Otunnu, Former UN Big, Tells Ugandans To "Defeat Fear"
â€œWe must defeat fearâ€ the former UN official said, â€œand in order to do so, we need to unite, and get organized and nothing can be impossible.â€
Dr. Olara Otunnu, the former United Nations Under Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict announced the beginning of “a national, peaceful movement” in Uganda, to a crowd of several thousand people in the border town of Busia, eastern Uganda late Monday morning.
Otunnu’s message at the well-attended rally focused on the power of unity, and began with a moment of silence for the 30 people killed during the Kampala riots September 10th, 2009 in Kampala.
Otunnu is back in Uganda this week after weeks abroad and in New York City. He had initially returned to Uganda on August 22, 2009 for the first time in 23 years.
Otunnu told the crowd of an estimated 10,000 people that the excessive force used to end the demonstrations was “characteristic of the Ugandan state, which victimizes its peaceful citizens.” Otunnu said: “The massacres of 10th September is our issue, it is a national thing--It was not a Buganda thing.”
“The September 10th demonstration was to demand freedom of movement, which is our right as citizens," Otunnu added. "The deaths of 30 people cannot be business as usual.”
Otunnu explained that he joined the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party because of its values. UPC cares about "the disadvantaged and gives a helping hand to them, not just the rich, the powerful and the highly connected.”
“Those of us that are gathered here today,” Otunnu continued, “we must ask ourselves if our lives are better today than it was 20 years ago.”
Urging the crowd to face down fear and intimidation often present during election time in Uganda, Otunnu declared “this movement will not be stopped by Black Mambas,” referencing the notorious Uganda paramilitary units.
Black Mambas were used to stop Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Kizza Besigye’s campaign in its tracks during the 2005 presidential election.
Focusing on the theme of fear, Otunnu said “there is one important thing that we need to get rid of if our social movement is to succeed, and that is intimidation, which breeds fear, and fear breeds incapacity--Fear will make us hide, and fear will make us shirk our responsibilities.”
“We must defeat fear” the former UN official said, “and in order to do so, we need to unite, and get organized and nothing can be impossible.”
He added, to the huge gathering, "do not be afraid, this is your country. This is your land, and you cannot walk with your head down. You must walk with your head up. Those who cast away fear have historically defeated Goliath. We will defeat the Goliath in our country.”
As if to affirm Otunnu's statement about the state's use of excessive force, later the same day in western Uganda, FDC presidential candidate Besigye and supporters were met with teargas and anti-riot police as spontaneous rallies formed in Hoima town.
According to The Crested Journal, heavily-armed police "whipped supporters of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change and tear gassed the party's leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye. Police used three vehicles to block Dr Besigye's motorcade from entering the town."
In a similar incident last week the police blocked members of the Democratic Party (DP) who had turned up at Entebbe International airport to welcome party spokesperson Betty Nambooze, who had returned from South Africa after weeks of treatment there.
Local media reported that Nambooze was taken to South Africa after ailments developed while in military detention in Uganda.
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