Background: rendezvous with NRM
This year on January 25, I became 29 years old. I have never had any other president of Uganda, except Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. When I was in secondary school (1998-2004), my colleagues and I used to form ‘revolutionary’ groups that identified with the idealism of the NRM revolution of 1986. I kept a hand-written book in which colleagues were registered as members of ‘a high command’ similar to the one by Museveni and his comrades from the bush – complete with ‘bush’ numbers from ‘001’, ‘002’ and so on. I have followed Yoweri Museveni and listened to his every speech – domestic, regional, international, and read his book ‘Sowing the Mustard Seed’ plus a number of his other less known writings on Africa. It was clear to me in my impressionable years that Museveni was the ideal leader on a continent plagued by dictators.
The political history of Uganda also provided a backdrop that made NRM seem like a solution. I had read a lot about the past leaders of Uganda, especially Obote I, Idi Amin and Obote II; the others in between did not provide much amazement. I had read and heard stories of how Obote stole elections in 1980, and Amin killed people throughout his 9-year rule. It became clear to me at secondary school level, that these were the worst governance crimes to be committed by a head of state or regime; these and the attempt by a president to overstay in power.
Against this formative scope, my rendezvous with the movement/NRM was rested on correcting these wrongs from history, restoring honour to Ugandans, freedom to the country. I imagined Uganda – free.
That was not to be.
The country has taken a turn towards its next half century as a republic; it is necessary to examine the political entity that is Uganda. After 28 uninterrupted years in power, has the NRM treated even the most basic problems of Uganda?
- Stealing elections – Has the NRM stolen elections?
- Killing innocent people – Has the NRM been killing people during its stay in power?
- Overstaying in power – Has the president under NRM overstayed in power?
As, you may have guessed, the answer to all these questions, unfortunately is YES, YES and YES.
We can delve in a bit here.
On first historical crime – stealing elections, you don’t have to be an expert to know that NRM steals elections. That is the hallmark of NRM vigilantism. It is virtually impossible today for an NRM president and a lot of MPs to pass through without both stealing the ballots and buying the electorate. Unfortunately for the country, the masses suffer greatly as a result of these actions. The money being used to purchase the electorate is not coming from a developed private enterprise of these politicians, but the meager earnings of poor peasants, which are taxed ever highly to compensate, without providing public services that would lower their cost of living in return.
On the second cardinal crime –extrajudicial killing of innocent people; let the country consider the North, what happened there since 1986 to the 2000s. How many people died in the North at the hands of government? We can also consider the political opposition who have been at the receiving end of state brutality for the entire time Museveni has been running Uganda. How many Ugandan families today, are living in shock over the circumstances under which their family members died? The number keeps growing by the day
On the third historical wrong – the president overstaying in power, again no expertise required to see that something is awfully wrong. What did Museveni do to constitution of 1995? Having already served 10 years from 1986, he engineered bribery extra-ordinary to MPs with 5 million shillings each, under some sort of disguise, to remove the clause that the people of Uganda had hoped would stop a greedy dictator from emerging before a democracy took root.
So, what was the logic of Museveni’s fundamental change? If it was to remove a bunch of thieves and murderers from running the state, and why replace them with thieves and murderers, and himself get swallowed up by power and subsequently abuse power?
What accountability do the people of Uganda who died or lost their possessions as a direct consequence of Museveni’s struggle and stay in power have for their loss under these circumstances?
They died with hope that their loss & sacrifice becomes the fort of liberty and freedom to the country today and the future generations to follow? But Museveni’s actions have made them perish for an interminable cause. The present generation has to sacrifice to re-attain what they died for instead of building on it.
Without addressing the historical mistakes, what then is the necessity, other than confusing the masses, to talk about ‘what the government has done’? The same structural problems within state persist. The country will come back to these issues eventually. That is how the saying goes about those who do not learn from history.
These were the level-one problems of the country – the structural and existential problems facing the governments of Uganda. Without solving them, and jumping onto some other problems – social problems, developmental problems; that is diversionary (designed to confuse or deceive). It is putting the less important things ahead of the important things. Uganda MUST BE POLITICALLY FREE first, not hostage-taken by any power-hungry man or group. Power must be with the people and their voice should be capable of changing the governments if they so wish. Now they’re hostages.
When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1814, he found that the Russians had burnt everything and Moscow could not sustain his fifty thousand men. The invasion failed and he retreated back with only twenty thousand. Later he assembled his soldiers and told them the truth; “…With men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France.”
It is clear that Museveni was not honest to his comrades, as to his intentions for the 1986 struggle. And this has caused misfortunes for Uganda. When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. It should not surprise anybody that unemployment for the youth of Uganda is at 80% today. That is just one count in the misfortunes from that ideological dishonesty.
There are sections of Ugandans that have not processed the state of their country, who are blindly following NRM into the abyss. You can image the contempt of the people, when their tax shillings are handed out to elected ‘leaders’ to traverse the country and ‘promote’ the return of Yoweri Museveni, a 28 year president!
If this does not provide an impetus for change thinking among the young generation, then we’ll be reneging on our responsibility, and letting the country get destroyed.
History will look at this episode and say; that was the lowest point of men’s corruption.
As it was, Museveni made some famous statements in his swearing-in speech in 1986; “This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental revolution”. And also “… the problem of Africa and Uganda in particular, is leaders who overstay in power”. Applied today, these words sound like condemnation to the man who said them.
To the colleagues and young people who are still running errands in NRM, you cannot assuredly think that is nationalism, because nationalism demands the sacrifice of individual interest to those of the country. The country is crying out to be saved; the freedom of the people is at the stakes. This new generation following on the heels of the bush government is the one to secure the liberties and freedoms of the people against the onslaught of NRM in its designs to hang in power.
It would be a great lack of analysis, or opportunism, or both that would make anyone support NRM today. Those refusing to see reason, blindly holding onto the strappings of NRM corrupt handouts are the real fruits a purely corrupt system can produce.
Whereas, for the better part of my youth I had great respect for Museveni and his 1986 revolution, to continue doing so knowing that the basic operating principles and common sense have been abandoned, that would be judgment to Uganda. It would be placing the less important thing ahead of the important thing. Today the state is running contra to every Principle of Liberty and Freedom.
On the streets every day, men, women and children are being stripped of their dignity and freedom by the NRM president; the state treats the opposition, culture and religion does as if they’re enemies of the state and are not party to the rights of man.
God in his infinite wisdom given gave man freedom to make him happy. To continue cheering anti-freedom government , you must be a brute.
The arbitrary use of power is particularly dangerous to the peasants, because it entrenches fear in their hearts. Whereas the NRM boasts of peasant support, it has largely done so by hostage taking, holding the horrors of past governments as a scare crow to the peasants’ heads, threatening a return of the same, while doing nothing concrete to the uplifting of them from poverty to middle class. Peasants have been kept on a dose of loyalty payouts disguised as poverty eradication schemes for 28 years, as opposed to core industrial policy to enable them lift themselves out of poverty.
If you were a freedom fighter, you will be immediately disgusted at the state. Right now, the rise of charismatic, fearless, democratic leaders from the young would restore the balance of power to the people, tip the scales for the masses to wash away the dead-weight government and restore hope to the country.
Those still confused about what to do, and those who think that these are times to go and vote and go home – need to be woken up. To the least of men and women who still have faith in a good God, and hope in the future, we must organise and stop this. Beginning with painstakingly explaining how flawed this system is to the young people, the least educated groups and the peasant whom the NRM has manipulated for 28 years without remorse.