KAMPALA – By the criteria of the statement President Museveni made in 4th June, 2021 during his State of the National Address, General Paul Lokech would not have risen to the prominence he attained. In that speech, the President said the well to do children of the NRA revolutionaries are the country’s best hope in fighting corruption. Many Ugandans begged to differ. Corruption is not necessarily a result of need. More often than not, it is a result of greed. The President acknowledged that Lokech was his “eager student” and was not corrupt.
In his play Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” General Paul Lokech rose from humble beginnings and achieved greatness. And he did so against great odds. His story shows that there’s room for merit at the highest levels. A character in the movie Three Idiots put it best: “Don’t chase success, chase excellence and success will follow.” You could say that is the Lokech Doctrine! He succeeded because he excelled!
No wonder Lokech was mourned so much. The expression of grief came in various forms. Some people spoke out their remembrances in lofty words. Some spat out accusatory bile for a death that defies normal explanations. Others waxed lyrical in song. In some cases the line between grief and grievance was blurred.
Many families get to know the head of their household after he has departed. “You now know who your father was and what he meant for the country he loved and served with such passion”, I told one of Lokech’s daughters during the vigil in Kampala. Indeed as our local saying goes, the true height of a tree is known when it has been felled.
General Salim Saleh hailed Lokech as a thinker and a reformer. He recalled Lokech’s contribution to a paper on the transition from the National Resistance Army to the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. Lokech argued that all the Generals of the NRA should leave their comfort zones and go back for further training and also embrace non military subjects of study because only 4% of the security threats facing Uganda in the post Cold War era would be of a military nature. “That is how I ended up studying food security and I’m now an expert in this field”, Gen. Saleh told the mourners.
The cause of death was a constant refrain. The mourners remained restless about what killed Lokech. The demand for the truth was across the political divide. In such circumstances the best policy would be a trusted family source. In the absence of an authentic voice from the family you end up with a Tower of Babel. A cacophony of half truths that raise even more questions.
People want to know the cause of death. If it is a blood clot which blocked the lungs then what was the cause of the blood clot? If the blood clot came from a leg injury then what caused the injury? If the injury was a result of a fall then what caused the fall? If the General fell then how did he end up in a position where he could fall?
First it was that the General stood on a plastic chair to pick his uniform. People wondered how a man of Lokech’s height would need to climb a chair to pick a uniform. Then it was about standing on a chair to pick documents. Then we heard that he was standing on a stool! The Speaker said Lokech told him that the army had contacted him requiring him to go for a photo shoot for new portraits. He was trying to find his military pips (presumably from a top shelf of a wardrobe) when he fell from a plastic chair whose legs gave way under his weight! And he resorted to a plastic chair because the ladder had been taken away! That kind of confusion would have been laid to rest with a simple and straightforward statement from the family.
Internal Affairs Minister Otafire took the bull by the horns. Aware that accusing fingers may be pointing at the government, he bluntly told the mourners that it defeats logic for the government to raise up people like Lokech (and he also included the Chief Justice and the Speaker) and thereafter kill them. “Who will protect me when I’m no longer Minister?”, he asked. “Someone who wants their job can kill them but surely it cannot be the person who raised them up the ladder.”, he added.
When the family doctor was introduced everybody was expectant. Earlier, Otafire had said he had read the post mortem report but he wasn’t at liberty to make it public. But the family doctor only introduced himself and sat down. It is now up to the family to satisfy the multitudes of doubting Thomases! If need be there should be an inquest. The law is clear.
Norbert Mao is a Ugandan politician and the President of Democratic Party