveni and Mr Odinga were tested in late 2007/early 2008 when the Ugandan leader became the first and only President in the region to congratulate President Mwai Kibaki after the Kenyan leader was hurriedly sworn-in amidst allegations of electoral fraud. Hundreds of Kenyans were killed in the post-election violence that ensued and although Mr Odinga joined government in a power-sharing deal, many in his camp believed that Mr Museveni’s decision had strengthened Mr Kibaki’s hand. Widely-reported claims that Uganda deployed troops across the border in support of Mr Kibaki have never been independently verified. State House Entebbe last night said even if the mood of mistrust captured in the US diplomatic cables was true; things have since changed for the better.

“What is important is that President Museveni is working very well with Prime Minister Odinga and other Kenyan leaders. We should not be diverted by [foreign] interests,” said Presidential Spokesman Mirundi Tamale. “Politics changes and things in it are determined by the prevailing interests,” he said, describing Mr Odinga as “serious, calculative contender” for Kenya’s leadership.

In Nairobi, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, reportedly said the Prime Minister would not respond to “every line that rolls out of Wikileaks. That is the essence of freedom of expression.”
With Raila expected to run for President in 2012 after Mr Kibaki retires, analysts say it is in the best interests of both leaders to make up, hence last week’s visit from Raila.

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