Here is an article published by WE THE PIPO * whose stated purpose is to “advocate for a Uganda where there is rule of law, fairness, justice and respect of human rights; a Uganda where priority is placed on human development and welfare, service delivery, as opposed to feeding and sustaining the few in power; a new Uganda that upholds the constitution.”
There is a dark political cloud looming over Uganda, and there are two ways Ugandans could express their real feelings. Through elections, and or through demonstrations. Both have been attempted, and they don’t work.
The heavy military response to the November 18th 2020 demonstrations revealed the regime’s intolerance for protests. This response was also considered a rehearsal by President Museveni in his pre elections interview with Channel 4.
Similarly, elections as a means to choosing another leader is not an option. Mr. Museveni has again been declared winner of the 2021 presidential elections. Most Ugandans view the last elections as the worst ever, yet the winner thinks it was ‘the most rigging free’ elections.
In frustration citizens are fervently hoping that the West can, based on the impunity and human rights violations witnessed, rein in Mr. Museveni and his regime to end these excesses, if not his 35 year rule.
Security organs have been partisan and made it so difficult and dangerous for citizens to participate unless they are in support of Mr. Museveni. They have actively interfered, denied, slowed down, or diverted opposition candidates in ways that disorganized these candidates’ campaigns.
According to Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert, also known as Bobi Wine, over 3,000 of his supporters are detained in prisons around the country.
Security [forces] made it a habit to intimidate, abduct, arrest, detain, torture, maim and even kill supporters Bobi Wine. This continues even after the presidential elections are over. Bobi Wine and his wife Barbie Itungo were detained in their home for over a week after elections were complete.
With their votes rigged and their freedoms of expression muzzled, Ugandans have taken to social media to try and capture the attention of the rest of the world, especially the West. The EU and the USA are long time allies and have been funding part of Uganda’s budget, including the military.
Efforts to bring their plight to an international audience has in itself been effectively crippled by internet shut down before, during and after the elections.
Today, internet is partially restored but several sites including social media remain censured. Some people use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to access the censured sites. And even so, the government threatens to arrest those found using VPN.
Early response from western partners was the usual lukewarm warning messages to the government such as this statement by the UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge. The statement described the elections as having been ‘relatively calm.’
There was nothing relative nor calm about the 2021 presidential elections in Uganda. It was bloody and brutal for the opposition, especially for Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform team.
Mistreatment and harassment of opposition is a characteristic of Uganda’s elections since the Museveni regime came to power. Dr. Kiiza Besigye, who was the closest opponent to Mr. Museveni in the previous 4 elections suffered similar mistreatment and abuse.
The unfair and repressive treatment of political competitors, among a host of other injustices and corruption directly related to the regime in Uganda has not inspired development partners to do more than make statements of concern.
They condemn brutality and human rights violations on one hand, while on another hand continue to sign agreements pledging support to the same regime they condemn.
This attitude leads us back to the historical relationship between Africa and the Western world.
HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EUROPEANS AND AFRICA
It is a history of an oppressor and the oppressed. Europeans came to Africa to conquer, occupy, divide and rule, indoctrinate, subdue, exploit and even dehumanize the colonized people. It was never a love relationship.
Regardless of how the colonized people responded to the colonizers, the end result was tears. Bunyoro and Buganda for example, were rival Kingdoms in Uganda and responded differently to British rule.
Baganda agents made deals with the British, and became vessels for conquering and subduing other regions. Bunyoro on the other hand resisted invasion of their land. Eventually however, the Kingdom fell to the British with the help of Baganda.
Bunyoro Kingdom never recovered from this defeat, and to date remains a bad shadow of its former self. The discovery of oil in the region in the recent years has instead opened the Kingdom to another round of exploitation by foreign companies, this time enabled by the government, the President being the chief.
Buganda on the other hand temporarily counted gains, but subsequently lost her political autonomy, an issue that remains contentious today.
The West may have changed the makeup and revised their positions, but the bottom line did not change much.
In the 1970’s, Britain looked the other way and continued to supply weapons to Amin’s army inspite of the reports of gross human rights abuse, abuses that are similar to what Uganda is witnessing today. Amin’s regime was a welcome change from Dr. Milton Obote who was becoming less interesting for Britain’s purposes at the time.
Later, the same country provided help to the struggle that toppled Amin when the tide changed.
If Bobi Wine had asked for arms to militarily challenge Mr. Museveni, perhaps development partners would have responded differently. Fortunately, very few Ugandans are interested in this course of action. Many are rather willing to persevere five more years under state inspired insecurity, than pick up arms and continue the culture of shedding blood.
Bad governance and the stunted development in Africa are directly tied to the West, especially the former colonial masters and their policies towards Africa. These countries don’t hold Africa and its rulers to the same standards they do in their own countries. If they did, none of them would want to be on the same page with a regime such as Mr. Museveni’s.
Authoritarian, corrupt and undemocratic regimes are not a threat to Western interests. On the contrary these regimes provide efficient environments for continued deals, exploitation and preservation of Western historical interests.
If President Museveni with his oppressive and corrupt regime did not serve well the interests of the West, he would never have stood a chance of ruling Uganda for now almost four decades. This also explains why he has, and rightly so, often ridiculed and criticized the West yet continued to get military support.
An increasing number of Africans, and Ugandans in this case are waking up to understand that every individual has a role in the liberation of the their continent. A liberation from oppressive dictatorial regimes, and from local and international groups – groups whose selfish interests enable these regimes to hold on power. The Museveni regime is at its worst stage, and there is not much that can be done to redeem its credibility.
The good news is that Ugandans are not alone in this fight. There are independent organizations, investigative journalists, individuals, scholars, artists on the African continent, in the West and the world over, who are probing and demanding that European partners stop the hypocrisy.
THIS IS WHAT CHANGE-SEEKING UGANDANS CAN DO:
- Exploit all legal avenues of expressing dissatisfaction. The current petition by Bobi Wine in the courts of law is a good thing regardless of the outcomes
- Expose local and international accomplices to the human rights abuses in Uganda. The West and other donors who support the repressive regime should be called out
- Staging peaceful and non violent protests such as boycotting products from companies belonging to the Uganda ruling class apologists.
- Be louder on available media and lead online campaigns that will make the government listen. Ugandans should be relentless in advocating and demanding for what they know is right and fair.
- Ugandans in the diaspora should use all means available to bring the Ugandan case to the international arena. The effort should be to make any organization or country ashamed of continued collaboration with a regime that violates human rights
- Reach out and collaborate with pro democracy advocates with bigger audiences such as Vanguard Africa, influencers such as Wode Maya, Adeola Fayehun among others, to magnify the call and need for better.
- Most importantly, continue to document and share human rights abuses and corruption within the government, information that will embarrass foreign collaborators.
Europeans will not, out of their goodness and value for human rights, help Ugandans, or hold President Museveni accountable. It is only consistent pressure, from citizens, allies on the continent and international sympathizers that will push donors and partners to rethink their positions. A government isolated from its citizens, and foreign partners can not last long.
* “Pipo” is a Ugandan text-speak abbreviation for “people”.