What happened to Museveni's peace and sleep?

Gruesome pictures of security goons abducting Mr Yusuf Kawooya near Christ the King church in Kampala on 17th October 2018 shocked the country.

Unfortunately, that is not an isolated incident. Such scenes are much more frequent than is reported. Dr Ismail Kalule, whose only crime was to stand surety for a terrorism suspect was arrested and spent 8 years on remand. He was re-arrested inside the court premises by similar security goons on securing bail after to the State's failure to adduce evidence.

The same situation happened to a one Senfuka at Nakawa traffic junction, while Abdul Kateregga was shot and bled to death while security operatives took pictures of his body. Gen Museveni and his NRM outfit have been touting the "peace" they brought to Uganda since 1986 as their major achievement.

Wikipedia explains peace as "a lack of conflict (such as war) and FREEDOM from FEAR of VIOLENCE between individuals. Former US President Ronald Reagan is quoted to have said, "Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means."

After violently capturing power in 1986, Mr Museveni and his occupational army assured Ugandans that they had brought peace and sleep. They promised, in their Ten-Point Program, to uphold human rights including freedom and the right to life and property.

In his 1996 election manifesto, Mr Museveni promised to consolidate peace. He followed up in his 2001 manifesto with the same promise, listing six achievements amongst which was "overthrowing dictatorships" and asked for one more term, to enable him "build pro-people institutions, professionalise the army and put in place a mechanism for an orderly succession."

What is the reality on the ground?

First, he did not retire. Instead, he removed all mechanisms for an orderly succession when he engineered the removal of the term limits and recently the age limit which was the last constitutional safeguard that would have ensured a peaceful transition of power in 2021.

For over 20 years, northern Uganda was in insurgency. Part of the reasons for the prolonged war was Mr Museveni's military adamancy; he insisted on a military solution as opposed to a peace process. In 1994, then minister Betty Bigombe engaged the rebels in peace talks but in the middle of confidence-building measures, Mr Museveni issued an ultimatum to the rebels to either abandon the bush or be flushed out by the army. The peace efforts collapsed and the war went on!

The cost of war in terms of human life, property and financial implications was colossal. While the north was being ravaged by the war, the south was grappling with bomb blasts that rocked the country in the 1990s with loss of life allegedly orchestrated by the ADF rebels.

Then came the 2001 elections and the "Movement" political system revealed it's true face when Dr Kizza Besigye decided to run for presidency. Violence, intimidation, voter bribery and vote rigging at levels never before witnessed in Uganda's history marked the election period.

Besigye's first rally in Rukungiri was attacked by soldiers commanded by (then) Capt Patrick Kankiriho, leading to death and grave injuries of innocent people. Then there was Major Kakooza Mutale's Kalangala Action Plan, which also rained terror on citizens.

So much was the violence that the Electoral Commission chairman, Hajji Aziz Kasujja wrote a letter to Mr Museveni appealing to him to reign in his army from interfering in the electoral process. The letter was tabled as evidence in the electoral petition of 2001 in the Supreme court.

Gen Kale Kayihura, was appointed police boss in 2005. He understood his job-description to be 'to protect the Museveni from political opposition at all costs' and steadily remodelled the police from a civilian force to a regime militia.

Everything else took a backseat. As a result, criminality soared as police was incompetent to prevent or in the least, conclusively investigate incidents. By 2016, police was sitting on over 4,000 unresolved murders. The situation became so embarrassing that they stopped compiling annual reports.

The only area police remained sharp was the capacity and efficiency to clamp down on opposition activities. I once challenged a district police commander (DPC) in Njeru to show me a part of the Public Order Management Act he was relying on to disperse our Forum for Democratic (FDC) party meeting inside a restaurant.

The man failed to cite the law but still dispersed the meeting!

Activist Frank Gashumba summarised the malaise in the police when he posted a video of himself calling police for help over fictitious "stolen car". The phone calls failed to go through to the police emergency line on the first attempts, and when he eventually got through, the officers failed to answer it.

When they finally answered, they simply directed him to "go to the nearest police station" without giving directions and then hang up. Every opposition politician worth his name is either in jail, out on bail or out on police bond. Working in cahoots with the police is the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions who sanction any charge however silly as long as the suspect is a regime opponent.

Dr Kizza Besigye probably holds the record for arrests and prosecution of an individual in Uganda. It doesn't bother them that the charges are never sustainable, it is the inconvenience, financial drain and psychological torture that they are after.

Dr Besigye took then CID chief Elizabeth Kuteesa for fabricating evidence against him in 2005, then again in 2008 when the Uganda Law Society charged the commanders of the infamous raid on the High court by the Black Mamba and most recently when private lawyers charged Gen Kayihura under the Anti-Torture Act in 2016.

The perpetrators of this abuse of office are rewarded with judicial appointments, one to the Supreme court and another to the High court and now Electoral Commission. How then do you expect a Supreme court judge with such a checkered past to rule in a case that potentially ends Mr Museveni's regime.

But if you thought police was bad, let me introduce you to the Special Forces Command, Gen Museveni's personal guard, whose loyalty to his person can only be matched by the SS Leibstandarte of the German dictator Adolf Hitler.

They are fiercely loyal to the point of fanaticism, ruthless, brutal, efficient, armed to the teeth, highly trained in all matters of war apart from professionalism, humaneness and patriotism. To them, Uganda is Museveni and Museveni is Uganda.

This outfit which is an army on it's own with questionable legality was heavily involved in beating MPs in parliament and in election violence in Jinja East, Rukingiri, Bugiri and Arua, where they beat and crippled regime opponents.

These days, the SFC has taken over police duties in dispersing demonstrations using crude brutal methods and violence with reckless abandon. The SFC is the modern day Praetorian Guard, and just like the ancient Roman specialised unit, it will one day seek to decide and determine who runs this country.

Therefore, we can not say we have peace when the State is absent when we need it to provide emergency services such as ambulances, drugs in hospitals, quality healthcare and quality education for all and yet always present in an overbearing manner to curtail civil rights and liberties in form of teargas and live bullets in every corner of the country.

You can not have peace as young Muslim men, when whenever a high profile murder occurs, the State is sending goons to arrest some of you, arrest those who attempt to stand surety for you and arrest journalists who pass on notes between you and your lawyers.

Those travelling to Uganda for the first time are stunned by the levels of deployed military grade hardware along the road from the airport to the city and all roundabouts surrounding the city. The regime is operating in a siege mentality. Mr Museveni's "peace" is in piece meal.

At no time has Uganda been peaceful in all regions, as Mr Museveni frequently claims. Perhaps, peace is too much to ask of someone whose university dissertation was on the use of violence as a means to a political end, and has previously bragged about his NRM party being the masters of violence.

Hon Betty Kamya, current minister in charge of Kampala city, while still in opposition, wrote an article in the Daily Monitor of 28th January 2008 titled "Where is Museveni's heart?" where she notes that Museveni "came holding peace and sleep while Ugandans held factories, banks, aircraft, railways cooperative unions, food silos, fuel reserves, schools, Kampala city (how ironic) and land. He convinced us to catch up on some long eluded sleep while he sorted things out. We slept for 20 years and when we woke up, we were holding peace while he held our assets".

It is of extreme irony that Hon Betty Kamya is now the one holding Kampala city hostage on behalf of Mr Museveni. In the FDC, we believe in and practice peace and peaceful methods in everything we do. We have conflicts, but resolve them peacefully, even if it means separation. The fact that we were able to peacefully resolve issues in charged election atmosphere is a small but telling example of our capacity to cultivate real peace.


The author is the deputy secretary general of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd