Abuse Of State Power In Northern Uganda
A position paper by Peter Otai
Peter Otai is Former Ambassador, Member of Parliament & Minister of State for Defence 1980-1985
Delivered at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
Tuesday January 28, 2003
The distinguished Hon. Norbert Mao MP from Uganda,
The Rt. Rev. Retired Bishop Baker MacLeod Ochola
Professors and Lecturers of this August Institution
Ladies and Gentlemen
- I would like to thank Dr. Ben Knighton and his staff for according me the privilege and honour to participate in this very important meeting, at a time when our beloved country is crying out aloud for peace, equitable socio -economic empowerment, constitutionalism and the re-assertion of the basic and fundamental God given human rights without let or hindrance.
- "The Abuse of Power in Northern Uganda" enables us to examine the nature, character of government and the leadership that perpetuates such phenomena. Although the abuse of power in the north is much more pronounced, the NRM regime has perpetuated the abuse all over Uganda. Abuse of power is not unique to Uganda because old democratic states as well as nascent countries emerging from colonialism, have had to grapple with the problem of establishing a polity, which is characterised by the existence of a constitution, known conventions, transparent processes, rules, roles and procedures, that can guarantee freedoms and liberty of the people under their sovereignty, in order to avoid the abuse of power in any shape or form.
- The abuse of State Power does not only occur in Northern Uganda but has been practiced in every part of the country. The regime in power, despite holding onto power for the last 17 years, has not been able to bring peace to the country, not even through its avowed policy of revolutionary violence.
- The National Resistance Movement headed by President Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to power by violence and has retained power through the abuse of it. I venture to suggest that the abuse of State Power in northern Uganda is intertwined with Museveni's insecurity of tenure and his lack of trust for democracy as a means of governance.
The Nature and character of Lt. Gen. Museveni and the NRM/A.
- The NRM/A under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Museveni has been in power for the last 17 years. In all that time the NRM/A regime has faced unprecedented resistance, in most parts of the country, unmatched by any past experience.
- When the National Resistance Movement and Army (NRM/A) led by Mr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni reneged on an accord signed between them and General Tito Okello's Military Council government, an agreement which stipulated power sharing with Museveni as Deputy to Tito Okello, among other things, most Ugandans who knew the type of person Museveni was knew that Museveni was going to implement a policy of protracted warfare as a means of deliberate use of violence to, allegedly, liberate the people. This is a policy espoused by Museveni as enunciated in his essay 'Fanon's Theory on violence: Its Verification in Liberated Mozambique' published in 1969.
Museveni's authoritarianism underpinned by a propensity for violence
- Analysts of Uganda's politics during the tenure of Museveni have never got to grips with the motive forces propelling Museveni. Museveni's formative years coincided with the period of the independence struggle. Although Uganda achieved her independence peacefully, Museveni, whilst studying in Dar-es-Salaam University in Tanzania lived with exiles from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. All these exiles believed in an armed struggle. Whilst working as an Intelligence Officer in the General Service Unit in the Office of Dr. A.M. Obote in 1970/71 he once again fled back to Dar-es-Salaam when Idi Amin overthrew Dr. Obote's government. Museveni had a chance to interact with the radical lecturers in Dar-es-Salaam and visited Mozambique in the company of FRELIMO fighters.
- When discussing Frantz Fanon's theory of Violence as presented in Fanon's 'The Wretched of the Earth' in Tanzania, Museveni quotes and lauds and recommends the use of violence by citing what Fanon says: "Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organised and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them."
- Indeed, when interviewed by the magazine 'New African' of September 1980, Yoweri Museveni expresses the wish for the war against Amin to have lasted longer when he says, "Frankly, I would have preferred a much more protracted struggle. That would have given us time to sort out most of the problems we have now. As it was, the struggle was short and there were other people involved in it. It was a mixture of guerrilla warfare and conventional war by the Tanzanian army. So in my view, the process of deliberate use of violence to liberate the people was really not consummated. It was pre-empted by a quick victory and that is why we still have quite a number of problems. A more protracted struggle would have been the best".
- From the above utterances Museveni shows to what degree of importance he attaches the resolution of issues and the achievement of a successful system of governance through violence.
- The most startling and mind boggling revelation Museveni bequeaths to us in his analysis of Fanon's theory is when he makes a summation of a position through a warped understanding on how to make the enemy realise that he is not invincible. He states: "In a colonial situation, where the master has created the illusion of invincibility by habitually using intimidator colonial violence on the people, it is necessary to demonstrate to the masses that the enemy can be destroyed by revolutionary violence. It must be seen that the 'invincibility' of the enemy is just fraudulent; he is invincible because a revolutionary force using the correct methods of revolutionary violence has never challenged him. Hence in Mozambique it has been found necessary to show peasants fragments of a Portuguese soldier blown up by a mine or, better still, his head. Once the peasant sees guerrillas holding the head of the former master, the white man's head cold in death, the white skin, flowing hair, pointed nose and blue eyes notwithstanding, he will know, or at least begin to suspect, that the picture traditionally presented to him of the white man's invincibility is nothing but a scarecrow. Once the 'native' peasant in Mozambique and, I am sure, elsewhere has discovered that the oppressor can be destroyed, he moves with great speed engineered by the hatred for the enemy long in him."
- Museveni thus believed in violence as a means "to liberate the people" so much so that when he failed to acquire power through elective process in the 1980 elections, he opted to go to the bush in order to continue with the protracted war from where the war against Idi Amin had stopped. Museveni, instead of challenging the 1980 election results through the courts of law, still preferred to go to war, not against a colonial people, whom Fanon had in mind, but against his own people. This was despite the fact that the Commonwealth Observer team during the elections had this to say in the Interim and Final Report respectively: "Despite the imperfections and deficiencies to which we have drawn attention. We believe this has been a valid electoral exercise which should broadly reflect the freely expressed choice of the people of Uganda." (Paragraph 20 page 4 of Interim Report: Uganda Elections Dec. 1980 the Report of the commonwealth Observer group). "Despite all deficiencies the electoral process cohered and held together even if come of its individual strands was frayed. Surmounting all obstacles, the people of Uganda like some great tidal wave, carried the electoral process to a worthy and valid conclusion." (See Para. 147 page 32 Final Report.)
- When Museveni drove Tito Okello's government out of Kampala and established a government, he engineered a protracted war under the pretext of pursuing rebels when in reality he was trying to complete a process he regretted had not been consummated during the liberation war against Idi Amin because, as he claimed, a quick war against Amin prevented the use of violence as a process to liberate people (see New African Sept. 1980).
- When the NRA swept through Kampala perpetuating an orgy of neck lacing anyone deemed to be a northerner or Anyanya who were alleged to be supporters of Dr. A.M. Obote II or Lt. Gen. Tito Okello's government, many people who had been willing to give Museveni a chance decided to resist his regime.
- The 'Opposition' movements to the NRM/A have been reacting to violence unleashed by the NRM/A upon the people despite the NRM/A's successful ouster of the Gen. Tito Okello's Military council government.
- The continued use of violence as a means of, allegedly, liberating people is deeply embedded in the political thinking of Lt. Gen. Museveni as a person and the NRM/A as a movement. Suffice it for us to cite examples to illustrate the point.
- When appearing before a Human Rights Commission the Director of Uganda's National Resistance Army (NRA) School at Entebbe, Commander Kajabago Karushoke, said that, "Uganda could be categorised into two: People and what he called 'biological substances'. Explaining the categorisation he said, people comprised peasants, farmers, workers, and a small fraction of intellectuals'. "All others are biological substances who should be eliminated". He went on to add that the NRA aims to eliminate all those who stand in the way of the revolution. The NRA did not consider those opposed to it as human beings ... As far as the NRM was concerned ballot boxes were the guns and ballot papers the bullets... Elections were useless and unnecessary because the NRM knows what is good for the people" (see Standard No.22776 Nairobi Saturday 15 August 987).
- Museveni's political and philosophical concept, besides being gleaned from the utterances of his surrogates like Karushoke quoted above, is encapsulated in some of his utterances and writings.
- Lt. Gen. Museveni and the leading ideologues of the NRM/A philosophy have never hidden their distaste for democracy and respect for human rights: soon after Museveni captured power, BBC Panorama programme rushed to interview Museveni at the Nile Mansion Hotel, Kampala. During the interview Museveni startlingly revealed that he was unaware of the Geneva Conventions on war and the provisions, which relate to whether or not children under 16 can bear arms! His reaction was, "What are the Geneva Conventions on war? I have never read them." (Broadcast in March 1986) When President Lt.Gen. Museveni, Commander-in-Chief of NRA, and Minister of Defence and Chairman of Internal and External Security Committees professes ignorance of Geneva Conventions, it is no wonder that one of his surrogates, the Minister of State for Defence, Maj. Gen. Tinyefunza, talked openly of" taking few Captives" in war and impudently told the journalists that, "I would not mind killing 700 or 7000 if they behave in such a manner as to become military targets." (The Citizen, Vol7 No.45 week ending 22 May 1991) Or when yet another surrogate the 310 Brigade Administrative Officer, Lt. Kanyarutokye, disclosed how civilians in operations against UPA in Teso would be used as a human shield: "The people, the local Defence Forces (LDFs) will lead the operation while the NRA will follow from behind.. The ordinary people will be armed with pangas, spears and clubs while the NRA will be armed with guns." (Vol.6 No.114 Wednesday 15 May 1991 - New Vision) A government, which uses civilians, as a human shield for its army in operations does not deserve world support! Governments and human rights organizations, which have given praise to the NRM/A regime, for signing a number of Human Rights Conventions and protocols, should re-examine their attitude to a regime, which pulls wool over their eyes by signing conventions to which she does not adhere.
- The Museveni regime, army and auxiliary intelligence organs have been responsible for expanding the vocabulary of torture because of the morbid, gruesome and unique methods used. The new words added to the literature on torture are: "Kandoya", "brief case" and "three piece suit". All the three methods involve typing, tightly, the hands of the victim, both at the wrist and elbow behind him and then extending the rope to loop up with the rope with which the legs are tied. The victim curls up into the shape of a wheel. The tightness of the ropes sometimes caused the victims chest to burst open. The name "brief case" came about because, like a brief case with a handle, the victim could at times be hung up onto a hook and left to dangle like a carcass. Few victims survive such torture and if any do they are crippled.
- It is therefore no wonder that when questioned about torture, Lt.Gen. Museveni had this to say: "I don't know about torture. I have educated myself on many things but on torture I have not known the boundary between what is torture and what isn't torture. I know the NRA tie these people (rebels etc.) when they catch them. They tie their hands backwards. I am now told that it is torture. It is the traditional method". (Daily Nation of Nairobi 26/1/87)
- Ignorance has never been a defence in law. The NRM/A and Lt. Gen. Museveni cannot hide behind it. There is no such tradition in Uganda! Not even animals are tied to the point of paralysis.
- Amnesty International Reports, the United States Department of State reports to Congress; Human Rights Watch reports, the Uganda Law Society Reports and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York report of the Committee on International Human Rights, have all condemned the NRM/A regime for carrying out acts of extra-judicial executions, torture and illegal detentions, besides confirming that:
- Ordinary civilians have been forced into grass thatched houses and burned alive, and any attempting to escape have been shot to death;
- Men, women and children (both boys and girls) have been raped by the NRA whilst other members of the family watch (see Weekly topic 11 January 1991);
- Food stocks for the "wanainchi" in granaries and the fields have been looted in operations code named "simsim" by the NRA or burned;
- Livestock have been looted by the NRA sometimes under the guise of "Karamojong" who surprisingly take cattle to Kampala instead of Moroto or Kotido!
- People have been incinerated in train wagons.
- These are the actions of a so-called disciplined army whose government has signed and sworn to uphold Human Rights Conventions. These, rather, are the actions of a government, which parades a Human Rights Commission, whose powers to investigate the NRA are curtailed. Its propaganda value is not lost to NRM/NRA and Lt. Gen. Museveni.
- In spite of persistent reports by Human Rights Groups accusing Lt.Gen. Museveni's army of committing atrocities of incredible magnitude, year in year out, since the NRM/A took power in January 1986, most of the international news media have not picked up the cue from these reports. The silence by some of the international media is deafening. These have made Ugandans cynical and accuse the media of double standards. Many Ugandans believe that some of the journalists who ought to know and could expose Museveni's terror are colluding with the regime in a massive cover-up. Having praised Museveni during his take over, are the journalists ashamed to admit that they had misread the signals from an incipient dictator?
- Notwithstanding his ability to enjoy a favourable press, the policy of evacuating civilians from the so-called war zones unmasked the fascist and Nazi like streak in Lt.Gen. Museveni and the NRA. Hundreds and thousands of people in Kasese district, in Western Uganda, Gulu and Kitgum, in Northern Uganda and Soroti and Kumi in Eastern Uganda were placed into concentration camps from which, in the case of Soroti and Kumi, up to 10 to 15 persons died each day (see Catholic Diocese of Soroti report released by Teso relief Committee dated 12/3/90) besides the 30 to 50 able bodied persons who were taken away from the camps each night and never to be seen again. Lt.Gen personally commanded the operations in Kumi and Soroti districts. Before moving to set up the Command Post in Kumi where he received foreign dignitaries including the Rt. Hon Lynda Chalker, the Ambassadors of Germany and Cuba, Museveni vowed to "crush Teso rebels" (see New Vision 2/3/90). In this operation, nearly 300,000 people were herded into make shift camps which were ill equipped to care for any human beings. A large number of people died while many suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. When people were taken away into concentration camps their homesteads were destroyed and granaries full of foodstuffs were destroyed. Government thus deliberately created a famine situation whose consequences were socially devastating for the people. The social fabric of society was dislocated since most of the camp inmates were women and children who were subjected to rapes by NRA believed to be sero-positive with aids (see report by African Evangelistic Enterprise dated 1/3/90 based in Nairobi). Fearful of contracting Aids, surviving husbands have refused to have sex with their wives!
- Having placed 300,000 persons into camps, Lt.Gen. Museveni set loose the NRA against nearly 950,000 from Teso alone who had not been encamped. The area was virtually cordoned off and no one knows to date how many people died. In Teso alone, many people believe that over 250,000 people died in this Nazi-like operation. If the figure of deaths in Teso are combined with those of the people killed in Kitgum, Gulu, Apach, Lira, Mbale, Tororo, Kasese and Kampala Barracks these amount to astronomical figures. Museveni can thus rank high in the league of former killers such as Hitler, Stalin, and Emperor Bokassa etc.
- In the case of the war in Teso Brig. Muhwezi, the then Director General of Internal Security (ISO), did the world a favour when he responded to an accusation in the Shariat newspaper, which had written that: "The NRA had butchered a quarter of a million Iteso."(See Shariat of 20th, July 1994)Muhwezi in his response is reported to have said in answer to Hussein Musa Njuki that: "It is wrong to use the word butchered, you would have used the word killed. The two words don't give the same meaning."(See The Shariat vol. 8, No. 30 of 26th, -31st,July 1994)
- Indeed the Editorial of The Monitor of Friday December 25- January 1st, 1993 had questioned the population census figures of 1991 published in the New Vision when it wondered as to how the population of Teso had dramatically dropped from being the second highest to Buganda figured which for so long had been the case. The Editorial wondered whether the drop of the numbers was because "several of them perished in the bitter wars between the NRA and the rebels?"
- When Museveni's language against opponents is punctuated by expressions like: "We shall assassinate and use terror.... We shall crush them" (see The Independent of 20.1.880) "We shall wipe them out" (Nairobi Standard 15.8.87)
- "There was no policy of scorched earth. There has never been such policy. What there was, was a policy to destroy food stocks that were assisting the rebels." (See The New Vision 27.6.89) "Speculation about an impending coup was simply empty talk. No one can overthrow a revolutionary government. If anybody tried, he would end up six feet underground.."(Lt. Gen Museveni as reported by Radio Uganda, 28th, October 1989) "NRM WON'T LET FROGS TAKE POWER AGAIN"-Museveni. Citing another Kinyankole proverb that "When the owner of the house is not present and the frogs (read past governments) climb on the roof of his house, they will jump off when the owner returns." He, (Museveni) said that, "we have come back to our home and we shall no longer allow the frogs back". (Monitor No.153 Friday December 22 - 29, 1995)
- Museveni was also asked whether he would work with Paul Ssemogerere if he (Ssemogerere) won the next Presidential elections due to take place this year (1996). He (Museveni) replied: "I would work with a devil rather than work with Ssemogerere. But can that idiot win? I am not looking for jobs. Ssemogerere has been practising hypocrisy for over 15 years. He is a double standard man. When he was still a minister of Foreign Affairs in NRM government, he used to go to donor countries and tell them not to give NRM government financial assistance because it is anti-multiparty. We are now following him closely and he has started his dubious characters. Don't be surprised when we arrest him one day. I cannot surrender my army to an idiot (Ssemogerere) who is campaigning in churches trying to convince Catholics to vote Catholic. I have built a national army with no religious discrimination. I cannot allow anybody to divide it on that line."(UDC Newsletter Vol.6 N.1 January 1996 - Uganda Democratic Alliance Inc. - U.S.A.) It is thus no wonder that Dr. Kizza Besigye who challenged Museveni for the Presidency had to flee the country despite Museveni allegedly winning. Once again this shows how intolerant Museveni is to opposition. "The first Deputy Prime Minister and National Political Commissar, Eriya Kategaya has dismissed the rebel West Nile Bank Force (WNBF) of Col. Juma Oris as hyenas with no 'mawulu' (left overs) to feast on because since 1986 the NRM has been the 'emperor' of the jungle." He (Kategaya) described 'the political hyenas' as nonsensical cowards - deputised by vultures, which are habitual waiters of rotting 'mawulu' abandoned by the lion to feed on. 'May be they will wait for the likes of Ssemogerere to feed on', he said amidst 'NRM oyee' from the crowd. The first deputy Premier said that the NRM has taken control of the jungle and there is no breathing space left for hyenas. 'This is not the era of left overs'". (The Monitor, News Analysis, Monday January 01-03, 1996)
- The above quoted chilling utterances, by Lt. Gen Museveni and his lieutenants, have been a barrier to bridge building between and amongst our people. It is a language, which drives people to war rather than reconciliation.
- When the NRA/NRM stormed Kampala on 25th/26th January 1986, driving Gen. Tito Okello's Military Council government out of power, after exercising Okello's and President Moi's governments in a charade of peace talks, showed Mr.Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in his true colours: Despite signing a solemn agreement making him Vice President to Tito Okello, he was not willing to play second fiddle. The negotiations were merely a ruse to give him time to amass enough arms to stage a coup d' grace against a leader with whom he had signed an agreement.
- When Museveni reneged on the agreement he had signed with Gen. Tito Okello he pursued the UNLA forces that were fleeing northwards via the East. The NRA forces committed horrendous crimes as they went along. They treated the people in the east as enemies because they had not voted for his party in the 1980 election. They did not only necklace some people but looted their cattle, which had been the mainstay of their wealth. Instead of being magnanimous after defeating Tito's forces, they decided to punish these people. This NRA behaviour became the midwife of insurgency in the east and the north.
- To add salt to the wound, When Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took power through the barrel of the gun, the government promulgated decrees suspending Chapter III of the 1967 Constitution, which embodied Fundamental Human Rights and he ruled, without those provisions, until they reappeared in the 1995 Constitution. Even then the 1995 Constitution embodied article 269 which banned political party activities that would have given people the chance to challenge the NRA/NRM political party under their own parties. It was astonishing to note that Museveni was willing to rule the country under the 1967 Constitution, which Museveni and his ilk, before taking power often denounced as unacceptable! However they were happy to use all other provisions of it, except the provisions providing for the observance of Fundamental Human Rights. Chapter III had to be suspended because it was inconsistent to provisions, which had been formulated for governance without political parties, as set out in a document entitled, 'Aims of the NRM/NRA Revolution' in which it was stipulated, as a major policy, that the first and most immediate act was: "The establishment, by force if necessary, of a one party popular democracy in Uganda under the NRM.... Only the NRM is allowed to operate in the country such that the other political parties i.e. UPC, DP, CP and NLP will cease to exist as required by the revolution".
- Museveni thus set about establishing an authoritarian regime to enable him hang on to power ad infinitum. Indeed for the last 17 years Museveni has done everything to ensure that he governs under a one party system. Without the opportunity for people to exercise their inalienable rights to belong to parties of their choice there was every chance that opposition would express itself through insurgency.
- Museveni has been adept at creating paraphernalia, which give a semblance of a democratic apparatus when in reality what he has established an authoritarian regime. The regime is anchored on, if I may use Amos Perlmutter's description 'a single authoritarian party' masquerading as the National Resistance Movement (NRM), 'a military complex and parallel auxiliary structures of domination, mobilization and control' (Amos Perlmutter-'Modern Authoritarianism, A comparative Analysis' published 1981). A state governed under a one party system or, a no-party system, is more susceptible to abuse state power because there are no checks and balance mechanisms.
- The façade of a no-party state or one party state is the antithesis of a democratic system whose elements are essential for the establishment of lasting peace and good governance in any country. We must remind ourselves that these rights, though described as inalienable, inherent and God-given, did not fall from heaven like manna. In some mature democracies it took quite sometime to enact Bills of Rights into Law: England in the 1628 & 1688s, France with their Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789 and the USA in 1791. Whereas thee were documents relevant to these specific countries they were limited in scope because they sometimes did not give protection to foreigners under suspicion in those countries. However after the Second World War the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid down a foundation of minimum standards of basic Human rights. Additional Covenants to encompass civil and political rights were enacted; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with an optional protocol; and the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights.
- These documents have become standard requirements in almost all constitutions of the post world war two independent states, including Uganda. Indeed the 1995 constitution has Chapter IV, which provides for the observance of Fundamental freedoms but they are basically there for decoration rather than seriously protect basic human rights.
- When he captured power in 1986, he promised the country fundamental change. He promised to stay in power for four years and hold democratic elections. But alas! After two years he shocked the country and the rest of the democratic world, when on his anniversary in power he declared: "Those who think that we are here temporarily are joking.... we are here to stay" (see Lt.Gen. Museveni-In the Financial Times Wednesday, 3rd February 1988)
- The 1995 Constitution achieved what enabled Museveni to disingenuously claim to be starting his Presidency afresh. The fact that Museveni held office of President from 1986 to 1995 was to be deemed not to have taken place. As per the new Constitution Museveni's Presidential term had to be deemed to have commenced, not in 1986, but after the 1996 Presidential election. Since the new Constitution provided for a two-term office of five years each, it means that in 2006 Museveni will have held office for 20 years.
- This cynical Constitutional manipulation is a travesty of democracy and constitutionalism.
- It is easy for those who do not know the authoritarian nature of Museveni's regime to dismiss the reasons why some Ugandans have resisted Museveni's tyranny. Museveni's spin, manipulation and public relation have helped to mask his ugly face of tyranny. Ugandans are generally peace-loving people. Those who opt to resist Lt. Gen. Museveni's regime should have their case heard and not casually dismissed. To deny the Ugandan people the right to resist a tyranny is tantamount to saying that the people of Uganda should not rebel against tyranny and oppression perpetuated against them by a barbaric regime governing the country without observance of the rule of law.
- The 1997 Movement Act moved the goal posts once again towards a one party system when it required that every Ugandan become a member of the National Resistance Movement in conformity to a drive towards a one party system. The Movement Act 1997 empowers the National Resistance Movement to conscript government institutions and social associations such as those of Youth, Workers and Disabled as organs of the Movement. The institutions so conscripted include Parliament, the Civil Service, the Police Force, Prison Services and Local Councils. In addition, the Movement has a full-fledged Secretariat run and maintained by public officers and financed from public funds. With this type of scenario there cannot be fair competition between the multiparty supporters and Movement. When a political association which is not supported by all the people and which has been ruling the country since January 1986 (now more than 17 years) is exempted from competing fairly in politics and elections with the other political associations, the outcome can only be continuous one-party rule which the referendum was designed to provide in the absence of the competitors against the Movement in the political arena. A law which compels every Ugandan to be a member of the Movement contravenes the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which we are signatories and also indeed the 1995 Constitution which provided in Chapter Four that: Article 20. "(1) Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are inherent and not granted by the State". Article 20 (2) of the Constitution further sates that, "The rights and freedoms of the individual and group enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons." And furthermore Article 29 (1) (e) reaffirms the right to association and basic freedoms when it states "Every person shall have the right to, (e) Freedom of association, which shall include the freedom to form and join Associations or unions, including trade unions and political and other civic Organizations."
- Notwithstanding these beautiful platitudes in the constitution Museveni, of course, made sure that these rights could not be enjoyed by virtue of the fact that Article 269 of the 1995 Constitution made sure that political parties were denied the rights of Association, campaigning or promoting party candidates in elections. Civil society was denied the right to coalesce in the quest to ensure that the people remain weak, which is a recipe for totalitarianism.
All these rights have been violated and abused by the Uganda Movement regime with impunity
- A lot has been said or written about the violation of civil and political rights of the people of Uganda, by President Museveni's regime, since they shot themselves to power in 1986. The following descriptions in the following chapters of a report by Human Rights which published in 1999 is self explanatory:
- Chapter VIII : Arbitrary Pre-trial Detention: The abuse of Treason and other public order charges....
- Torture, Coerced Confessions, and Treason Charges....
- Abuse of treason charges as a method of political control....
- Use of treason charges against children...
- Chapter IX : The role of the International community...
- Old wine in New Bottles: The shortcomings of the International Community.........
- "New Leaders" Model ..............................
- Flawed Engagement and Conspicuous Silence...
- The United States.............
- The European Union and its member States...
- A star Pupil, Sheltered by the World Bank...
- The impact of the International community's Lack of Resolve...
- All the countries mentioned above are old democracies. They know what is not a democracy in the third world. They know, even more so, what is going on in Uganda? They know that Uganda is not a democracy. The regime rhetorically subscribes to good governance and yet they know it is a dictatorship. It is not accountable to its Parliament or to its people. There is no check and balance of power. But in the age of the war against terrorism President Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has mastered how to deal with these countries by knowing what buttons to press in order to buy acquiesces - silence from these democracies.
- When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, there was universal outrage all over the world for Saddam's violation of Kuwait's territorial integrity and sovereignty, in contravention of the UN Charter. The UN immediately sanctioned the expulsion of Saddam from Kuwait. Iraq was ordered by the UN to pay reparations for the devastation of Kuwait. However when Museveni invaded Zaire/DRC, there was no outrage enough to trigger the UN to sanction the expulsion of Yoweri Museveni from the DRC. As Commander in Chief of UPDF and, for a part of the time the Minister of Defence, the guardians of the world order in the UN Security Council looked the other way. The death of 4.7 million Congolese in the area under the control Museveni and his proxy Congolese rebels, and the looting of DRC wealth has not raised an eyebrow among the major donors to Uganda despite UN reports confirming the massacres and plunder of the people and the wealth of the DRC.
- Having gone to war in the Congo without Parliamentary sanction Museveni later decided to say to Parliament, to the astonishment of Members of Parliament that: "I need to inform you, Honourable members, that some of these things that we do are very well calculated. We are not adventurers; we have our scientific plans of doing things. In all these activities, we have our silent allies whom I do not need to mention here. They are not in the Congo but we always consult with them and we have been in the Congo with their knowledge. These allies are in Africa and abroad...I was of course going to discuss with these silent allies and then I would have come and talked to all of you and the army". (Ref: Uganda confidential May 26 - June 1, 2000)
- The question is who are these silent partners with whom Museveni conspires to cause carnage, death and plunder to a sister OAU (now EU) without envisaging consequences, including being hauled to the International Crimes Court to answer charges of committing genocide.
- It is quite clear from this that powerful donor countries have elevated Museveni to a state of believing that he is above International law. He is and has violated the rights of Ugandans and all her neighbours without fear of crashing sanctions.
- The policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have had a devastating effect on the living standards of the people of Uganda. The precipitate economic decline started in 1987 when Structural Adjustment Programme imposed on Uganda by IMF and the World Bank began.
- The IMF programme entailed the introduction of tighter fiscal policy; steep devaluation of Uganda shilling which depreciated from Shs 60 = US$1.00 to Shs1580 = US$ 1.00.; conversion of old currency with 30% conversion tax-thus reducing money in circulation from Shs 800 bn to Shs 3.7 bn ; slashing government expenditure ( not military) ; trade liberalisation ( privatisation) ;removing restrictions of foreign exchange flows out of the country ; scrapping the old industrial licensing Board which allowed only quality industries and replacing it with the Open General Licence (OGL) allowing any body to set up industries. Museveni's government was also directed to refuse Libya's interest free loan of US$ 132 m.
- The immediate net effect of this programme was to severely curtail the purchasing power of the ordinary Ugandan while at the same time reducing, drastically, government expenditure on social programmes, except the security and military organs. It also limited the freedom of the government of Uganda to look for loans that were competitive. All these, in my view, constitute a violation of the Human Rights of the people of Uganda, as defined by Article 55 of the United Nations Charter and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Trade liberalisation (privatisation) is one condition given by IMF and aid donor countries, which has had immediate negative effect on the well being of the people of Uganda. Uganda's privatisation programme started in earnest in 1994 as part of donor conditions that demanded reduced government subsidies to inefficient companies. 69 such companies have now been privatised. Uganda has lost out in this exercise. Not only has government's Privatisation Unit sold most of the national assets below the market value, some of the investors who bought these companies have defaulted on their payments. Only US $ 132 m have so far been realised from these sales. Because of government corruption, this money has not been invested into anything in the country.
- Despite the continuing violation of Human Rights of the people of Uganda by Museveni's undemocratic government, donor countries have continued giving generous foreign aid averaging US $ 900 m per annum. About 59% of this in form of grants. Despite what Museveni said about foreign aid during his recent visit to Washington DC, his government's reliance on foreign donors to finance his budget has been increasing every year, since he grabbed power in 1986 and now stands at 53%
- When the Secretary to the USA Treasury visited Uganda, he electrified the people when he asked what many felt were the right questions. When the regime organised the Secretary to visit what had been believed to be a show case school the Secretary was not impressed by the state of the school. He could not believe that the school would be so dilapidated. He was reported, by the newspapers, to have raised clearly and loudly a number of questions: "Where did our money go? Mr O'Neill said many Ugandans are still living without clean water and the ratio of school children to books is still not good. What is our aid going for if we can't have one book for one child? Where did the money go? Why couldn't there be US$30 million to give everybody in Uganda clean water? .... These are not things that cost money. People must demand these from their leaders. I cannot imagine that there are leaders in the world who would say that for our country we don't believe in the rule of law, we don't believe in contracts and we don't mind corruption. Asked if he would issue more debt relief, O'Neill said, one of the things is that debt relief is a good idea, but if a country can't even, after debt relief, pay her bills I have to wonder what the problem is." (Reference to Mr O'Neill's reaction reported by The Monitor of May 28 2002 after having visited a show school whose state he found to be abysmal despite the fact that the US Government had contributed to funds meant to improve schools. This was electric. But when Secretary O'Neill went back to the USA he became as quiet as a church mouse!!!)
- All this money has not benefited the people of Uganda, except a few that are close to the President, politically or relatives. Social programmes have been neglected in preference to those that are used for suppression of political freedom and human rights violations. Yet donor countries have chosen to treat Museveni's government differently from other African governments, like that of President Moi of Kenya which was forced to introduce democratic political reforms by threatening to withhold foreign aid.
- Some other examples of public evidence being available for the donor diplomats to be aware that something about UPE which some of them fund, and healthcare, is amiss is demonstrated by what appeared in Uganda papers about the state of hospitals and schools in some parts of the country: "As an American expert notes, 12 million people walk over 5 kms to a hospital in Uganda...The Ministry of Health asked for Shs.231 bn for the financial year 2002/03. The government slashed it down to Shs.204 bn. It was also affected by the 23% reduction to the budgets of all ministries to raise fund to fight rebels in the north. That leaves about Shs.160 bn". (Ref: The Monitor February 6, 2003.) "Money has gone but no schools in Teso. Roofs blown off classrooms, pupils studying under trees, flooded toilets and collapsing walls; these are the sights and results that led to the welcome of the Uganda Debt Network to Teso region's public schools two weeks ago. Olwelai Kamuda Primary School in Soroti is a step ahead. Its buildings have glass windows and doors. But the glass is so thin it is already broken. Four classes - P7, P6, P5 and P1 - sit in the classrooms. The rest - P2, P3 and P4 study from beneath mango trees. With children studying under trees lessons often have to be interrupted by rain... imagine a woman squatting behind a mango tree in a nearby bush; the kids she teaches breaking into giggles as they stare at her behind. Classroom buildings are roofless, toilets have sunk into the earth; huge cracks threaten the walls left standing; floors are missing and millions of shillings have been released to contractors under the school's facilities grant for work they have not done". (Ref: The Monitor December 8, 2002). This state of affairs is duplicated in most parts of Uganda.)
- Although, the government of Uganda has introduced free Universal Primary Education (UPE), the lack of prior preparation for its implementation has created more problems than anticipated. Whereas some countries welcomed the plan with enthusiasm and offered to donate funds for fulfilment of scholastic education the infrastructure was not available to accommodate the influx of the pupils ready to take the challenge. The issue of how to deal with a higher intake at secondary schools has never been addressed, since most parents will not be able to fund further education for lack of financial capacity to meet fees!
- Surely the Auditor Generals reports, which have always been made public, ought to have alerted the donors to realise that all is not well in the handling of their money by President Museveni's government. Their lack of oversight renders them as guilty as Museveni. With Museveni's addiction to war and weapons of war, it is no wonder that Museveni has the audacity to insult the donors by quixotically telling donors to their face that: "President Yoweri Museveni has once again warned donors against meddling in his defence plans. President Museveni blamed aid donors for aggravating security problems through their 'implicit alliance' with Sudan.... Yes, the President showed displeasure with the donors. He said that if they had not laid a law on how much of the budget should be spent of defence we would have a better prepared army which would deal with Kony and his people." (Ref: The Monitor of February 13 2003.) "I don't want aid, I want trade. Aid cannot transform society. If I get aid, it must be aid that enables me to trade.... the market place and its discipline can set us free". (Yoweri Museveni's statement reported by Charles Cobb Jr. Washington D.C. in the All Africa.com website and posted in June 11, 2003.)
- When one reads and analyses President Museveni's bubbling utterances on issues in which he wants to please the donor authority by appearing to face both ways, the contradictory utterances make him seam to have gone stark staring bonkers. This chameleon character of Museveni is very disturbing. It almost makes one wonder if the guy is not suffering from cognitive dissonance: This the state of mind of a man who entertains two opposite views and claim both to be right!
- Here is a man who says he does not need aid and yet without aid he would have nothing to show as an achievement of any kind. If your budget is 53% derived from donor aid and at the same time you are crying out against countries, which subsidise you when they subsidize their own agricultural production and produce, in the interest of their countries, how can you survive without donor money? Why crawl to Clair Short and beg for an increase in defence spending? He is begging so that he does not lose out on the donor aid! May be when the Doha declaration will answer Museveni's squeals.
- Back in August 2001,Museveni wrote to the then British Overseas Development Minister, Clair Short, asking her government to allow him to increase his military expenditure by 123% over a three year period, from US $ 113 m to US $ 258 m, besides taking a swipe at President Paul Kagame.. This is how Museveni put his case to Rt. Hon. Clair Sort:
"I am therefore writing to you for two reasons: first of all, to inform you about the sad and childish developments here which nevertheless are very grave for this region. Secondly, to request you to show understanding to our intention to raise our defence spending beyond the 1.9% of GDP we had agreed with the donors. You remember, I have always held the view that given the instability of this regime, its naïve and inviting trouble to under spend perennially on defence. 1.9% of GDP has recently been translating into about $110 million per annum. This figure could be all right if we had finished the capital development of our army involving training NCOs and technical staff (pilots, tank crews, artillery crews, etc.)...and building barracks for our army to have decent accommodation". (Ref: President Museveni's letter to the Rt Hon. Clare Short, Secretary of State for Overseas Development, UK Government.)
- Not only have these countries allowed President Museveni to violate Human Rights with impunity, and deny Social and Political Freedoms to the people of Uganda, they are allowing him to spend increased budgets on the military. They are also giving him money for fighting the civil war going on. For instance, they have endorsed Museveni's government's increased military budget, for the financial year beginning this month, by US $ 17.5 m to US $139 m. The USA has given Museveni US $ 3 m to fight the war in the north., the war which International Agencies have estimated to have cost Uganda US $1.33 bn so far.
- The effect of Museveni embracing the SAPs meant that the IMF/WB had gone to bed with Museveni. They had to swim together or drown together: "The World Bank has touted Uganda's economic achievements and ignored its civil and political rights shortcomings, thereby playing a counter productive role in Uganda's democratisation process." (Ref: Human Rights Watch Report on Uganda entitled Hostile To Democracy: The Movement System and Political Repression in Uganda August 1999.)
- In a study released in August 2002 by Transparency International, Uganda was placed as the second most corrupt country out of a list of 102 countries, which were scrutinised.
- Surely, the fact Museveni's Uganda could not score well in the International Transparency study, after being at the helm of power, for over 16 years, should make donors realise that the baby, they are nursing, has had stunted growth. It is sufficiently clear that, the role of foreign aid donors in the violation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in Uganda has reduced the majority of Ugandans to conditions of abject poverty and deprivation, despite alleged donor assistance which many Ugandans cannot see it bear fruit. This has arisen because the donors have treated Museveni's dictatorship with kid gloves, despite open rampart corruption, which is condoned by the funders.
- When Museveni publicly declares to his Parliament that:
"If you want to see dead bodies, let them go to ahead with the rally...You may see dead bodies...If you want to bury (the dead) go ahead" (Ref. The Nairobi Standard 8.5.93 &the Monitor 7-11 May 1993)
- " The impact of the international community's lack of resolve.
By publicly ignoring the abuses of civil and political rights associated with the Movement system in Uganda, the international community undermines the effectiveness of its work on human rights and democracy elsewhere on the continent. A message is being sent that the international community will be willing to tolerate significant abuses of human rights, as long as the government maintains some surface acceptability. But by turning a blind eye to the abuses committed under the Movement system, it becomes more difficult to call for improved human rights records and increased democratisation in other countries, as the very notion of the universality of human rights is undermined. Human Rights then become a tool of foreign policy used against one's enemies and ignored in the case of one's friends." (Ref: Human Rights Watch Report on Uganda entitled Hostile To Democracy...1999.)
- Whereas the generosity of the donors is well appreciated by the people of Uganda who hear about debt forgiveness of Uganda, and their generous funding of the development budget to the tune of 53 to 58%, the Ugandans do not see benefits that accrue to them through such touted generosity.
- What pains many Ugandans is that when it comes to upholding the principles of good governance and democratic accountability in the manner that Moi, Kaunda and Kamuzu Banda were pressed to democratise by opening political space to pluralism, they feel the kid glove treatment of Museveni at the helm of a one party system or no party system as an equivalent to thrusting a dagger into Uganda's body-politic. It is tantamount to double standards highlighted by Human Rights Watch in the above quoted critic on "The impact of the international community's lack of resolve..."
- Democracy, as the former Commonwealth Secretary General Chief Emeka Anyaoku once described it, is, inter alia, essentially about choice - choice of parties, choice of policies, and choice of personalities. This freedom of choice is meaningless without free elections. Free elections in turn entail the freedom of speech and of association. Without freedom of speech the appeal to reason, which is the basis of democracy, cannot be made. Without freedom of association, meaningful political parties are practically inconceivable because in the absence of freedom of association it is difficult for people to band together into parties and formulate policies to achieve their common ends. And none of these freedoms can be secured without the rule of law and an independent judiciary.
- Indeed, on 29th, October 1993 at a seminar hosted by the Uganda Think Tank Foundation and the German Government Funded Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the USA Ambassador, Johnny Carson clashed with the then National Political Commissar (NPC) Eriya Kategaya, now 1st, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Carson strongly criticised the so called "no-party democracy" stating that the absence of the words "political parties" in the American constitution does not mean they are forbidden, and challenged the Ugandan leadership to point to one country in the world where democracy works without parties.
- As stated earlier, Uganda relies on donors for up to 53 to 58% funding of her annual budget. This gives these funders enormous leverage to pressurise President Museveni to democratise and to desist from perpetual involvement in warmongering against neighbours and internal civil conflict. These wars have lost Uganda friends and nurtured militarism as a method of governance. One can go as far as to say that Museveni cannot govern the country without a war. It is self evident that Museveni has been at war with his people throughout his political life to date! It is important to note that ever since Museveni captured power through the barrel of the gun in 1986 Uganda has been governed under a one party system to this day.
- It is sad that one is compelled to agree with the notion stated in the topic because from my perspective meaningful economic growth can only be achieved in a democratic polity but since Uganda's donors have decided to bury their heads in the sand, like an ostrich, they thus share blame for Uganda's economic failures.
- The idea of a referendum was a crafty device to salvage the conscience of some democrats, who would never entertain a 'no-party' or 'one party' state in their own back yard, but who have all along ignored the fact that from the moment Museveni took power Uganda was transformed into a one party state and, they went along with it. However, to allow Museveni to get away with it by way of a referendum under the guise that, if voted through, the people will, as a sovereign entity will have exercised their right is to miss the point. Firstly my inherent right should not be taken away by the state since it had not given it to me in the first instance; it should not be denied to a minority even if a majority had voted for the referendum. In other words it is not an issue appropriate to be decided upon by voting for or against. Those who vote overwhelmingly for the movement should not deny the minority to belong to political parties. In any case if the movement people are sure of winning each time, why deny the minority their right to choose whoever they want to be their representatives? To have insisted upon holding the Referendum, was tantamount to violating provisions in articles (Article 20, '1&2') and 29. (1,d &e) of the 1995 Constitution. It would also be in breach of Article 75 of the Constitution, which says that Parliament shall have no power to enact a law establishing a one Party state.
- As if that is not enough, Museveni has another card up his sleeve to be plucked out before the end of 2006. I bet anyone that the infamous review Constitutional Commission will come up with recommendations that since Parties will have been given an eleventh hour of breathing space, the NRM which by then will admit publicly to have become a Party (although they have in fact been operating as such), will select their Presidential candidate (Museveni) to stand for the election, for the first time. I further bet that the revised constitution will also provide for a two-term or indefinite Presidency. Museveni, therefore, is looking at a Presidency lasting 30 years or more!
- As Museveni continues to invent ways and means of extending his tenure, Uganda under President Museveni's suzerainty, will continue to bleed and as peoples rights abused with impunity, not only in the north, but will, as has been, continue to abuse power all over Uganda until 'cows' come home.
- It is bewildering to note that despite the world anger over Nazi camps in Europe before and at the end of the 2nd World War, and the Serbian camps, on the other hand, however, camps containing well over 1.6million souls, in northern Uganda, bother no one!
- Who else, if I may put it rhetorically, are accomplices to this abuse of power besides The Museveni regime? Has the notion, which was imprinted in our minds after the Second World War: 'NEVER AGAIN', lost its meaning WHEN THE PROBLEM IS IN AFRICA?