By Lewis David Rubongoya
Yesterday, the media was awash with reports that city socialite Bryan White is being detained at the CID headquarters in Kampala. Apparently, he is being detained for obtaining goods by false pretences and other offences related to fraud. Since his arrest, several creditors including Mike Mukula rushed to the CID office to demand for their pay. Relatedly, his landlord who demands over 500m in rent is seeking payment and an order for eviction.
When I saw the story, my mind went straight to one evening while I drove from work. This wasn’t so long ago- maybe a year and a half? The traffic was thick. Tired drivers waited for long hours. Boda boda riders snaked through the traffic to take their tired passengers home. A few pedestrians found their way on pavements- competing for space with street-side vendors. This was around Yusuf Lule road.
Then came Bryan White. I heard the siren from a distance. Then some angry boda boda riders approached;- riding at breakneck speed. Forcing other riders and pedestrians off every remaining spot, they announced that the man whose picture was imprinted on their t-shirts was approaching! Bryan White. I was puzzled.
These young men called him all sorts of praise names. Certainly not because they loved him for anything else, but the money he was splashing on them. Before long, a convoy of about 6 cars approached with a police vehicle leading the way. Several police officers were seated on the police double-cabin pickup, with their guns in hand. We were all forced off the road, regardless of whether you were a university lecturer like I was, or senior government official or even an ordinary citizen of the republic. It did not matter if you were a sheikh or priest. It did not matter how much education you possessed. You had to give way to Bryan White! The boda boda riders who were slow to move were simply pushed aside and others assaulted by their fellow boda bodas for whom Mr. White had bought fuel and lunch. Several cars which were too close to the convoy were scratched. The occupants of the convoy were too preoccupied with whatever they were going to do. No one bothered to check the mayhem they were causing.
As this drama ensued, the traffic officers who were deployed at the Mulago roundabout gave way and waved off Mr. Kirumira’s convoy. Although it took a short time and off he went, the events of that day kept in my mind. I felt very disgusted by the kind of impunity and recklessness that could go on under the watch of police on a public road. When did Bryan White get the right of way?
It would take only a few days for Bryan White to appear in President Museveni‘s tent at public functions! MCs would recognise him in turns. He became part of official protocol whenever he showed up for public functions. While critical people like Bobi Wine had their public events cancelled, Kirumira was escorted by the police to hold public meetings in markets, schools, hospitals, etc. One time, a police officer blocked him from holding an event at a hospital. He called a few shots, threw tantrums and the hospital administration apologised for the inconvenience they had caused to Mr. Moneybags! As he went from place to place pledging crazy sums of money in donations, no one dared to ask where he got the money from. He was hanging out with the who is who of this town. You would find him in the company of sons and daughters of those who rule over us. I think at the time, he felt that he was one of them.
The invitations multiplied. If one organised a comedy show or music concert, they craved Bryan’s attendance because that came with money being thrown around. The name Bryan White became a sensation- a household name. Housemaids spent hours discussing Bryan. Barbers left some heads unshaven while they discussed White.
Bryan went on the offensive. He attacked People Power and its leader Bobi Wine. He advised him to stop discussing politics and teach young people how to work hard and get money! He said that the present regime has created enough opportunities for people to prosper while giving himself as an example. Indeed! He publicly said that he was the only person who could neutralize People Power!
He paid some bloggers to promote him and they did a good job. So did media houses which gave him countless hours on the big screens and radio stations. At his ‘charity events’, he often sat on what looked like a throne, surrounded by muscled bouncers. Old men knelt before him while impoverished mothers pleaded for his help. Nothing in-dignifies the human person more than poverty! When tragedy struck on Lake Victoria and several Ugandans died on the ill fated boat cruise, Bryan was seen giving instructions to police officers as they tried to retrieve trapped bodies! Later, he addressed the press, sandwiched by an Assistant Inspector General of Police and other high ranking officers!
Soon after, things started going south. He was accused of trying to kill his neighbor, aided by his bodyguard. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. At some point, the police file disappeared. Court was told it had been taken so that Bryan negotiates with the man he allegedly shot. The DPP dropped the charges. But the reprieve was temporary. Police raided his home and impounded posh vehicles which they claimed had been stolen.
Then the landlord put him on notice. Then creditors started emerging. Bryan pushed back. He appeared on TVs asserting that he still had lots of money- but the tide seemed unwilling to stop. Left with little or nothing to offer, his following reduced. The police convoys retreated. The celebrities who hang around him fled. The media quickly shifted their cameras to some new exciting stories. The state either decided to spit him out after he had served or failed to serve his purpose, or they simply got wind of the fact that he was a fraud and they didn’t need another one to out-compete them.
Yesterday, he declared that he fears for his life, and that several attempts have been made to finish him off! He also proclaimed that Uganda emutamye- he hates Uganda.
I may not know the full story, but I hope that as all this happens, Bryan and those like him will have a deep reflection and learn a lesson or two two. Everyone else knew how the story of Bryan White would end- except himself.
The sad thing about my country is that people do not learn. If they did, the fate of people like Michael Ezra, Bad Black, Don Nasser, Jack Pemba, etc, would have sufficiently taught Kirumira how this ends. If only they did, Catherine Kusasira and the likes would go a little slow.
Lewis David Rubongoya, Executive Secretary of the People Power movement.
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