Ugandan Morphs Into Amin?

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Many Ugandans now fear for their lives so much that they are even scared to speak up their minds about the government. Faced with tough opposition in the country, President Yoweri Museveni is now using torture, jail terms, killings and threats to destroy opposition to his government. Museveni has been praised by his sponsors in the West including Britain and the United States as a “beacon of hope� in the region.

Yoweri Museveni, America’s best friend in Eastern Africa and Uganda dictator for the last 19 years has condemned to death over 400 Ugandans including members of opposition parties. Ugandans are back to the days of Idi Amin. Many Ugandans now fear for their lives so much that they are even scared to speak up their minds about the government. Faced with tough opposition in the country,  President Yoweri Museveni is now using torture, jail terms, killings and threats to destroy opposition to his government. Museveni has been praised by his sponsors in the West including Britain and the United States as a “beacon of hopeâ€? in the region. But behind the smiling eyes of Museveni lies terror, thirst for the blood and the unending war mongering that took him to Congo, Rwanda and Sudan. Recently, using his Minister for Security, Betty Akech and army officer Colonel Otema Awany, Museveni cooked up dubious murder charges against members of the Ugandan parliament Reagan Okumu and Nyeko Ochula. Okumu is the Deputy Executive Coordinator for the leading opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change, FDC and also Member of Parliament representing Aswa County.  Okumu’s arrest and murder charges came shortly after he was interviewed in a New York-based newspaper, The Forward, in which he sharply attacked tyranny in Uganda. He and Ochula are accused of murdering one Alfred Bongomin, a former Movement chairman (until recently Museveni’s Movement was the only political party allowed in Uganda) in Pabbo, Gulu district in 2002. They were recently released on bail awaiting trials. In a press release dated May 23, 2005, Okumu accused the Ugandan government for using threats and imprisonment to stifle opposition to Museveni’s quest for life presidency. Museveni is using bribes, legal manipulation and political threats on opposition in order to have the law changed so that he can for a third term—currently barred by the constitution. “For the Hon. Betty Akech and Col Otema’s of this world, we would like to warn them strongly to stop being Museveni’s tools for dirty work in the Acholi Sub-region.  We appeal to the International Community and Ugandans to monitor very closely and objectively the dirty politics in Acholi in this transition,â€? Okumu stated. Acholi region is in the north of Uganda where both Okumu and Ochula hail from. A top U.N official, ambassador Jan Egland has called the war there the world’s worst most ignored humanitarian disaster. Many experts believe conditions there rival Darfur’s.

Okumu also criticized the prison conditions of Luzira prison, Ugandan’s national prison where he was detained. Okumu says the prison is overcrowded; medical attention lacking and prisoners eat only once meal a day. “Prisoners are parked like fish on a pick-up without due regard to the road traffic acts leave alone spread of contact and air-borne diseases,â€? his statement said. There is overcrowding in Upper Prisons meant for 600 inmates, contains 2,700.  Over 300 prisoners are condemned – with over 30 prisoners condemned by (military) firing squad. There are also other prisoners under military custody and ‘safe houses’ all over the country. According to Okumu, at least 60 leaders and supporters of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) have been detained since October 2004 on treason and murder charges. Most of these political prisoners are likely to face the death penalty if convicted. Ugandan government kills its death row inmates by hanging and prisoners arrested by the military are executed by summary firing squad. It should be remembered that in 1998, Museveni hanged to death 28 prisoners on death row, despite last-minute appeals by human rights groups to commute the death penalties. Among those hanged was Haji Musa Ssebirumbi, who was charged with having collaborated with former President Milton Obote. Museveni fought Obote’s government as a rebel leader using his National Resistant Army rebels for 5 years from 1981-1985. According to Amnesty International, in 1998, there were over 1,000 Ugandans in death row. It is feared that Museveni could execute the 400 people before he leaves power. This is not the first time Museveni has tried to bring down Okumu and Ochula. On Tuesday, 22nd November 2004 the two members of parliament were publicly flogged by government soldiers at Acholibur while consulting their constituents over their opinion of presidential term limit. Museveni’s has never won any election in the north where Okumu and Ocula come from and he has looked at them as a stumbling block to his political success in northern Uganda. Ugandans are now looking up to Museveni backers like the USA and Britain that have for the last 19 years, been funding and providing Museveni with arms and munitions. Fifty percent of Uganda’s budget is financed by these outsiders. Britain belatedly cancelled about $17m in grant money recently to Uganda citing political environment hostile to democratization as the main reason. Instead of cutting aid, the United States recently gave Museveni military trucks and other assistance. It is feared that Museveni will use this aid to crush any form of opposition during next year’s presidential election in Uganda. The international community needs to put pressure on Museveni now and force him to abandon his quest for another term in office. If Museveni forces his way and get another term in office, it is feared that Ugandans will be left with no options but to wage armed struggle to end the dictatorship.

Black Star News columnist Otika Okema is available at
peterotika@gmail.com He is also the Coordinator for the Africa Peace and Human Rights Education in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at http://www.africantransatlantic.org For more reports and articles please call (212) 481-7745 to subscribe to the newsstand edition of The Black Star News.

 

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