When Chris Rutimbirayo Rwakasisi walked out of Luzira Maximum Security prison where he spent 24 years, everyone wondered why Museveni freed the man who was on death row.
Rwakasisi, who was the minister for security in the late former President Milton Obote II government, was arrested during the 1985 coup of the late Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa. He was on June 30, 1988 convicted on six counts of kidnap with intent to murder and sentenced to death.
While at the NRM secretariat in Kampala yesterday where he gave a lecture on “National Reconciliation and the Road to Peace,” in the weekly ideological clinics, Rwakasisi expressed his gratitude to Museveni whom he described as a peace maker who does not hold grudges with his enemies.
“Museveni’s main weapon has been reconciliation. He does not revenge, and his kind heart has kept this country together,” Rwakasisi said.
“When you talk about reconciliation I stand here as a testimony, he said, adding that, “The issue of reconciliation must bring people or nations together that have disagreed. For reconciliation to be meaningful, forgiveness must prevail. If it doesn’t then it’s not achieved,” Rwakasisi said while testifying his forgiveness to Museveni who detained him for over 20 year on murder charges.
The former state minister in the office of President Milton Obote, Rwakasisi also said that while in prison he read the Bible from cover to cover and he thought he was saved, but forgiving Museveni was never in his mind.
“The preachers who used to come to prison used to teach us to forgive and forget but I found no way to forgive Museveni and forget that I was in prison. I hated him and he hated me in equal measure,” he added.
After many years in detention, Rwakasisi said that he had grown weak due to sickness as a result of diabetes. He says that he surprisingly received the letter of release from the OC upper prison Luzira from state house signed by Museveni.
“I could not believe but I was released. Two months after my release I received a call from state house for a meeting with the president. I went and met Museveni in state house. We were like brothers who had lost touch for quite so long. When he welcomed me from Luzira, I welcomed him from the bush. And we exchanged pleasantries,” Rwakasisi narrates.
Amiably speaking, Rwakasisi asked all people who are peace loving to embrace the culture of reconciliation and forgiving. He said that forgiving means that you know what someone did to you but you no longer hold them accountable.
‘Reconciliation presupposes realignment of different societies so that people can have peace. The result of reconciliation is peace and freedom. This leads to a total transformation something NRM has done. To transform a society you need peace, because peace is where everything is built. That is why I forgave Museveni and it was relieving me a lot,” he explained.
He however condemned those who reconcile with no commitment to implement calling it hypocrisy.
“We have witnessed many contesting parties reconcile but fail to implement, at the end they take back their positions. That’s not good. Reconciliation and love are gifts from God. Love without God is hypocrisy,” he said.
He also castigated those who refuse to reconcile but rather engage in empty talks to understand that there is always one president in every country.
“Many people refuse reconciliation and prefer empty talks saying let’s remove Museveni. When you remove him what is next. Let me tell you, Museveni is the president of Uganda and there cannot be two presidents. If you cannot meet him then you don’t know what you want,” he advised.
Peace and tranquility is usually premised on reconciliation. And without God, reconciliation mean nothing. Even president Museveni says that he was guided by God to pardon me.
“Rwakasisi was supposed to die, but when I consulted God, he said that leave him alone:” Rwakasisi testifies Museveni’s pardon message.
The Secretary General Mr. Richard Todwong said that a leader who doesn’t know history, is not a good leader. He said that the story of Mr. Chris Rwakasisi, a former UPC stalwart about forgiveness and reconciliation is a lesson many of us must pick and emulate.
He said that a country like Uganda which was fragmented by ethnic tensions needed a statesman like Museveni who would foster national cohesion and unity.
“I didn’t know much about UPC but I had a lot of hatred about Amim because he hated the Acholis and Langis including my father who was mistreated. We therefore needed a statesman of Museveni’s calibre to keep this country together despite of provocations,” Todwong said.
“Given that Uganda is growing democratically, he said, we need a mature and patient leader to oversee this process”.
“Therefore the strength of NRM is in reconciliation. There’s always a window for opposition to reconcile with NRM. The party doesn’t hold any grudge with anyone,” Todwong emphasized.
The meeting chairperson who is the former minister for Disaster, Relief and Preparedness in the office of the Prime Minister, Tarsis Bazana Kabwegyere reiterated that, “We have an ideology of reconciliation for the purpose of organizing the thinking of people to work together”.
The Sociology and Anthropology professor, Kabwegyere also said that, “Reconciliation is an organized thinking and strategy to enable us move qualitatively to a better society,” he said, adding that, he was overjoyed by the encounter with Mr. Chris Rwakasisi, because of their rich historical closeness in in the politics of Uganda.
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