Even With By-Election Victory, Ugandans Must Leave Options On Table To Remove Dictator Museveni

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After 28 years of tyranny how longer will Ugandans tolerate Gen. Museveni

[Justice In Africa]

Dr. Vincent Magombe, the Ugandan journalist and Press Secretary of Freedom and Unity Front, and Director of Africa Inform International, examines the implications for the struggle for national liberation in Uganda.

The ruling party in Uganda, the NRM, headed by Yoweri Museveni has suffered a major blow in a by-election held in a Central Ugandan district which has been variously referred to as the "Mecca of NRM", the "Home of the NRM revolution", and the "birth-place of Museveni’s guerilla war".

Of late, the Ugandan Dictator Museveni is becoming a lonely man. His rejection by the people of Uganda is reminiscent of the proverbial stripping of the Emperor, who could not even realize that he was down to his bare skin.

Already on social networks patronized by thousands of politically active and awakened Ugandan citizens, the embattled General is being referred to as the "Naked Emperor".

All manner of support from all sections of the East African nation continues to ebb away profusely and irreversibly, rendering recurrent descriptions of the once powerful dictator as a "man at the end of his road", a "lost soul who is living in his own dreams" and as a recent anti-regime activist put it – "a broken and tired tyrant whose time in state house is over."

The Luweero syndrome – is this the end of Musevenism in Uganda, or a moment for serious reflection on liberation approaches?

Luweero triangle, as is commonly referred to, was the place where from 1980 to 1986, a group of Ugandan rebels led by Yoweri Museveni organized and executed a bitter campaign against the then government of Dr. Milton Obote.

The war ended when Museveni Museveni seized power in the midst of a military coup carried out in Kampala by army officers within Obote’s own national army. Museveni has since then ruled Uganda with an iron grip, and through a series of rigged elections, where opposition parties were systematically subdued and disorganized by Museveni’s repressive machinery.

During his campaign for the NRM candidate for the recent Parliamentary special election for one seat, Museveni emphasized the point that he and NRM are unbeatable here, as he is "just too popular and loved by the people of Luweero, who cannot give their votes to a little girl who knows nothing about the bush war."

The catastrophic loss in the Luweero by-election, which has seen the trouncing of Museveni’s handpicked NRM candidate by a young, but profusely determined and prolific politician by the name of Brenda Nabukenya , is of mighty significance, not because an anti-Museveni politician could not win in Luweero. As a matter of fact, this is Nabukenya’s second triumph in the District. She first became a member of parliament in this very place in 2011, only for her election to be overturned by the court after on appeal by the regime.

Primarily, this Luweero by-election victory is of critical value because at this particular moment in the history of opposition politics in Uganda, it seems to signal and signify something much bigger and of much more significant for the entirety of Uganda’s political dynamics. The electoral victory of the opposition comes at a time when Museveni is facing growing demands for electoral reforms, but, as importantly, the embattled dictator is now having to contend with a new highly organized anti-regime activism that includes a rapidly growing liberation struggle waged by well-organized liberation forces.  

Unified opposition approach

A senior leader of Freedom and Unity Front, a Ugandan liberation platform that was launched in London on 14 December 2013, with the specific objective of unifying and mobilizing the various anti-Museveni forces, has continuously spoken of "disunity and lack of clear ideological directions" as being the core problem preventing Africa’s pro-democracy campaign groups from achieving their aim of bringing about democratic change and establishing sustainable governance systems and infrastructures.  

In the case of Uganda, the glaring divisions within opposition parties and anti-regime campaign groupings was for a long time one of the main impediments that prevented them from overpowering the Museveni autocracy.

For a long time it seemed that the Ugandan opposition spent 95 per cent of their time fighting amongst and between themselves, and only 5 per cent opposing the Museveni regime.

And the in-fights and squabbles were primarily about power within the opposition ranks, power which, as a Freedom and Unity Front leader has described, “did not exist and they, the opposition, did not have.” The real power that all Ugandan opposition politicians should have been fighting for was not in their possession, but in Museveni’s State House.

Clearly and demonstrably, therefore, they should have been pointing all their political guns at Museveni and his defective system, and not at themselves. They should have avoided anything and everything that is diversionary, even the minor meaningless squabbles of" “I do not like such and such an opposition leader," "he is from this or that ethnic group in Uganda”, or “Such and such a leader used to work with Museveni, or Obote, or Idi Amin" and "we cannot work with him or her.”

Thankfully, as Brenda Nabukenya’s Luweero victory has illustrated, Ugandan opposition activists seem to have learnt their lessons well. The memorable unity displayed by all the main opposition parties and campaign groups, took Ugandans and the whole world by surprise. Apart from all the political opposition parties supporting one candidate, the parties together with the most important civil society and human rights organizations and activists have been crisscrossing the country collectively demanding for political change and electoral reform. These unified campaigns have, no doubt, shown to Ugandans that there is a political alternative in the country and that an undemocratic, corrupt and repressive one-man rule of Museveni may not be the best solution to Uganda’s age-long political quagmire.

Sadly for Museveni, his own NRM party is currently embroiled in bitter and protracted in-fights, which have pitted supporters of General Museveni against those of the party’s Secretary General, who also happens to be the country’s Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi.

The abandonment of the 28 year-old regime of Yoweri Museveni would be total if it weren't for the extra-ordinary state violence and bribery by a shameless dictator who has no qualms carrying around sacks of dollars looted from the state coffers. But also, Museveni and his autocratic system could have gone long time ago, had the political opposition effectively and credibly put its act together.

Through a credible and visible display of a solid unity of purpose, the Uganda opposition are increasingly showing the voting public that they mean business and can be entrusted with the job of steering the country through the storms.

The resounding victory which Brenda has scored in the by-election in Luweero, is extremely significant given the importance Museveni has been placing on Luweero as the former heartland of the NRA bush war. But it is also critical as a turning point in the way the opposition confronts and opposes an entrenched dictatorship, like that of Yoweri Museveni.

Non-the less, the Ugandan opposition is best advised not to become too complacent and, most certainly, not to take Museveni for granted.

As we all know, Museveni has been able to remain in power for all these decades by the might of brute state violence and force. Even though he is not wanted by most Ugandans, the dictator has managed to hang onto power in ways and means that are violent. Today that reality is still real, as Museveni continues to build powerful personal armies and militias, like the so-called Special Forces Group (SFG) commanded by his son Brigadier Muhoozi Kaneirugaba.

As Freedom and Unity Front has severally warned the country, the hard work of unifying the anti-Museveni opposition and mobilizing through various channels, both overt and covert, must be intensified and brought to bear, or else Dictator Museveni will remain in power perpetually and through the eventual imposition of direct Family Rule, whether Ugandans want it or not.

Without doubt, Museveni will continue to use force to remain in power, and he will easily rig the national elections as he has always done. Any one dreaming of Meseveni voluntarily reforming the political and electoral systems before the 2016 elections may be in for a rude shock. Already the power-hungry dictator has publically declared through a spokesperson for all to hear that "the opposition will never rule Uganda until 2056.”

Therefore, by-election victories like this in Luweero, while truly significant, cannot be an end in themselves. As Freedom and Unity Front has advised, all options must be left on the table, and the opposition and the entire Ugandan public must be prepared for all means permissible by the constitution of Uganda to be applied, if Uganda wishes to say goodbye to the man who has sworn never to hand over power to anyone who is in opposition to his regime.

Intensifying People Power struggles to remove Museveni from power

The definitive victory by Brenda Nabukenya in Luweero is severally indicative of what is bound to happen to Museveni and his increasingly decrepit rule.It is possible that the battered regime will continue to disintegrate and falter and gradually wither away under the growing anti-regime actions and activisms from all quarters and sections of Ugandan society. But this is a rather simplistic view of what is actually a much more complex situation demanding as complex and, perhaps, even more radical interventions on the part of the various liberation forces.

It is vital for all those involved in the evolving Ugandan liberation struggle to take note and reflect on the potential eventualities in order to avoid pitfalls that may inadvertently enable the dictator to remain in power any much longer, as he has so effectively done across the 28 years of his corrupt and repressive rule.

Sadly, the most probable scenario is one that Ugandans are quite familiar with – Museveni marshaling all that remains to marshal, including the use of much more decisive brute force and intimidation, as well as mass bribery and other perverse illegalities and unethical approaches to regain lost ground.

Museveni is acutely aware that with such widespread and entrenched poverty across the country, the population is vulnerable and can be easily subdued and disorganized in its attempts to assert itself against the regime. And so, he will seek to disorient the communities by using his type of stick, in form of brute state violence and repression, as well as his type of carrot in form of more bribes, illegal and unlawful inducements mainly targeted at community leaders, leading political campaigners, youth activists, and so forth.

The bitter truths

Museveni, the typical African dictator, is not about to hand over power to his perceived or unperceived enemies without a fight. Museveni the hardened non-democrat and non-reformer will most likely never succumb to even the loudest peaceful calls for reform.

The Freedom and Unity approach

In the view of Freedom and Unity Front, the most likely solution to the current political quandary of the Museveni regime is going to be a mix of peaceful and forceful actions by determined and unwavering anti-regime activists, unified and united by the common cause of liberation.

To that end, Freedom and Unity Front is committed to cooperating with all well-meaning liberation forces and individuals, right across the board, to variously exert maximum pressure on Museveni, who like any human being, will only give up his irrational and highly dangerous gameplays when he realizes that the powers against him are ready to counter his violence and brutality using, if necessary, all the means at their disposal, including the use of force through People-Power revolt.

It is in the interest of all those opposed to the Museveni-rule not to help the dictator to feel comfortable and untouchable by ruling out any option, in relation to the means of liberation struggle.

The best way forward is for all Ugandans to continue with the current efforts of peacefully mobilizing the masses across the country, while building serious capacity and abilities that may have to be deployed should Museveni decided to ignore, as he has always done, the peaceful calls for reform and change as are being made by the unified opposition during the current nationwide rallies.

What is giving and will continue to give Mr. Museveni the headache of epic proportions is when he sees that Ugandans are more determined and better organized than ever before to collectively and effectively cause change by using the most tested and effective means possible.  

The unified victory by Brenda Nabukenya in the historic District of Luweero may be the long-awaited catalyst that will boost the much more unified and better coordinated approach that is necessary for the final liberation of Uganda from the fascistic regime of Yoweri Museveni.



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