Rev Fr Gaetano Batanyenda came to prominence as a Constituent Assembly delegate in 1994-95. Since then, he has become a critic of the NRM and a power broker in Kigezi politics.
There is no love lost between him and former minister of Agriculture and Kabale Woman MP, Hope Mwesigye. When it was reported that Mwesigye had said Gaetano should get married, Catholics in the district went up in arms. Catholic priests don’t marry.
This remark was indeed partly responsible for Mwesigye’s loss of her seat at this year’s elections. Now with Parliament seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi over allegations of bribery, President Museveni was reported as telling NRM legislators during a retreat in Kyankwanzi, that Batanyenda is using Ndorwa East MP, Wilfred Niwagaba, to fight Mbabazi, whose sister-in-law, Mwesigye, rejected the priest’s advances.
In an open letter to the President, Batanyenda replies:
Your Excellency, I read, with aguish, dolour and heartache, The Observer newspaper of October 24, 2011 wherein it is alleged that while addressing the NRM Parliamentary caucus in Kyankwanzi, you told the members that Hon Niwagaba is being used by myself in my rivalry with Hope Mwesigye, a sister-in-law to Hon Amama Mbabazi, because I had wanted to be “close” to her and she refused.
I find such a statement from a Fountain of Honour very infelicitous and injudicious. Your statement embarrassed and humiliated me socially, morally and spiritually. There was no truth in what you were reported to have said as I am going to show below:
Your Excellency, I am sure that you know Niwagaba is undisputedly one of the best lawyers that NRM has in Parliament. He is a well polished, patriotic, principled and articulate politician who commands respect and conducts himself with honour and dignity. He is not antagonistic and does not seek cheap popularity or political favours.
Since I don’t have any battles against Hope Mwesigye, then surely Niwagaba can’t be fighting any battles on my behalf. In any case, why should Niwagaba fight my battles? What would he gain? Hope Mwesigye is no longer a Member of Parliament, leave alone being a minister; then why the battles?
Your statement was, therefore, frivolous, malicious and false. Be that as it is, Your Excellency has no reason to believe the veracity of the allegation, and bringing it up in debate involving corruption in the oil sector is diversionary and an act of escapism. You have often stated that Amama Mbabazi is loyal and trustworthy.
The question is, loyal to who and trustworthy in what? Majority of Ugandans have a different view of Mbabazi from yours. Mbabazi is seen as someone who is intrigue, arrogant, divisive, abusive and corrupt, and all the above is done with impunity.
Because of your insistence on eulogising Mbabazi and who you have often expressed admiration for, Ugandans are questioning whether what he is doing is not sanctioned by you.
Tell me your friend and I will tell you who you are! Your Excellency, avoid and resist any temptations and desist from turning the NRM caucus into a first chamber of Parliament. This would be a recipe for disaster.
The battle that ever existed, if you call it a battle, was between Hope Mwesigye and the innocent, peace loving people of Kabale, but not Fr Gaetano as you seemed to claim, and it ended on February 18, 2011 when she dishonourably, disgracefully, miserably and dismally lost her seat as Kabale Woman Member of Parliament because of her numerous negative factors very well known to you.
It was the people of Kabale who trounced her. Your Excellency, the principled battles that Niwagaba and others like him are engaged in are genuine and good for the country. I totally and strongly support him and I accompany him with my prayers and blessings never to surrender due to intimidation, harassment or bribery, be it political or pecuniary.
People like him are a new breed of liberators of Uganda and NRM. They are the people who are trying to implement the NRM manifesto, especially on good and democratic governance based on constitutionalism. These are the people who are well focused and far-sighted, and are out to fight complicated and institutionalised corruption. They are the trailbrazers in as far as oil sector is concerned.
They are the honest few who still have the courage and will to tell the emperor that he is naked. It is disturbing when we hear you calling these patriotic MPs “rebels”; then what do you call those thieves? These “rebel” MPs are helping you to achieve “zero tolerance to corruption” which is in the NRM manifesto.
Your worst enemies, Your Excellency, and indeed the enemies of Uganda, are not those MPs whom you call “rebels” but those advisors, ministers, some MPs, and, lamentably and sadly some religious leaders, who know the truth and see things going astray but fear to tell you because they are opportunists, egomaniacs and sycophants. They are ditching Uganda, NRM and yourself.
Your Excellency, you are also reported to have revealed in a thinly veiled statement that I tried to get “close” to Mwesigye in vain. I didn’t know that you still cherish and harbour the fabricated and concocted lies she told you when you met us at State House Entebbe in 2010. Let me put the record clear, straight and precise.
I have ever told you that my misunderstandings with Hope Mwesigye were political and they started in 2005 after the meeting we had with you in the presence of Hon Hajji Moses Kigongo, National Vice Chairman NRM, and Hon Amelia Kyambadde, the then Principal Private Secretary to you, at the State Lodge in Arua. Hope Mwesigye never expected me to tell you what I told you. She was politically wounded.
Your Excellency, I hope you remember what I told you about Hope Mwesigye and her two political accomplices in Kabale. As I was about to conclude my brief to you, I told you in these or similar words: “Your Excellency, I don’t need to tell you that in Kabale we did not have FDC. But now FDC is gaining ground because of bad leadership of NRM under the chairperson Hope Mwesigye who is arrogant, disrespectful, self-centred and does things with impunity.
Your Excellency, Hope Mwesigye, and unfortunately there are many like her in NRM, is a liability to Uganda, the NRM party and yourself. She, and many others, are using your name selfishly for their own political ends.”
As we were concluding our meeting, she told you two naked lies and you may recall how I rebuked her for telling you lies. That meeting was the genesis of the political problems between me and Hope Mwesigye.
Then in 2010 you invited the two of us to meet you at State House Entebbe. In that meeting many wild, malicious, and evil-intentioned allegations were brought up against me, which I flatly denied. Among the many allegations she made, was that I sexually harassed her in 1994 during the Constituent Assembly delegates campaign.
Since I did not expect such an allegation from her, I answered her in form of questions: “Hope, why did you not tell His Excellency this allegation when we met him in 2005 in Arua? Since 1994 to 2010, a period of 16 years, why did you keep quiet for so long? Since 1994, have I sexually harassed you again? Recently you had a meeting with my bishop, what did you tell him?
Why did you not tell him that I sexually harassed you? In matters of morals and spirituality, who is supposed to discipline me, President Museveni or my bishop? What do you hope to achieve by maligning me?”
Your Excellency, remember the laughable answers she tried to give in defence. It was at this point that I told you that her allegations, since we were approaching elections, were meant to distract me from my patriotic and prophetic work of exposing her arrogance and impunity in dealing with other people, especially her fellow politicians.
Her conduct was tearing the party apart. Before we concluded our meeting, you advised her to apologise to the church; she has never done it. To be frank with you, I was not happy when I read about your statement. I don’t know why, after explaining everything to you, you still believe in Hope Mwesigye and not me.
What, then, was the point of asking her to apologise if you believed that what she was accusing me of was nothing but the truth?
The author is chairman of the Inter-Religious Forum in Kigezi.