Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sleeping Giant?

An old article entitled ''Sleeping Giant or Stealthy Nicodemus'' where at page 72, I try to investigate the role of the Commonwealth in promoting the Rule of Law and Good Governance in Uganda.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Prof Joe Oloka-Onyango: Uganda - What needs undoing

Written by Joe Oloka-Onyango

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 18:56

No democracy relies so much on the military

Makerere University law professor, Joe Oloka-Onyango, made a presentation at the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) post-election 2011 conference in Kampala on April 27, 2011.

President Museveni, who closed the conference, was very critical of Prof Oloka’s presentation, accusing him of poisoning the minds of “our children”.

Below, the Observer Newspaper reproduced a slightly edited version of the paper that got Museveni so worked up.

Today my first message to you is: Pray for Uganda!

But as you pray, I urge you not only to think of matters spiritual. Rather, I ask you to think of religion today as a means through which we can correct the many ailments that afflict us, and for you to go back to the manner in which the founders of the world’s great religions used their power: not as a means to guarantee that their flock grow in number, but as a mechanism for enlightenment and caution.

Today I want to urge you to face the main challenges of governance confronting the country and to step out from your mosques, churches and temples and confront the evils we are facing head on. In other words, as you pray, please keep one eye open!

I have been asked to examine the key governance challenges we face in Uganda today. I want to focus on what needs to be undone. In other words, what things do we need to rid ourselves of in order to improve the state of governance as we approach the swearing-in ceremony of a new/old government and move into the next five years of NRM rule? In order to answer that question, it is necessary for us to take a small step back in history.

When 42-year-old guerilla leader Yoweri Kaguta Museveni emerged from the five-year bush war to claim the presidency of Uganda in 1986, he was proclaimed as a great redeemer. Although there were many questions as to whether he had the credentials to lead such a decimated and demoralized population out of the doldrums, there can be little doubt that Uganda has done fairly well under his steerage.

It is not for me to sing the praises of the government, but even the most ardent critic must admit that Uganda is no longer “the Sick Man of Africa” that it used to be in the 1980s. Twenty five years later, Museveni remains at the helm of Ugandan politics, and on February 18, 2011, he received yet another endorsement in an election that extends his term in power until 2016.

He has already entered the record books as East Africa’s longest-serving leader, outstripping both the late Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenyan ex-President Daniel arap Moi. By the end of this 6th term, Museveni will be 72 years old, and at 30 years in power will join the ranks of Africa’s longest, among them, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Angolan president Eduardo dos Santos and the beleaguered Muammar el Gaddafi.

But it will also be the time to ask whether Museveni’s legacy will be that of the former Tanzanian president, who left office still loved and revered, or a figure of tragedy and hatred like Moi? Indeed, as North Africa witnesses the nine-pin like collapse of long-term dictatorships starting with Tunisia and spreading like wildfire, it is necessary to inquire how it is that Museveni won the February 18 election, and what lessons this has for political struggle and freedom in Uganda.

Drawing on Libya for comparison is particularly apt since Museveni has long been an ally of Muammar Abu Minyar al Gaddafi. You will recall that on one of many trips to Kampala, the eccentric leader of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya urged Museveni to stay in office for life, arguing that revolutionaries are not like company Managing Directors.

The former do not retire from office! It is a lesson Museveni took to heart, removing presidential term limits from the constitution in 2005, and setting himself well on the way to a de facto life presidency.

But before we look to the future, we need to return to the past, especially to understand the recent election. What explains Museveni’s February victory, especially given that while largely predicted, the margin by which he won (68% of the presidential vote and 75% for his National Resistance Movement in the parliamentary poll) stunned many!

We need to compare this margin with the three previous elections in 1996 (when he won with 75%), in 2001 (69%) and in 2006 (59%). According to the pundits who filled the radio airwaves before the poll, while still popular and dominant and thus likely to win, the downward trend would continue. Some even predicted that there would be a run-off because the 50.1% margin would not be scaled in the first round. The other issue of surprise was the relative calm and lack of violence that attended the election.

Most foreign observers, from the European Union to the US government, described the vote as generally peaceful, free of bloodshed and largely a “free and genuine” expression of the wishes of the Ugandan people. It was only the African Union (AU) that declined outright to describe the poll as “free and fair”.

The local media described it as the “most boring” poll in recent history, lacking as it did much of the drama, intrigue and confrontation that Ugandans had become accustomed to. It is thus not surprising that Museveni’s rap ditty, ’Give Me My Stick/You Want Another Rap?’ garnered more attention than the substantive issues at stake.

Not yet multi-party

To fully comprehend the outcome of Uganda’s recent poll, it is necessary to understand a number of basic facts. The first is that Uganda is yet to become a functioning multiparty democracy. For the first nineteen years of Museveni rule, we operated under a “no-party” or “movement” system of government, which was little better than a single-party state.

Under that system, government and party institutions overlapped right from the lowest level (resistance or local councils) through to Parliament. Indeed, in many respects Museveni took a leaf from Gaddafi’s popular councils, creating these LCs as supposedly representative of grassroots democracy, but essentially a cover for single-party dominance.

Today, many of the no-party structures remain intact and operative. They function as the main conduits of political mobilisation and for the channeling of state resources, buttressed by a massive local bureaucracy of government agents and spies.

These include the Local Councils (especially 1 and 2), and although they may appear insignificant, they in fact play a crucial role in governance in the country. Indeed, that system remains intact, and only this week we were advised by the Electoral Commission that elections for the lower levels of local government would be postponed, yet again.

It is clear that not only is the postponement illegal, it also reflects a reluctance on the part of the ruling party to make the final necessary transition from the movement to a multi-party political system of governance.

Power of incumbency

We also need to recall that in most countries it is very difficult to remove incumbent governments through an electoral process. In the history of African electoral democracy, only a handful of ruling parties have lost a poll.

In Uganda, the fact of incumbency guaranteed President Museveni unfettered access to state coffers, such that the NRM reportedly spent $350 million in the campaign. Whether or not this is true, we have not yet received a proper accounting of how much the NRM [or indeed any other party] spent and from where they received this money; already, this means that we are being held hostage to the lack of transparency and the underhand nature of politics that we thought we had long left behind.

Indeed, the enduring image of the past several months has been that of the President handing out brown envelopes stashed with cash for various women, youth and other types of civic groupings. I don’t know if religious leaders were also beneficiaries of this largesse. If you were, then you must acknowledge that you have become part of the problem. For in those envelopes lies a key aspect of the problem: the phenomenon of institutionalized corruption that has become the hallmark of this regime.

Militarised context

The other reason for Museveni’s victory lies in the highly-militarised context within which politics and governance in Uganda is executed. We know that after five years of civil war (1981 to 1986), and twenty-plus years of insurgency in the north of the country, Uganda has virtually never been free from conflict. Unsurprisingly, the idea of peace and security occupy a very significant position within the national psyche.

For older Ugandans there is some fear of a reversion to earlier more chaotic times, while for the younger generation who have only experienced Museveni, the claim that he has restored peace has a particular resonance. Ironically, both groups also fear that if Museveni lost an election, he would never accept the result, and instead would either return to the bush or cause such great instability that it is not worth it to even think about an alternative candidate.

This explains what to many is the most surprising outcome of the election: Museveni’s victory in northern Uganda despite facing two sons-of-the-soil in ex-diplomat Olara Otunnu and the youthful Norbert Mao.

I believe that the looming presence of the military also explains why the turnout for the election at 59% was much lower than any of the previous three polls, where figures were closer to 70%. Many people simply stayed at home, partly out of apathy, but more on account of the fact that the streets of Kampala and other parts of the country were swamped with military personnel.

Any visitor to Uganda over the election period would not be wrong to question whether the country was not a military dictatorship. Moreover, and unfortunately, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) is more akin to the army in Libya than that it is in Egypt.

UPDF is not well known for exercising restraint when dealing with civilian insurrection or politically-motivated opposition. Indeed, when the red berets and the green uniforms come out on the streets you know that there will be correspondingly higher casualties. That is why we should condemn the increased militarisation of the political context.

It is why we should demand that instead of spending on jets, tear gas and APCs, we need more [money] to be spent on roads, hospitals and our UPE schools.

No opposition parties

Museveni’s performance in the north reflects the other side to the story, and that is the fact that Museveni is only as good as the opposition he faces. The dismal performance of the opposition is attributable to a host of factors, not least of which is the fact that there are really no opposition parties in Uganda.

Rather, there are only opposition personalities epitomized by three-time presidential contender, Col. (rtd) Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) who have constructed around themselves weak or non-existent party structures that only come to life in the run up to the election.

During the election Uganda’s opposition seemed to lack a firm ideological position, and while the death of ideology is an ailment affecting the ruling NRM too, its absence among the opposition has proven particularly harmful as there is a lack of a central organizing message around which the opposition can translate obvious disgust and support against Museveni into electoral victory.

Thus, at the start of the election season, the opposition wavered between a united front against Museveni or a boycott, citing the bias of the Electoral Commission and the unlevel playing field.

As we are all aware, neither option was adopted, and at the end of the day all major opposition parties decided to field candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, while decrying the inequality in the contest.

It is important and ironic to note that the opposition may have found a more united voice after the election. This is in the Walk-to-Work (W2W) protests. The fact that the government has failed to find a suitable response to this opposition unity speaks volumes of the foundations on which the February 18 victory rest.

Most importantly, the W2W protests demonstrate that Ugandans can be mobilized around issues as opposed to the mobilization of fear (“we brought you peace”), the mobilization of money (brown envelopes), or the mobilization of elite benefits (the promise of new ministries and the creation of more unviable districts).

At the end of the day, while President Museveni’s victory is not much of a surprise, and in the short run ensures the continued charade of economic and political stability that has characterized the last two decades, I would like to suggest that it portends considerable apprehension for the future of the country.

Museveni character

While the President has dismissed comparisons with the fallen dictators of north Africa, there are indeed many parallels. First of all, the state in Uganda has assumed what can only be described as a ‘Musevenist’ character, such that an election such as the recent one can only be an exercise in endorsement of the incumbent, complete with his iconized symbolic hat.

This is because the leadership of the state was afflicted with the disease I have described as ‘stayism’ for which the antidote has never been an election. Secondly, the Ugandan state has also devolved to a situation in which there is little to distinguish between the personal and the political, and where it is increasingly being marked by the growth of what can only be described as family or personal rule.

Thirdly, we are in very real danger of beginning an era of dynastic politics. While President Museveni has only one son (in comparison to Gaddafi’s seven), Muhoozi Kainerugaba is clearly being groomed for greater things. Thus, he has taken charge of the Presidential Guard Brigade, the elite force designed to guarantee his father’s personal security, and he recently wrote a book about the bush war, to burnish his credentials as an intellectual-cum-soldier able to fit into his father’s rather large shoes.

This is clearly the same path that Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi pursued, only to find themselves thwarted by the movement of the people. While it may be true that revolutionaries don’t retire, if there is no other lesson of the recent northern African upheavals, it is that revolutionaries can be forced to resign. It is all simply a matter of time.

It is important for us to underscore a number of lessons [from North Africa] that cannot be ignored:

1. Regardless of the size of the military apparatus one constructs, even the most powerful of regimes can be brought down;

2. Resistance and reaction to poor governance can come from anywhere, even from those who are weakest or most marginalized; it is not necessarily the elite or opposition political forces who lead movements for change, and

3. The terrorism of hunger is much more dangerous than the terrorism of so-called terrorists.

Finally, given all that we have seen above, how do we go about undoing the political damage and rebuilding Uganda’s democracy?

1. We need to begin by undoing the tendency towards political monopoly, and to tackle the desire to absolutely dominate the political arena to the exclusion of any contending force, and particularly the burning desire to try to eliminate all forms of opposition to the existing system of governance. In this regard we need to undo unlimited presidential terms and end the phenomenon of longevity in office;

2. We need to force the ruling party to accept that opposition in a multiparty system is a fact of life; the sooner the NRM learns to live with it the better; it thus needs to adapt its methods of response from coercion and abuse, to dialogue and compromise.

We need to undo the detention-without-trial of political opponents like Besigye and Mao and of all the other political activists who have been detained as a result of the W2W strikes, and of earlier events such as the September 2009 (pro-Kabaka) uprising.

3. We need to undo the links between the state and the ruling (NRM) party, first by undertaking a full audit of where and how the NRM raised the resources to finance the last election and secondly through establishing a permanent Political Party Oversight Commission made up of civil society actors, academicians, peasants, religious leaders, and other individuals and groups from all walks of life, with the goal of ensuring that all political parties adhere to the constitution and work towards the expansion of democratic space, rather than its contraction.

4. We need to undo the legal manipulation and the misuse and abuse of law and of the constitution in order to achieve sectarian political objectives. In particular, we need to condemn and combat the constant shifting of the goalposts when the existing ones do not suit the achievement of a particular political objective. We also need to undo the infrastructure of intolerance and exclusion that is manifest in the following laws:

a. The Institution of Cultural and Traditional Leaders Bill;

b. The NGO Act, HIV/AIDS Act, The Equal Opportunities Commission Act, The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, etc.

5. We need to undo the use of coercive (particularly militaristic) methods to achieve political objectives, of which we have seen numerous examples, culminating with the W2W shootings last week.

There is no other country in the world that lays claim to being a democracy which so extensively relies on the military. We are fed up of the notoriety of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and of para-military shadow militias like the Black Mamba; the PGB and the many Generals who have invaded political life. We need to remove the UPDF from directly involving itself in politics as is normally the case in a functioning multiparty system.

6. We need to undo the hypocrisy that claims the high moral ground when we are mired in CORRUPTION, a corruption which has become institutionalized and ‘normal’, and which begins and ends in state house.

7. We need to stop ignoring the youth and treating them like they are the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ or else they will take up arms against us today.

8. We need to undo the monopoly of political power that is exercised only by political actors. All of us have to become politicians; hence while the President’s call for talks with the opposition is welcome, it cannot be a discussion only between the NRM and opposition parties; we also want to be heard and to make sure that no deals are made behind our backs.

Hence, there is a need for a national convention of all civil and social groupings to decide on the future course of the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to stop being complacent about our country. We will wake up and find it gone!

The author is professor of law at Makerere University and head of the Human Rights Peace Centre (HURIPEC).

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Price of Democracy

This is a response to my friend Dr. Joseph Okia’s facebook post on the ''Ideologue Group'' wall (which is reproduced below )

Dear Joseph, I have read your face book post on the riots in Uganda and wish to recommend you to my rather long piece in which I tried to address most of the concerns you raise. Please find it at For emphasis however, I will respond to some specific issues which I consider to be of utmost concern to me -

(1)Under the Police act the police is mandated to ensure exactly that, anyone wishing to carry on an assembly, protest, walk is therefore required to inform police, agree on the route the protest will take and where the final assembly point will be,simple!

Assuming that the section of the Police Act you refer to is Section 32. Let me quote it here verbatim –

''Power to regulate assemblies and processions.''
(1) Any officer in charge of police may issue orders for the purpose
of—(a)regulating the extent to which music, drumming or a public address system may be used on public roads or streets or at occasion of festivals or ceremonies;

(b)directing the conduct of assemblies and processions on public roads or streets or at places of public resort and the route by which and the times at which any procession may pass.

(2) If it comes to the knowledge of the inspector general that it is intended to convene any assembly or form any procession on any public road or street or at any place of public resort, and the inspector general has reasonable grounds for believing that the assembly or procession is likely to cause a breach of the peace, the inspector general may, by notice in writing to the person responsible for convening the assembly or forming the procession, prohibit the convening of the assembly or forming of the procession.

(3)The inspector general may delegate in writing to an officer in charge of police all or any of the powers conferred upon him or her by subsection (2) subject to such limitations, exceptions or qualifications as the inspector general may specify.

The aforementioned section as I understand it, is silent on walking to work (W2W). In any case, the status quo in Uganda today is that the police has banned demonstrations - which it is now asking asking to be informed about. and , This for me sound quite problematic. It is true that 'if anyone would genuinely want to protest against high fuel and food prices all they would have to do is set the date, discuss with police the where and when, agree and hold the protest!'' However, by banning demonstrations, the police acted unconstitutionally - in spite of the declarations of the Uganda Constitutional Court in the case of Mwanga Kivumbi Vs the AG . Therefore for police to turn around and require would-be demonstrators to inform it of a proposed demonstration is contradictory. This is the same contradiction our President makes. It is therefore not true that ''These politicians know exactly how it works, but they are deliberately drawing the police into a confrontation by refusing to play by the rules.''

It is no secret that opposition leaders –as expected in a free and democratic society- are supposed to try to make political mileage from any government slip-up (see the rather insensitive press releases by Minister Kabakumba Masiko ., ., and Kirunda Kiveijinja

The tenets of democracy are that the official opposition is both the government in waiting and also citizens of this country with rights to express themselves on any issue of public interest and concern. They therefore cannot be criticised for doing what is expected of any opposition nor should it be a surprise that they will front the cause of the disadvantaged. That should therefore not be seen as a '' deception'' and i do not think it is in anycase the ''root of the violence''. I would actually be very concerned if the opposition did not speak out against the government inaction as this is the rule of thumb in any democracy.(who in any case remain part of the electorate). Therefore, we cannot blame the opposition for striving to win political points while the reaction of the government has been largely insensitive.

However, I have mentioned in other spaces that the people who sympathise with the synonym ''Activists 4 Change'' are both politicians and non politicians. To the best of my knowledge, it is a loose group which – to the best of my knowledge is not even registered or mandated to represent specific political aspirations. It has sympathisers from all corners of Uganda and beyond – many of whom are mere commentators on Facebook and Twitter. It is not necessarily synonymous with the official opposition in parliament who have given the A4C some political mileage by participating in A4C discourses.

I do not agree that the A4C went on ‘’television, radio and announce(d)( that they ) will be holding a procession (i.e come and join me as I walk). I think some people have mixed up the two kinds of events. The facts, as I understand them (and I beg to be corrected) are that the organisers of the W2W announced that they will be walking to their diverse work places – they did not announce that it would be a procession. This is essence means that the kind of demonstrations envisaged by the Section 32 do not apply here. There will not be and has not been a common work place or assembly point that you mention. Remember, if it were a ''walk to a specific assembly point'', it would be classified as a demonstration – which the police has unconstitutionally declared illegal. Be that as it may, the organisers decided not to carry out a demonstration (which would need Police notification), (although I am informed that the police later retracted this and said that all they need is ‘’ to be informed only’’ ;( Interestingly the police said they had intelligence on the demonstration but still insisted on being informed about it – but that makes me divert from the point),rather they chose to call upon interested parties to walk from their various homes to their diverse work places - period!.The Police/security forces can thus not have their cake and eat it too.

In my view the W2W would have been unproblematic but for two reasons (1) some politicians were forbidden from walking ( see the arrest of Mao, Salaam Musumba, Anywar and Besigye but look out specifically for the discourse between the arresting officers and the suspects which justifies my earlier points). This led to the reaction from the public and the violent rebuttal from the state; (2) some politicians erroneously and without informing the police, started walking in large groups and therefore attracting the concern of the police (see arrest of Nambooze). This also led to a reaction from the public and the aforementioned reaction from the state. Interestingly other politicians like Ekanya and Odonga Otto walked without being stopped. I cannot however say much about the rest of the citizens who were walking to work and either got caught up in the fracas or not. Suffice to mention, they exist.

By singling out specific people, the police committed another unconstitutional act – discrimination – contrary to Article 21(2) which states -
a person shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin,
tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion
or disability.
(3) For the purposes of this article, “discriminate” means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.

In my opinion, stopping a person from walking because he or she is a politician of a specific inclination, is discriminatory. It is the same as preventing people from using or accessing facebook or twitter, blocking some people from accessing radio stations to express their views, preventing people from accessing certain resources, travelling, name it.

It will continue to be difficult for the government to ever justify that they could stop some Ugandans from walking and not others. This is because scores of Ugandans have been walking and will continue walking – be they politicians or not. Some even walked to church as part of their individual protest -which is recognised and not merely allowed by the law and the constitution.

''Walking to Work'', is and remains a personal commitment that one makes and there is no need for mobilization and legally there is no need to inform the police. It is the same way that one chooses to don clothing with specific words, refrain from the consumption of certain foodstuff or drink, tear up SIM cards, avoid to comment on Face book or Twitter, refrain from using buses (Montgomery Bus Boycott 1965), refrain from work (Rukungiri), or wears shades in 'protest' against excessive use of teargas name it - If it were not so, then all people who have been walking to work or elsewhere need to inform the police which is practically impossible. To confirm the above interpretation, the likes of DP President Nobert Mao, FDC President Kizza Besigye, and others, were arrested for disobeying ''lawful orders'', inciting violence and in some cases assaulting a police officer et al and not for walking to work per se. I wait to see what reasons the Attorney General will raise in defence of the above, and what the courts will say in the event that such matter is litigated upon. ( In an earlier piece I discuss the whole issue surrounding whether one may or may not respect a law or in this case a ‘lawful order’.)

(2) ''these politicians are being disingenuous and deceptive, deliberately seeking confrontation with our police in order to provoke them into acts of aggression.''

Let us look at the facts. Person A is refused from walking to work even though it is his constitutional right to do so. He is told that he must access his work place in a way that the police wants. Person A thinks this is unfair and refuses to do so. He is confronted by the police, brutally arrested and in the process suffers bodily injury. Person A’s presumed sympathisers ( more like concerned onlookers to me since we cannot prove their specific political allegiances) get concerned and tell off the police who in return use tear gas, batons and bullets to disperse the crowds. The crowd then runs amok and riotous compelling the police to indiscriminately – once again – shot, l beat and use teargas on anyone in the vicinity. Regardless of whether they are school pupils, babies, patients, mothers, name it. In the same vein, person A is now taken to court and charged with disobeying lawful orders and inciting violence!!

This is obviously just one version of the story constructed from watching you tube and reading twitter as well as the various Ugandan newspapers.

I acknowledge other versions do exist which blame the shooting of innocent people on actions of people like Person A above. It is however trite law, that when establishing liability, there should be a causal link between one’s actions and the resultant reaction. For a defendant to be held liable, it must be shown that the particular acts or omissions were the cause of the loss or damage sustained.

The basic test is to ask whether the injury would have occurred before, or without, the accused party's breach of the duty owed to the injured party. Even more precisely, if a breaching party materially increases the risk of harm to another, then the breaching party can be sued to the value of harm that he caused.

I wait to see how this will play out in court- or the Human Rights Commission - if it ever does.

Let me stress however that whether or not the police has been provoked, the fact that it possesses the weapons of coercion means that it has to take extra care in how it uses them. Shooting live bullets at stone welding protesters or clobbering a person on vital and sensitive parts of the body like the head, backbone and neck-) is not reasonable force.

More over we should not forget that this is not the first time it is happening in Uganda ( remember the case of Ramathan Magara when he shot FDC supporters in Mengo, , (see also Nicholas Cage in the movie Con Air).

We should stop excusing wrongs committed by the armed forces on the grounds of provocation. The rationale behind the use of reasonable force is in line with the ideology of civility as expected in any democracy.

The view that the police should respond aggressively 'once provoked' as you state, means that they are an unprofessional, uncivilised, indisciplined institution which will commit acts of aggression, contrary to international humanitarian and criminal law. I choose to believe better or at least hope so although I see this being played out all too often.

I have watched the President of Uganda justify the use of excessive force based on the fact that non obedience to lawful orders is the cause. He even suggests that Besigye had pepper spray which he administered to the police and thus caused them to react in a similar way. I find that so hard to believe. I see no indication in the videos shown that Besigye had pepper spray. Instead I see pictures of hammers and pistol butts being used to break his windows. It is no wonder that Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Kasaijja disagrees with this kind of action.

I shudder to think what happens when we are not looking. It is simply unjustifiable, inexcusable and we should all resoundingly admit this and condemn it in the strongest terms possible.

That is why the President admits that the 'young people' (security offices) made mistakes. If we do not see a change in the way these security offices behave, it should not be a surprise that there is a comparison with past leaders and the way their security forces behaved. Remember the quotation by George Orwell - “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” – ‘Animal Farm’. –

The President asks why Besigye did not allow to be arrested easily or did not allow to follow 'lawful orders'. I know that there are some people who are of a similar opinion, while others say it is the option one can choose in civil disobedience when that person feels that they are unjustifiably treated. The rationale behind civil disobedience is clear. It has been well elaborated in Martin Luther King Jr's Letter from a Birmingham jail.

Some leaders like UPC President Olara Otunnu, FDC Vice President Salaam Musumba, Lord Mayor-elect Erias Lukwago and CP President Ken Lukyamuzi opted to be driven away while others like Anywar, Oguttu, Besigye, and Mafabi etc refused. Indeed such person who refuses to be arrested expects the police to use reasonable force in conducting his/her eventual arrest. Interestingly, they were accused of disobeying the lawful order (not to walk) and for causing unlawful assembly (when people surrounding the police to watch the fracas).

For me that is very problematic – why accuse someone of causing an illegal assembly yet the police knows that blocking a human being from their ordinary course of business will ignite a reaction from others? Why then blame the person whose rights are blocked for causing the reaction by others? Why go a step further and even kill or maim those who do not agree with the reaction of the police or who are minding their own business? Shooting babies, pregnant women, gassing children and hospital patients, bludgeoning others and walloping young men is inexcusable, using pepper spray directly into someone’s eyes and ears is barbaric and totally inhumane and degrading treatment contrary to Article 29 of the Constitution !! Shooting live bullets at unarmed civilians -even without authority- is totally criminal. I do not think there is anything which can justify the 1965 USA Civil rights style or the 1976 style apartheid reaction by our police/security forces. We must unequivocal condemn these actions!

(3)Further several of the leaders of these protests are major players in the oil industry themselves, they have been major beneficiaries of the high fuel prices and know that riots and disruptions will only drive fuel prices (and therefore their profits) higher. If they really cared about fuel prices why are their petrol stations charging even higher prices than their competitors (compare Total Nsambya and Shell Kabalagala). It is only Nandala Mafabi who has started distributing some paraffin at his petrol station, and even then only if you have the required party membership card, the others should follow if they would like us to believe that they are sincere. Charity begins at home!

The above statement raises some of the following thoughts -

(i) All the leaders of the Activists for Change (A4C) group are major players in the oil industry – a fact I find very hard to believe;

(ii) Even if that were true, that the only way in which one can show displeasure is to run out of business in an economic meltdown by charging lower prices?

(iii) The said leaders of A4C are actually making profits inspite of the fact that they are paying taxes on each and litre they sell and in spite of the fact that the cost of living is very high?

(iv) That when they call upon government to intervene in the reduction of fuel prices, they actually do not want government to do so but are more interested in riots which will disrupt the country – a consequence of which is that there will be difficulty in accessing petroleum products – but somehow these leaders of AFC will continue to access fuel and make more profits?

(v) That the determinant for profit making is only the price a petroleum station charges per litre?

(vi) That the desire of the leaders of A4C is not for government to intervene in reducing prices, but to actually do nothing?

I will not attempt to specifically answer the allegation made against Nandala Mafabi because I am not conversant with those specific facts. Evidence of this will be appreciated.

In my humble opinion, I can only reiterate what I said in the aforementioned blog articles that the whole country is suffering from these challenges.

To assume that it is the fault of the opposition alone that we are having these riots and that we should blame the global crisis for what is going on while government sits back and does absolutely nothing but to ruthlessly clobber Ugandans who seek to bring these matters to the table is unfortunate. The prices on almost every commodity in Uganda have risen.

The Kenyan government has done something. I am yet to hear of riots in Rwanda. Can something be done? Yes the government can do something – even if it is a mere symbolic gesture. However, defending government brutality and accusing opposition is and will not be the answer.

Even insinuating that some opposition politicians are not feeling the pinch of the high cost of living but only seek to profit politically and financially is very hard form me to believe. Neither do such ad hominem arguments help in alleviating the status quo -at least that is the way I see it.

I think our government can do better. If the government genuinely wants to guide those who want to demonstrate, it should first of all remove the ban on demonstrations. In the absence of which, it will not be able to justify why it is discriminating against certain people by blocking their freedom of movement in addition to infringing on their freedom of expression.

Secondly, the government should use reasonable force when dealing with those who choose the option of civil disobedience. Our government should not forget the ten-point programme raison d'ĂȘtre for taking over power. It is mandated to treat all people equally and the police is supposed to serve both the opposition as well as those in leadership. The government should also find means of abetting the current socio-economic hardships that the people are facing – that, is the social contract which the government has with its people


Joseph Okia writes-

The rising fuel costs and food prices are hurting all of us, but I think some of these politicians are really deceiving us that they are fighting for the common man. I think that deception is at the root the violence, we are not just having people "walking innocently" being attached by police, as they would like us to believe. People are deliberately seeking a confrontation to make a point, namely see we are being brutalised (Obama, (or should I say Sarkozy)can you hear us). For the last three decades thousands if not millions of Ugandans have been walking to work unhindered, even if you decided to walk to work on, nobody will stop you, as I speak hundreds of Ugandans are walking to their places of work today. Now to go on television, radio and announce you will be holding a procession (i.e come and join me as I walk) is an entirely different matter. The rights for peaceful assembly and demonstration are enshrined in our constitution, it is the right of every Ugandan. Exercise of those rights however must be done in such a manner that it does not infringe on the rights of others specifically their safety of life and property and their right to carry on their own activities. Under the Police act the police is mandated to ensure exactly that, anyone wishing to carry on an assembly, protest, walk is therefore required to inform police, agree on the route the protest will take and where the final assembly point will be, simple! If anyone would genuinely want to protest against high fuel and food prices all they would have to do is set the date, discuss with police the where and when, agree and hold the protest! These politicians know exactly how it works, but they are deliberately drawing the police into a confrontation by refusing to play by the rules. A good example was the Mabira Forest riots in 2007. Betty Anywar who was leading these protest, informed police, agreed on a route and was given the go ahead plus police protection to carry out the protest, half way through the protest she changed the route and tried to enter the downtown Kampala area knowing very well that that was likely to lead to a confrontation with the police which it did, never mind the rowdy mob that then proceeded to kill indians and loot people's shops. Like I said, these politicians are being disingenuous and deceptive, deliberately seeking confrontation with our police in order to provoke them into acts of aggression. Further several of the leaders of these protests are major players in the oil industry themselves, they have been major beneficiaries of the high fuel prices and know that riots and disruptions will only drive fuel prices (and therefore their profits) higher. If they really cared about fuel prices why are their petrol stations charging even higher prices than their competitors (compare Total Nsambya and Shell Kabalagala). It is only Nandala Mafabi who has started distributing some paraffin at his petrol station, and even then only if you have the required party membership card, the others should follow if they would like us to believe that they are sincere. Charity begins at home!

Sunday, May 01, 2011


By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round
at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?