Ugandans Bring Protest Against Museveni’s Tyranny to Washington

Ugandans showed up strong
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[The Way I See It]

Ugandans know Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s regime wouldn’t last a year without Western arms and money so Friday we brought our protest to Washington, D.C. 

The protestors marched through the streets of Washington, D.C., starting from outside the White House, then to the headquarters of the World Bank, the IMF, and the State Department. “This is how the police should behave instead of arresting, beating and torturing people like in Uganda,” one marcher said.

Having stolen another presidential election—this year’s was on Jan. 14—dictator Museveni, who seized power 35 years ago, now fears Ugandans have had enough of him. He’s in mortal fear of a revolution that could sweep him from power. He believes only maximum terror can keep him in office. 

Recently Museveni has been conducting a campaign of kidnappings, torture, and killings. In the last week, finally, the major corporate media, including Al Jazeera, Reuters, the BBC, and the Washington Post have published stories about Museveni’s latest campaign of terror against his own citizens. Most of the victims are youthful. Museveni believes the right spark could eventually bring them out on the streets in mass numbers to rock the foundations of his military dictatorship. He surely must have memories of Gen. Omar Bashir’s 2018 ouster in Sudan. 

Some victims are kidnapped from the middle of the streets, some while dining with friends in restaurants, and others from their homes. The kidnappers are soldiers in uniform or armed plainclothes state security thugs. Victims are taken to military barracks by a sinister organization called the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), or torture locations cynically referred to as “safe houses.” 

Some victims have been released after public outcry. Survivors describe torture that includes: waterboarding; beatings with electric wire; burning with cigarette butts; castration; and, having fingernails and toenails forcefully removed. The bodies of not-so-lucky victims have been found dumped in open spaces. Hundreds of families are missing loved ones whose whereabouts are unknown. A Black Star News columnist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been one of the many victims of Museveni's torture--one two separate occasions. 

The Museveni terror campaign has increased since 39-year-old presidential election challenger Robert Kyagulanyi, a.k.a. Bobi Wine, beat the 76 year old dictator in the Jan. 14 presidential election which Museveni’s still in the process of rigging. The demographics were always in Bobi Wine’s favor. Almost 80% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 35 and he mobilized the youth and got millions of new voters to sign up. 

As a very popular musician, Bobi Wine’s lyrics denounced corruption and inspired citizens to seize control of their destiny. In 2017 he ran for Parliament. He defeated the candidate from Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in a landslide. Bobi Wine campaigned for three other candidates and all defeated Museveni’s candidate. Museveni panicked. He tried to kill Bobi Wine in August 2018. The botched assassination attempt instead boosted Bobi Wine’s popularity. 

When Bobi Wine declared his candidacy he attracted massive crowds at campaign events. Some people waded through deep swamps to evade police cordons. Dictator Museveni lost his mind with fear. So on Nov. 18, when unarmed civilians protested the arrest of Bobi Wine, Museveni’s armed forces committed a massacre, shooting them down. More than 100 people were killed. The regime admits to 54 killings.

Museveni knew the massacre alone wasn’t enough to discourage enough Bobi Wine supporters from the polls for the dictator to win. He prevented local and international election observers from being deployed. He turned off the internet on Jan. 12, two days before the Jan. 14 vote, for weeks. Yet, on Jan. 16, an election “commission,” whose members were hand-picked by Gen. Museveni himself, announced that he had beaten Bobi Wine by 59% to 35%. Since no data could have been transmitted from the more than 34,000 polling stations during the internet backdown it became obvious that the “percentages” attributed to Museveni and Bobi Wine were concocted from thin air. 

Bobi Wine dismissed the purported “result” as a “joke.” He has called for an independent international forensic investigation similar to the one conducted in Afghanistan after a disputed election. He also filed a complaint with the Supreme Court seeking for the nullification of the election “results.” He withdrew his petition when the court—all of whose judges are also appointed by dictator Museveni—refused to admit additional evidence. 

Even Museveni’s Western backers, the U.S. and the EU, have so far rejected the rigged vote. The U.S. called the vote "fundamentally flawed.”The EU denounced the violence that accompanied the vote tallying process by Museveni’s hand-picked election “commission.” The EU Parliament recommended sanctions, and the Joe Biden administration is considering its own version.

Museveni’s regime gets more than $2 billion a year in financial support from the U.S. and EU, in addition to arms and military training from America. Museveni’s dictatorship is financed by the West. He can’t survive without this sponsorship. 

So Friday, more than 100 Ugandans traveled to D.C. to protest. The first stop was outside the White House, near the Black Lives Matter Plaza. 

Outside the White House, Patricia Namyalo, a prominent human rights activist and filmmaker, denounced the U.S. for prolonging Museveni’s stay in power with financial support. “So many people, many young people, women and men, are being kidnapped on a daily basis,” she said. “They are being kidnapped for simply wanting to remove dictator Museveni.”

Joseph Senyonjo, another demonstrator, called for the release of all political prisoners. He said since the U.S. funds the Museveni regime it could also put pressure to demand for a forensic audit of the Jan. 14 election. “I want the United States to impose Magnitsky sanctions on all the people responsible for human rights abuses in Uganda including Museveni and all his generals.”

From the White House, the protest moved to the World Bank headquarters. Scores of Ugandans chanted “Who is killing Ugandans?” which elicited “Museveni!” as the response; to the question “Who is financing Museveni?” the answer that came was “the World Bank!”

One of the demonstrators, Lawrence Nsereko, a Ugandan activist and adjunct professor, whose own son has been abducted by the Museveni terror campaign, spoke passionately. Speaking through a megaphone, he denounced the Bank for sponsoring “a regime of terror in Uganda.” He recalled that $300 million provided by the Bank to Uganda to combat the covid-19 pandemic was diverted for military purposes. 

Outside the IMF, the demonstrators repeated the same chant, denouncing the institution’s support for Uganda. Kharim Ntambi recalled how the $491 million the IMF provided to support Uganda’s covid-19 was instead diverted for military purposes. 

At the final destination, Hillary Taylor, a student at Harvard spoke for Uganda’s and Africa’s youth. Africans “have had enough” of the U.S. backing puppet regimes in Uganda and other African countries, Taylor said. He led a chant, asking time and again, “Where is Blinken?” and the demonstrators also echoed “Where is Blinken?” Anthony Blinken is the U.S. Secretary of State.

I also spoke. I recalled that Museveni’s militarism has resulted in the deaths of millions of Africans, in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, and South Sudan. U.S. taxpayers’ dollars must not be used to subsidize terror in Uganda, I said.  

Until the next protest action: Aluta continua! Until the dictatorship falls. 

Editor’s Note: Remember to sign and share the petition calling for the West to stop shipping weapons to Museveni, not to recognize the rigged Jan. 14 election, and to impose targeted sanctions on human rights abusers including Gen. Museveni himself.