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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: Root Causes Of Violence In Uganda And The Great Lakes Region

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: Root Causes Of Violence In Uganda And The Great Lakes Region

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

“Wealth is deceitful. Greedy people are proud and they are never satisfied. That is why they conquer nation after nation for themselves. The conquered people will taunt their conquerors and show their scorn for them.

They will say, ‘You take what isn’t yours, but you are doomed! How long will you go on getting rich by forcing your debtors to pay up? But before you know it, you that have conquered others will be in debt. Enemies will come and make you tremble.

They will plunder you! You have plundered the people of many nations, but now those who have survived will plunder you because of the murders you have committed and because of your violence against the people of the world and its cities……You have made your family rich by what you took by violence, and have tried to make you’re your own home safe from harm and danger.

But your schemes have brought shame on your family; by destroying many nations, you have only brought ruin on yourself. Even the stones of the walls cry out against you, and the rafters echo the cry.  You are doomed.

You founded a city on crime and built it up by murder. The nations you conquered wore themselves out in useless labour, and all they have built goes up in flames…. ”(From the Bible Book of Habakkuk, 2:5-13).

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Man, Homo sapiens, is by nature a violent animal, and perhaps the most violent of all animals on Earth. Although the Buffalo is said to be the most violent animal on Earth, human species has over the centuries shown that there is no animal as violent as it is. Many species of animals and plants have become extinct because of the violence of the human species on them.

It is the insatiable nature of the human species that explains the extermination of so many species of plants and animals from the face of the earth and even the oceans and the seas. Ma has wanted more and more space and resources to himself at the expense of other species.

We can use first World War and Second World War to see clearly to what extent violent man can go to terminate the lives of human and other beings and even destroy whole ecosystems in pursuit of power, resources, glory and domination over other human beings.

Currently we are witnessing the violence of President Vladimir Putin of Russia over Ukraine, which has resulted in hundreds of human deaths, millions of Ukrainians, destruction of so much infrastructure and many farms, and derailing of futures of so many people and Ukraine as well.

It seems Putin wants Ukraine, a former part of the defunct Soviet Union, to be an integral part of Russia, after which he may attack other former Soviet entities and expand Russian imperials.

This article seeks to explore the root causes of sociopolitical violence in Uganda and the Great Lakes Region. It excludes domestic and urban violence although such violence is mainly fueled by social,  political and economic factors.

There cannot be one cause but a multiplicity of causes of sociopolitical violence. The causes are not mutually exclusive and are, therefore, interconnected. Between 1957 and now there has been a lot of sociopolitical violence related to leadership and governance in Uganda in particular and  the Great Lakes region in general.

Most of the violence has been in form of armed conflict, but some has been in form of mental torture, land grabbing, denials of all types, stealing of mineral wealth of others, exclusion from education, health, food sufficiency, clash of civilizations, greed, selfishness, and exclusion from opportunities such as employment, participation in governance and leadership by a few self-interested individuals.

The denials, exclusions, stealing and grabbing of resources of others, including land, are not decreasing but including with the passage of time. All these are manifesting as segregation and discrimination.

The following factors, however, have been the joint cause of sociopolitical violence in Uganda and the Great Lakes region: colonialism, imperialism, ethnicity, refugees, ethnocentrism, greed, selfishness, militarism, poverty, religion and the craze by some to conquer, dominate and exploit others, including converting them into state or ethnic slaves, internally and externally.

By the time the colonialists and religious arrived in the area now called Uganda, there were traditional nation states, which sometimes conflicted with each other, but most times interacted amicably, trading and assisting each other in times of adversity such as war, armed conflicts drought and hunger.

The traditional nation states were Acholi, Ankole, Buganda, Bugisu, Bukedi, Bunyoro, Busoga, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Moyo, Sebei, Teso, Toro and West Nile.

For example, when there was trouble between the ruler at Nnenda Hill, Busambira, Kigulu, Busoga and others who wanted to overthrow him, he would ask the Kabaka of Buganda for military help. Likewise, if the Kabaka of Buganda was in conflict with the ruler of Bunyoro-Kitara, he would ask the rulers in Busoga to give him military help.

But at other times a Kabaka of Buganda would attack Busoga and annihilate everything. For a long time the story of Kabaka Mawanda was told from generation to generation. When he invaded Busoga, he killed everything and carried off many women to his nation.

In fact, the Basoga remember two ruthless local imperialisms -that of Buganda and Bunyoro Kitara, which exploited Busoga and carried away minerals and ivory. There are some clans in Busoga, for example, that trace their origins in Bunyoro – Ngobi Clan and Igaga Clan – and regard themselves as royal clans of Busoga.

Sociopolitical violence between the nation states tended to be localized conflict rather than widespread armed conflict.  However, with the advent of British colonialism and imperialism, such sociopolitical violence in what the British colonialists called Uganda Protectorate was a result of the decision to create a new country or state – an artificial one – out of the many nations states they found.

Most of the violence occurred in the nation-state of Buganda. The violence that occurred can be characterized as religiopolitical because both religion and politics were involved, intertwined and at the centre of it. Egocentricism and clash of civilizations – that of Buganda and that of the colonialists – fueled the conflicts. However, a thriving slave economy of the time generated socio-political violence of a different type.

Later, violence was generated, extended and spread most vividly when the emerging British colonial state emphasized conquest, occupation, domination and establishment of  an imperial, economic, political and religious sphere of influence to include the ancient kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara -the most militaristic and most sovereign nation state at the time.

I am saying this because Buganda, which was the most advanced administratively had chosen to collaborate with the colonialists to expand and entrench modern British colonial and imperial interests. Thus the colonial impostors used Buganda as an ethnic nation state collaborator in the conquest, subduing and occupation of the sovereign nation-state of Bunyoro.

The Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, Kyebambe Kabalega, although finally crushed showed that sovereignty cannot be negotiated with impostors, but must be defended by iron and blood. For him it was a heroic struggle to protect Bunyoro land, in a way that the current Omukama has not been able to protect Bunyoro land from refugees and oil thieves (or destructive economic development).

Historical accounts say the colonialists uprooted him from his throne, made him become an internal refugee in the nation state of Lango, together with the discredited Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda. These were exiled to Seychelles island in the Indian Ocean, where they died. Once the colonialist uprooted Kabalega, the road to the North of the emerging state was wide open.

When Bunyoro fell to the superior military power of the colonialists, Buganda’s King and chiefs were rewarded with land in some counties of Bunyoro for being good collaborators in crashing Bunyoro resistance to colonialism and imperialism.

A number of counties of Bunyoro were bequeathed to Buganda by the colonial invaders. However, the most mentioned are Buyaga and Bugangaizi. In a way the colonialists grabbed Bunyoro land to subdue resistant Bunyoro and used the land as a favour to Buganda for its committed collaboration.

Bunyoro resented the colonialists so much that they decided to fight to the last man. A lot of blood flowed. Some of the resentment was extended towards the collaborating sister nation-state of Buganda that was gifted with Bunyoro land.

The grabbed land and its gifting to Buganda was later to be a major cause of the sociopolitical violence of the 1960s. I will not describe the nature, volume and influence of that violence on the future political discourse of the post-colonial state of Uganda, apart from saying that the shift of blame for what happened was shifted to Apollo Milton Obote who inherited the reigns of power from the British Governor General.

It was he who constitutionally implemented a referendum that returned the so-called Lost Counties of Bunyoro to it. Instead of directing the anger to the colonialists who created the land crisis, Buganda directed it to Obote and the hatred for Obote has persisted to this day particularly because the sociopolitical violence that ensured, and which had its roots in colonialism and Buganda’s quest to preserve its nationhood and sovereignty – rather belatedly cost the lives of many Baganda, but most importantly the life of the first post-colonial President of Uganda and Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa.

Few know or remember that the sociopolitical violence was a colonial creation, not Obote’s creation. Most likely if Buganda had not collaborated with the colonialists and imperialists, Buganda’s and Uganda’s history would have been different.

I should mention that the forces composed by Captain Lugard and used to create Uganda militarily were mainly composed of Nubians from Southern Sudan -sometimes called the Anyanya.

The Nubians were also used to bring Busoga and other nation states that came to constitute the British Colonial State of Uganda Protectorate as part of the global British Empire. In Busoga and the rest of Eastern part of the expanding Protectorate, the colonialists used a fierce mercenary from Koki -a separated Kingdom that was given to Buganda – called Semei Kakungulu.

It cause without saying that since Uganda was created militarily, not by negotiation and consensus, it would only be maintained and sustained militarily. To-date, Uganda is characterized by conquests, occupation and domination by people from elsewhere and can only be maintained and sustained militarily, excluding negotiation and consensus.

The conquered, occupied and dominated are the traditional, indigenous nation-states that the British colonialists found and weaved together militarily to form the artificial state of Uganda.

Therefore, colonialism and imperialism were and are internally violent. Indeed, although it is said that Britain gave Uganda independence on 9 October 1962 without bloodshed, a lot of blood flowed before this date and has continued to flow because of sociopolitical violence.

Resistance to British violence, conquest, occupation, control and rule was crashed militarily using guns, the same way violence was reigned on wildlife during the 70 years the colonialists loomed wide in what they called Uganda and their own. Violence continues to be reigned on the indigenes by people from elsewhere who feel, think, believe and are convinced they belong more to Uganda than those they rule.

So, militarily generated, maintained and sustained violence did not go away after independence of Uganda on October 9th 1962.  One school of thought argues that two factors, exogenous to Uganda, played a big role in generating violence in Uganda: Belgian colonial rule in Rwanda and Burundi; and the Tutsi-Hutu enmity and hatred especially in Rwanda.  However, these factors are often ignored when apportioning blame for the continuing violence in the country.

Instead, all blame is heaped on Idi Amin and Apollo Milton Obote.  Yet, these were victims of not only those two factors but also of the big presence of Nubians in Uganda. Obote and Idi Amin were tempted to make the grave mistake of recruiting Tutsis and Hutus in the country’s security and civil service institutions.

A back migration of Tutsis to Kigezi area ensured a big presence of Tutsis in Western Uganda, mainly in Kigezi. These were ultimately legitimized, constitutionalized   and legalized in the Uganda Constitution 1995 as one of the 56 indigenous groups of Uganda.

The action is inherently violent and disadvantageous upon the true indigenous and natural owners of Uganda – the 15 traditional nation-states mentioned above, which were woven together by the British colonialists to create the artificial state of Uganda.

There is a lot of latent resentment towards the Rwandese who were unfairly legitimized constitutionalized and legalized as an indigenous group of Uganda. There is widespread belief these are deceptively Ugandans who now access every opportunity at the expense of the indigenous peoples

How are the Belgian colonialists related to violence in Uganda? Let me try to explain.

When the Belgian colonialists arrived in Rwanda and Burundi, which together they called Rwanda-Urundi – in the late 19th Century, following the Berlin Conference 0f 1985 that distributed Africa among the big European powers, they found Hutu, Tutsi and Twa occupying the country. Of these, the Twa were the indigenous ones.

The Hutu had arrived in the country from Chad much earlier than the Tutsis, who came from Ethiopia. The Tutsi first settled in Bunyoro, where the local Banyoro called them Bahuma, because when they sang, they hummed like bees.

Then they moved further don into Ankole, where they assumed the name Hima (or Bahima), ultimately emerging in Rwanda and Burundi as Tutsis. Even in Burundi the Tutsi found Hutus and Twa.

By the time the Belgians arrived in Rwanda-Urundi following the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 that partitioned Africa and shared it among the then European powers.  The Tutsis had established a Kingdom in Rwanda the same way the Hima had established a Kingdom in Ankole (the Obugabe).

The Tutsis had actually arrived in Rwanda-Urundi in the 15th Century. They almost immediately became very harsh towards the numerically dominant Hutus whom they regarded as their slaves, the same way the Hima regarded the numerically dominant Bairu people (meaning slaves).

Therefore,  the Tutsi had imposed themselves on the Hutu as a royal class the same way the Hima imposed themselves as a royal class in Ankole, Uganda. Their royalty was inherently violent.  So was their ethnic group.

One thing is true. Despite having made themselves a royal class, the Tutsi were tied more to grass and cow  than to the land. However, because their cows needed the grass over large expanses of land, they grabbed the land from the Hutus who lived by tilling it for subsistence.

With their colonial and imperial mentality, the Tutsi converted themselves into dominants over the Hutu Bantu ethnicity. They were not bothered so much about the Twa because these were forest people and lived deep in the forests where they foraged on 85 different species of plants like the Gorillas, baboons and monkeys with which they shared the forest ecosystem.

So, the colonialists found it easy and necessary to establish segregation, on the basis of ethnicity, between the three groups they found in the country. This way they  created rigid lines of division between the three groups.

They promoted the Tutsi as superior and the others as inferior to them. Real Belgian colonial rule in Rwanda-Urundi started in 1925. The colonialists decided to use Tutsis as administrators and chiefs in their new colonial state of Rwanda-Urundi, the same way the British used Baganda as chiefs and administrators in Uganda.

The state was basically a Tutsi state, and it was repressive and exploitative of the Hutus. Repression meant violence against the Hutus. In, a way the Tutsis shared power with the colonialists, not with the Bantu Hutus. These became state slaves, or else slaves of the Tutsis.

Therefore, the Belgian colonialists lay the foundation for ethnic violence in Rwanda-Urundi. Hutu resentment for Tutsi monarchy and the repressive Tutsi state mushroomed over the decades, resulting in what was variously called the Rwanda Revolution, the Hutu Revolution, the Social Revolution or the Wind of Destruction.

This was a violent revolution, which unfolded in 1957 and 1961, led by Gregory Kayibanda, who became the first President of Rwanda in 1960.  When the Belgian colonialists left in 1960, they left behind two countries – Rwanda and Burundi.

But before they did, perhaps, disturbed by the fact that they had made the mistake of supporting the rise of Tutsi violence against Hutus, they backed the Hutu to overthrow the repressive monarchical Tutsi State.

That was the beginning of the flow of numerous Tutsi refugees into Uganda. Some came with herds of cattle; some were put in refugee camps by the new government of Uganda led by Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote. Most important, much violence in Uganda was Tutsi-oriented and continues to be so, unfortunately.

Those with herds of cattle scattered themselves in various parts of Uganda, especially Ankole, Buganda and Busoga. They were masters in violence. Those in the refugee camps and scattered on the Uganda landscape with cattle had well-developed militaristic instincts, just like buffaloes, which in the wild are considered the wildest of all big game.

In fact, between 1962 and today numerous armed conflicts in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of Congo), which have claimed millions of lives, have had Tutsis at the centre of them. It goes without saying that the Tutsi are naturally advanced in the art and science of violence, exacerbated by the Belgian colonialists.

One school of thought believes that many high-level people killed in Uganda during the reigns of Obote I (1962-1971) and Idi Amin (1971-1979) were an offshoot of the violent Tutsi, either within the State security agencies or in the rebel group called Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) led by the current President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, who many times during his long reign in Uganda told the citizens that he is the master of violence.

It should, however, be noted that the President of Uganda’s origin was not Rwanda but Mulenge in present-day DRC -an area in which Rwandese Tutsi refugees called Banyamulenge live and have been responsible for most of the violence in the Eastern part of DRC.

It has transpired that although the FRONASA, predominantly a Tutsi military outfit, was supposedly formed to remove Idi Amin from Power, its primary aim, one school of thought argues, was to capture the instruments of power in Kampala, capture the state, conquer Uganda, occupy it and use its resources to facilitate the Tutsi to take power in Kigali, Rwanda.

According to the school, “FRONASA strategically left the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), formed together with Obote’s Kikosi Maalum, in 1979, just before the overthrow of Idi Amin. Before FRONASA left UNLA en masse, its leader was a member of the UNLA Military Commission as Vice Chairman, with Paulo Muwanga as Chairman and Maruru, Oyite Ojok and Tito Okello as members.

When the Military Commission decreed that General and Presidential elections be held in December 1980, the FRONASA leader, who had been made leader of a make-shift political Party, Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), declared that if elections were rigged, he would go to the bush.

Indeed, when Uganda Peoples Congress was declared winner of the elections, meaning its leader became President of Uganda for a second time, in February 1981, Yoweri Museveni walked off with his more than 4000 FRONASA combatants, formed Uganda Patriotic Army and started a bloody resistance against the Obote regime.

Although he himself was rejected in Ankole where people were sensitive to presence of refugees and knew Yoweri Museveni was one of the refugees, he used rigging elections as the reason for him to go to the bushes of Luwero.

It seems Obote underrated the resolve of Yoweri Museveni and his combatants. However, the resistance, which took five years, claimed many high ranking UNLA soldiers including Oyite Ojok, and according to Dr. Kizza Besigye, some 500,000 extra lives in the Luwero Triangle.

The resistance was commanded in Luwero by Yoweri Museveni as leader of a military outfit formed between his Uganda Patriotic Army (UPA) and former Uganda President, Yusuf Lule’s Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF), and called National Resistance Army (NRA). This was logically mostly FRONASA in terms of leadership, rank and file and operations.

Ultimately, when NRA overthrew the military Junta of Tito Okello, which had itself overthrown the regime of Apollo Milton Obote, NRA and its political arm, National Resistance Movement (NRM), strategized to rule Uganda indefinitely till to-date.

Under the auspices of NRA some FRONASA elements organized themselves as Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA)and started a violent crusade to overthrow the Kigali regime of Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu. Their violent onslaught was first launched in 1992 but failed. Another onslaught was launched from within NRA in 1994.

It claimed the life of the original leader, Fred Rwigyema, previously a Minister of State for Defense in Uganda and other former FRONASA elements, who had emerged as NRA.  Before RPA launched its rebel activities in Rwanda, as NRA it waged a lot of atrocities in Teso and Acholi.

Some 100 or so Iteso were burned in a train wagon by two Tutsi elements – Wasswa and Bunyenyezi – who did not survive the war against the Kigali regime. The figure those killed in Acholi has been put at 400,000 but both NRA and Lords Resistance Army (LRA) are blamed for the deaths.

According to an article by Bridget Johnson (2021) titled “Why is there conflict between Hutus and Tutsis?” published on www.thoughtco.com in 1972 Tutsi’s slaughtered 120,000 Hutus in Burundi. Between 1962 and 1994, there were numerous clashes between Tutsis and Hutus, according to Bridget Johnson.

And in 1994, 800000 people died at the hands of Juvenal Habyarimana militias. Most of these were Tutsis but also moderate Hutus died in what is called the Rwandese genocide. These were ethnic clashes.

Towards the end od the 1990, the Tutsi dominated armies of Uganda and Rwanda clashed in Zaire (now DRC) in Kisangani one and Kisangani 2 over Congolese gold and diamonds, but besides that reportedly over 6 million civilians have been killed in that country since both Rwanda and Uganda armies entered that country.

The justification has been that those armies are there to flush rebels out. However, during the presence of RPA and UPDF presence in DRC the diamond sales from Rwanda and Gold sales have shot up. And people are continuing to die.

The DRC government of Tshisekedi has maintained that RPA and UPDF are assisting the Banyamulenge Rwandese Refugees, who have slaughtered numerous Congolese in what they have called a struggle for their rights.

There is a claim that they want either to excise the mineral-rich Eastern DRC from the sovereign state of DRC or to integrate them in the DRC. For this numerous Congolese have died and continue to die, and thousands of Congolese refugees, many Hutu refugees in DRC, have sought refuge in Uganda.

It is likely that Tutsis will continue to be at the centre of violence in Uganda, Rwanda and Great Lakes region. They have power, money and resources. Their plan to dominate others is long-term. Both Uganda and Rwanda have recruited an excess number of Tutsis in their armies disproportionate with their population size.

They have also formed many Interahamwe-like militias. The military philosophy guiding their militarism is “If you want piece prepare for war and if you want war prepare for peace”. This drives the current militarization in Rwanda and Uganda.

All indications are that violence will continue to proliferate not only in the two countries but also in the Great Lakes region. It will be exacerbated by the increasing tendency to segregate and discriminate between people, and to exclude the majority from resources and opportunities.

One school of thought believes rising resentment will harden attitudes towards the rulers and fear will disappear and be replaced by courage and brevity to resist the rulers. All peoples will claim equity, justice and fairness. When this happens, hotspots of chaos will proliferate in Uganda and Rwanda , and the Great Lakes Region.

One issue, which is generating so much resentment in Uganda and in Rwanda today is land. In Uganda there is an outcry in the 15 nation states over land grabbing. One school of thought holds that land grabbing is the foundation of a new colonialism and imperialism by people who trace their origins in Rwanda or Mulenge in DRC; or those who have blood relations with them and are connected to power.

The school reasons that with their power and wealth they have compelled the now excessively impoverished people in the 15 nation-states to sell their land to them. Corruption is serving as a lubricant of the new colonialism and imperialism.

Or else they have invited foreigners from countries such as Tanzania, South Africa, India and China to come and get free land, ostensibly to establish industries. But there is no free land in Uganda. All land belongs to the people of Uganda.

The deliberate grabbing of land, displacement and forced internal migration of people from their land to become internal refugees is prone with so much violence well in the future. Just like the Hutu rose against the repressive Tutsi state in Rwanda, those robbed of land, displaced and enslaved will one day rise and say “enough is enough”.

This is just a prophesy but not a divine one. Political sanity may reign to prevent future sociopolitical violence in Uganda and the Great Lakes Region. If not then the philosophy will be manifested in reality to the full, if not in our lifetime, in future.

For God and My Country

The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are solely for and belong to the author/writer. They don’t reflect, portray or represent those of Accord Communications Limited. If you have a story in your community, an opinion article, let’s publish it. Send us an email via ultimatenews19@gmail.com or WhatsApp +254797048150

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