UGANDA: VINDICTIVE MUSEVENI REGIME UNDERMINES PLANS FOR POST-WAR RECOVERY OF ACHOLI REGION

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Pece War Memorial Stadium: undergoing renovation using local effort.
[Analysis]

“What began as a war of resistance, spearheaded by Mr. Museveni against the dominations of armed forces by the Acholi ethnic group from the time when Ugandans were fighting to remove Idi Amin from power in the early 1970’s, has now graduated into alienating the region from equitable sharing of the national cake”.

“Museveni’s main agenda throughout his 31 year dictatorship seems to be that he does not want to see Acholi sub-region, which spearheaded resistance against his rule through numerous rebellious attempts by force like Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA), Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), rise up and shine again”.

 

GULU-UGANDA: Animosities between leaders in Acholi, in the northern part of Uganda and the government of dictator President Yoweri Museveni is not about to end.

What began as a war of resistance, spearheaded by Mr. Museveni against the dominations of armed forces by the Acholi ethnic group from the time when Ugandans were fighting to remove Idi Amin from power in the early 1970’s, has now graduated into alienating the region from equitable sharing of the national cake, observers and analysts say.

The latest animosity is on the re-construction of Pece War Memorial Stadium in Gulu, which would make it also host International Sports events just like the Central region, but government ministers have blocked that effort.

In 2011, the Chairman of Gulu district Local government, Mr. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, visited the Mayor of Stoke City in the UK, with whom he signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a multi-million dollar International Sports Stadium at the current site of Pece War Memorial Stadium in Gulu.

When the plan was finally taken to the Minister of Education, Ms. Jessica Alupo for endorsement, she declined to do so saying government had earmarked Pece Stadium for re-development and advised the Mayor of Stoke City not to sink his money into it. Her successor, Ms. Janet Museveni, who is wife of the dictator, repeated the same statement on September 10, 2016 to the frustration of many in Gulu.

Mr. Mapenduzi has now turned to the local community to raise funds to re-habilitate the stadium on self-help basis to enable it be ready in two months time which should enable the region to host East African Secondary Schools sports gala. Some are contributing as little as one burnt brick.

Gulu is set to host about 10,000 visitors who will come for the event; something resented by some people in Museveni’s government who are determined to keep the mineral and resource-rich region marginalized.

The result of such vindictive actions by government officials are always reflected during elections, where opposition candidates usually beat candidates of the ruling clique; the National Resistance Movement-Organization (NRM-O) party.

To understand the Museveni regime's special hatred towards peoples in the northern part of the country it is worth reviewing some history. From colonial period to the first independent government of Prime Minister Mr. Milton Obote, the Acholi had dominated the army, police and prison services as they had been disproportionately recruited into the armed services by British colonial administrations; and they paid a very heavy price for that historical mistake when Idi Amin seized power in January 1971.

The Baganda were also angry towards people from the northern part of the country. In 1966 after a falling out between Obote's central government and their hereditary king, or Kabaka, Sir. Edward Mutesa II who had also been Uganda's president, Obote used the army to drive him into exile where he later died in the UK.

There were mass prosecutions and killings of almost all Acholi soldiers, prison staffs, policemen and the elites in Kampala and other towns after Amin seized power. A good number, who survived the purge, went into exile; from where they spearheaded the move to remove Idi Amin from power.

When Idi Amin was finally overthrown on April 11, 1979, the Acholis were again the dominant ethnic group among the liberators since they had been the large part of the exiled population. A good number among the youths, who had remained in Uganda, also joined the liberators as militias who helped pacify the country.

In West Nile sub-region however, where Idi Amin hails from and had his support base, the militias were accused of conducting revenge killings against the locals, for what Amin’s soldiers did to the people of Acholi during his eight-year rule.

Therefore, when Obote bounced back to lead Uganda again following a disputed election in 1980, Museveni, who comes from Western Uganda,  joined forces with leaders from Buganda and West Nile regions by taking advantage of their anti-Obote stance to launch a brutal five-year guerrilla war from Luwero in Buganda region. The fighting saw the deaths of thousands of civilians and international human rights groups pinned the blame on the army. In recent years it has now emerged that many of the killings were deliberately conducted by Museveni's guerrillas while wearing uniforms of soldiers killed; the objective was to incite more hatred towards people from the north.

Museveni’s main agenda throughout his 31 year dictatorship, seems to be that he does not want to see Acholi sub-region, which spearheaded resistance against his rule through numerous rebellious attempts by forces like the Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA), Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), ever rise up and shine again.

It is argued that whenever these rebels killed civilians in the northern part of Uganda for not supporting them Museveni felt no urgency to end the war; after all, they were doing what his NRA soldiers were also doing.

For over two decades, from 1986 to 2006, Acholi suffered from the effects of these rebellions. People were herded into concentration camps, lost economic productivities, killed by both government and rebel forces, pillaged of their livelihood resources like cattle and by the introduction of killer diseases like HIV, EBOLA, etc.

From the time when government and the LRA signed the cessation of hostility agreement in 2006, the relocation of LRA from northern Uganda to the aborted Juba Peace Talks, the people of Acholi have been grappling with the problems of re-constructing their lives on their own with very little support, the one hand, and fighting deliberate government programs which tend to sabotage these efforts.

There is no value for money for all the programs government initiated to reconstruct the region since Northern Uganda Rehabilitation Program (NURP) in the early nineties to today's Peace Recovery and Development Program (PRDP) because of endemic corruptions in high places in government.

Even efforts by local leaders in Acholi to mobilize their own resources or solicit funds from well-wishers to rebuild the region and uplift it from poverty are frustrated by officials of this vindictive regime. The northern part of Uganda --even with its rich resources and abundant land -- has endemic poverty despite numerous interventions.

Museveni’s possibly-last term as president expires in 2021, unless, as widely suspected, he amends the Constitution and lifts the 75-years age limit for presidents to allow him to rule for life. For the time being government programs meant to benefit the people of Acholi region will continue to be frustrated by state mafias in a vindictive regime. The Pece Stadium re-construction effort is the latest casualty.

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