By Professor: Oweyegha-Afunaduula
When I came back to Uganda in 1990, after years of absence, and attracted by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s “This is not just a change of guards, but a fundamental change”; a statement he made during his swearing in as President in 1986, I was convinced the days of State of Murder and Horror would never come back.
I was lucky to get a lecturing job at Makerere University where I found some good brains that I could interact and work with to develop public intellectual discourse on Uganda’s unfortunate sociopolitical experiences.
Yes, jointly we were able to sustain a dynamic and influential debating culture in the country. There is nothing we did not do to ensure that we debated to avoid the mistakes of the past that enabled a state murder fear and horror to manifest in Uganda.
While I was away in Kenya and, before that, Tanzania, I heard many stories of horror in Uganda. I had heard that killing people in order to cause fear in others had become an integral aspect of governance of the country, and that to some in power, it was as normal as eating ugali.
So when attracted by President Museveni’s “Not just a mere change of guard but a fundamental change”, I decided to deploy considerable amount of my intellectual time and energy articulating and clarifying the difficult issues and questions in post-war governance and proposing some theories and solutions, just as other intellectual were doing.
Unfortunately, as we debated, horror stories, which had been emanating from the Luwero part of Buganda, continued to move like a snake to Teso, Acholi and Lango. I heard of burning of people in a train wagon; and people being buried alive in Atiak and other places in Northern Uganda.
There were two combatants there: the NRM/A and Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). So it was easy for them to accuse and blame each other of murder and terror, and of burying people alive, cutting people’s lips off people’s mouths, and the like. But as always winners of wars construct the narrative s of the war.
These acts in war were akin to what happened in Luwero: trenches being dug, victims of NRM/A being lined in the trenches, soil being filled back up to neck level and then axes used to hack heads off the victims during the NRM/A bush war.
More horror was generated when skulls of the victims of war were used in the 1996 elections, not only to ignite fear in the minds of Ugandans, but also to relay the message that if they did not vote NRM and President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, those skills would accumulate more and come back as a nightmare.
Despite what was happening, we continued to to do our civic duty: to engage in civic intellectual debate and impart as much civility in a basically militarily ruled country with the rulers deceptively clothed in civilian attire.
The regime was helped by its own effective propaganda machine. Unfortunately with time, the regime managed to kill debates – in public, in schools, and in the Universities. It seems what was desired was a closed country, with people silent, docile, and fearful enough to let the regime do what ever it wanted to do without much interference.
It left Parliament as the only place where debate would take place, whereas it knew its manipulations would only allow members of the party in power to express themselves as far as it allowed them. Even the quality of debate was undermined by lowering the quality of potential debaters, when the regime decreed that even Senior Six and their equivalents could be voted into Parliament.
Since the President had overwhelming influence on the NRM members, he had, and stll has, the power over their thinking processes and what they must perceive as wrong or right in governance terms. This is how policies and laws emanating from Cabinet and Parliament, and also some judicial processes, have a lot of presidential influence.
I have given this background to show the difficult journey we have travelled since 1986, and also to serve as a preamble to my thesis: “Building Power of Horror in Uganda”.
By constitutional design, and by our too much faith in the person of Tibuhaburwa Museveni of being the only person who can govern Uganda and take us away from the horrors of the past by the barrel of the gun.
We have also just been able to build Presidentialism whereby the President can do anything by anyway he wants, often deceptively, free of Ugandans, while casting himself as a democrat who is committed to the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. However, by our own stance, we have been participating in building the State of Horror in Uganda in debilitating silence.
I have recently written two articles to show exactly what is happening in the process of Building the State of Horror in Uganda. One was “Uganda from State to Deep State”. The other was “The Disappearance of Police in Uganda Police: the Dangers”. One of these has gone viral and the other one may still go viral.
My independent and critical thinking in these two articles is that by consciously allowing the military to penetrate and consummate the Uganda Police, thereby turning it into an arm of the army, and also reorienting the national budget to finance a small group of people, often related, with the capacity to declare war, wage it and stop it, Ugandans are firmly under a state of total control of our actions and movements, as demonstrated by the two years of closure of the country by President Tibuhaburwa Museveni because of Covid 19.
There is no other country on Earth that suffered such closure. During the closure, the instruments of coercion had unlimited freedom to reign havoc. Many people were killed and maimed and many lost livelihoods.
If Juvenal Habyarimana managed, for the love of power, to create a state of fear and murder and to prepare Rwanda for genocide by creating numerous killer militia groups called Interahamwe, we have many of such groups in Uganda too. However, it is the coalescing of the military and police that clearly demonstrates that Uganda is already being prepared for a great genocide.
If there was concealment of genocide in Luwero, there is already silent genocide, and those suffering this are the settled peoples of Uganda who have been plunged into untold poverty and health security. Poverty is killing them. Health insecurity is killing them. Also fear is killing them. This is indeed silent genocide by other means.
Clearly a State of Horror has engulfed Uganda. So has a State of Fear and State of Uncertainty.
Whatever others may say, and it is their right to choose to say what they want within the limits of the law, because we do not think and see the same way, there has never been so much horror, fear and uncertainty in Uganda as over the last 35 years of Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s Presidency.
We can also say the same of docility and silence. All these vices cut across all social strata and are detectable in the Executive, the Legislature the Judiciary, the communities and all Institutions. The reason for sowing these vices could be the militarized dictum that “If you want peace prepare for war and if you want war prepare for peace”.
But you don’t need war to prepare for peace. Just build a just society, free of injustice, repression, suppression, oppression, undemocratic practices and that values all humanity without discriminations.
Right now this is not the case. All money, resources and opportunities have been consciously designed to flow one way to the same group of people. It is a wastage of time energy and money hoping for peace under these conditions of domination, not leadership.
For God and My Country
The Writer is a Uganda Scientist and Environmentalist
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