Again, after the usurpation of power by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) in 1986, people who come from Northern Uganda were characterized as Anyanya and biological substances and accordingly targeted for elimination simply for the fact that they came from the same region as Milton Obote who had taken power for the second time, after the ouster of Idi Amin. It is now more imperative than ever to embrace and practice [an] ethical approach to politics because the situation and the value system in the country have degenerated dramatically. The symptoms of degeneration in the country are clear for all to see. They include the humiliation of women as exemplified by the stripping naked of Fatuma Naigaga in broad day light on October 10, 2015; escalating unemployment of youth; the recruitment of children and old women as so-called crime preventers; the mysterious deaths of prominent Ugandans; the regime’s employment of totalitarian-style surveillance methods to control the population; the politicized and Dracula-like operation of the police vis-à-vis citizens; the electoral commission’s manipulation of electoral process; the chaos and the inability of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to conduct elections without rigging; and the deep socio-political fissures promoted by the regime in the country.
The cumulative evidence over the past three decades suggests that the regime in Uganda has become so delusional that even in a stage of siege it is not equal to the constructive task of building the nation to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. The bloody chaos and rigging during the recently concluded primary elections of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) flag bearers must be taken as a foretaste of what is in store for next year’s planned general elections. Combined with savage maltreatment of opposition politicians in recent months and the militarization of the country, it indicates that attempts by President Museveni and his loyalists to cling on to power at all cost might unleash socio-political forces that will likely threaten the very fabric of Ugandan society. If Uganda is to avoid being swept up by the gathering political storms looming in the horizons, it will not be enough to bemoan the sorry state of affairs in the country. It is the duty of patriotic Ugandans to educate, organize, mobilize and rebuke rather than excuse the excesses of the regime and to speak up for common decency and the human rights of all citizens. The way forward and in order to avoid the coming nightmare looming in the horizons is to come up with an affirmative formula and approach along the lines proposed by Freedom and Unity Front (FUF). But apart from the action that must be taken by Ugandans, the major powers should also adopt proactive measures based on principles of solidarity, balanced self-interest and human rights, so as to avoid a repeat of history. For older Ugandans, the current socio-political situation in the country reminds them of another not-so-distant period in their history. The methodical denial of fundamental freedoms and abuse of power under President Museveni is eerily reminiscent of military dictator Idi Amin’s tragic antics, though with a difference.
To refresh the minds of people, it should be remembered that in 1971, General Idi Amin overthrew a democratically elected government. Although his troops began butchering innocent citizens from the outset of the military coup, internal social groups who had suffered at the hands of the overthrown administration rejoiced and major world powers feted and hailed him as a gentle giant. The depravity of Idi Amin’s regime reached it apogee when in February 1979 he killed in cold-blood Janani Luwum, then the archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Boga Zaire, after the cleric spoke up against the dictator’s savage violations of the human rights of Ugandans. It was the assassination of Archbishop Janani Luwum that galvanized the international community and provided impetus to internal opposition groups to work for the overthrow of the military dictatorship in the country. Beyond this, it was Idi Amin’s betrayal of his hitherto foreign backers and of him making a mockery of their interests that really pushed the media to expose his monstrosity. The fact of the matter is that by the time the media got into high gear of stereotyping and caricaturing Idi Amin, thousands of Ugandans had lost their lives and the country was in a state of collapse.
About a decade later, in 1986, the militarist Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) usurped power in Kampala. With the aid of public relations agents and uncritical academics, Museveni’s rhetoric of fundamental of fundamental change and not his actions were skilfully marketed to the world to embrace the new military ruler. A number of major world powers, spellbound by the slick retailing of Museveni and because he agreed to superintend their interests, gave him more than the benefit of doubt: he was hailed as one of a new breed of African leaders. Paradoxically, although he had contributed in no small measure to the instability and human rights violations that plagued the administrations that followed the fall of Idi Amin in April 1979, he was nonetheless credited for ushering political order in the country. Three decades into his rule, it is clear to most Ugandans that President Museveni’s regime has been responsible for the worst abuse of power, cancerous corruption, sordid patronage, insidious nepotism, social fragmentation and toxic personalization of power in the country’s post-colonial history.
Part Two of Prof Amii Omara-Otunnu’s article will be posted here tomorrow (Monday).