Hama Tuma


Back in 2006, I wrote a short story called The Case of the Criminal Walk in which I lampooned the Meles Zenawi regime’s ridiculous ethnic bantustanization of Ethiopia. In the story, a man who had walked outside of “his region” was accused of being a criminal and a saboteur. And the prosecutor was interested in the type of walk the man had engaged in. Here is how that prosecutor in the story asked his question:

“Was he strolling arrogantly? Walking briskly? Were his lips curled in disgust as he walked? Were his eyes narrow like a chauvinist? Was he pounding at the pavement or moving surreptitiously like a spy? Did he dodder, falter, lumber, stagger, totter, trudge, hobble or plod? When you saw him walk did you see an innocent man like say someone rushing to church not to miss Mass? Or did you see a suspicious man with a saintly smile like all criminals, puffed up with arrogance, happy at the mere thought of having trampled on yet another sacred law, angrily pounding on our poor road? Did he prowl, tiptoe, slink away or stalk? Was he shuffling, slouching off or creeping? Did he march, surge or meander? A lot depends on that walk…Was it leisurely like a stroll, the pastime of a lazy man propagating unemployment? Was he moving briskly like a criminal trying to distance himself from the scene of his foul crime? Was he lifting his legs up like the parading soldiers of the former regime and pounding hard on our pavement to dig potholes? Or was he trying to be smaller than his shadow and walking stealthily?”

In the end the prosecutor in the story gives his own definition of the criminal walk:

“The criminal walk as we all know combines the rush and the prowl with the swoop and stomp, the trudge and the swagger, and all this accompanied by a maniacal chuckle.”


Did Ugandan opposition leader Dr. Kizza Beisgye wear a maniacal chuckle as he walked to work in opposition to the Museveni regime? Did he just walk or did he trudge and swoop on downtown Kampala? How did the authorities determine his walk was criminal and then resort to arresting and beating him up? By the way did the good doctor, who was Museveni’s personal physician in the past, get the idea of turning a walk into a political protest action from my short story? Seriously though, the intriguing question to most Africans, who are fortunate enough to have a job in the first place, is how come walking to work becomes a protest as more often than not they all walk to work? Early morning Nairobi, a stream of humanity trudges out of the notorious Kibera slum to go to or to search for work. With price of petrol skyrocketing and the price of transport too expensive to ponder many have been forced to walk not as a protest (heaven forbid) but as a necessity. Have Ugandans turned as rich as Museveni claims and are driving to work or take public transport in their thousands every day? Who cares if Besigye walks to work? For all we know, as a doctor, he may be doing it for health reasons? If walk to work is a protest Ethiopians have been protesting for decades without even knowing it.


But Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is a frightened man, haunted by the specter of a popular revolt against his dictatorial rule and his tearing up of the Constitution to be “elected” as fourth time president of Uganda. An Ethiopian proverb says no one dies looking as good as he was. Alas, things and human beings change and in most cases in Africa for the worst. Yoweri Museveni was a progressive militant, a better and promising breed than the Obotes and Amins that Uganda had to bear. In the first years, his rule was not also that bad (in Africa we do not easily say good knowing what we know) despite creeping corruption, ethnic favoritism and alarming demagogy on his part. Museveni’s declared “modernization” drive and his penchant for power clashed with tradition and customs (the place of kings in Uganda for example) and the call for a better deal by Ugandans suffering from economic hardships. Museveni wrote a book in which he identified one of the major malaise of governance in Africa as being the tendency of the rulers to stay in power for long and went on right away to cling to power for 25 years now even by changing the Constitution to run as a presidential candidate for the fourth time. Over the years, Museveni turned into a run of the mill African dictator, relying on his control of the repression apparatus and family circles and engaging in repression of any dissent. Besigye’s call for walk to work as a protest could have been taken as a patriotic gesture to save on fuel but Museveni had to rile and rant against it and turn it into a big cause and thus spurred the opposition leader to come up with walk to prayer calls.


The Museveni clan, much like the Meles Zenawi clan in Ethiopia, is controlling Uganda like their private property. None of them walks to work by the way. Museveni holds absolute power and is involved big time in the economic sector. His wife Janet Museveni, admired for not wearing western wigs ever, is a minister for Karamoja region and the owner of the Gemtel mobile telephone service that has extended its activities into Juba too. His half brother General Caleb Akandwanaho (also known as Salim Saleh) is presidential advisor on defence and a man accused of gross corruption including the plunder of gold and minerals from Eastern Congo. His brother in law, Sam Kutea, is Foreign Affairs Minister while his daughter Natasha Karugire is his private secretary. Janet’s nephew Justus Karuhanga is Museveni’s secretary for legal affairs while his son Lt. Colonel Kainerugaba Muhoozi is commander of the Special Forces guarding the newly discovered oil fields. The colonel also leads the elite presidential guard. As one Kenyan journalist recently commented– Ugandans are not all amused by the “familiarization of the State” as much as Museveni says he is not pleased with walking to work as a sign of protest.


Museveni is bound to be history, the past—perhaps sooner than he may expect. Yet, he owes his ongoing survival, as much as Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia, to the fact that he has slavishly bowed to the superpower and became cannon fodder in the so called war against terror. His regime is a minority one and his claim to be a messiah from the Munyankole/Bahima unconvincing to the majority of Bagandans. The LRA still roams murderously uncontrolled filling the pockets of the general who are the real beneficiaries of the ongoing war. Museveni has opened up Uganda for American special troops, has rushed into Somalia to fulfill America’s order (much like Meles Zenawi before him) and proved an ally of the West. That has assured him financial help and security protection and overall backing and support against a Revolution that may turn nationalist/Ugandan and throw out the foreign agenda and diktat. After all, Idi Amin was also an Israeli and British baby before he grew a shark’s teeth and became a nuisance. But will Washington’s backing save Museveni from impending doom? Judging from Egypt and what is happening elsewhere it does not seem likely and Museveni, who has outlived four US presidents, may not outlive Obama. Still, his rule and his ministers have given other tyrants very many valuable lessons. For those tyrants who kill their people and suffer their blame Museveni’s Internal Affairs State Minister, Kirunda Kivejinja, has come out with a gem of a self defense. Admitting that people were killed and hundreds wounded or arrested in the protest demonstrations he, however, said the government is not taking responsibility for those killed and he advised Ugandans to blame the deaths “ on the British and the Americans who manufacture bullets”.

Now we know the real culprits!



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  1. Tagel Be Tibeb says:

    Hama thanks really for your superb and well written work on Criminal Walks. Especially for reminding that if Dr Kizza’s walk is a protest then the Ethiopians unknowingly have been protesting for decades. Now they will do it Consciously – Civil Obedience that will trigger other higher forms of struggle very soon.

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