Ugandans Continue to Resist Museveni's Play to Stay in Power

Fuck Oppression- Stella Nyanzi
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Photo: "Radically rude" Dr. Stella Nyanzi upon her release from prison for insulting President Museveni. 

International pop star Bobi Wine is no longer under house arrest at his home in Kampala, but President Yoweri Museveni's security forces are allegedly kidnapping, torturing, and killing Ugandans who have proof that Wine actually won the January presidential election. Several weeks ago Ugandan-American Black Star News editor Milton Allimadi
 told Black Agenda Report that the government is searching for every polling agent who may have a copy of a declaration form substantiating the claim that Bobi Wine won. 

At the end of January, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, feminist academic, medical anthropologist, poet and practitioner of “radical rudeness,” fled to Kenya with her three children, alleging that her partner, a member of Bobi Wine’s coalition, and others close to her had been abducted by authorities and that her partner had been tortured. Nyanzi herself spent much of 2020 in Uganda’s Luzira Prison for publishing on Twitter a radically rude poem  to Museveni on his birthday, in which she wished his mother’s pubic hair “had strangled you at birth like the long tentacles of corruption you sowed and watered into our bleeding economy.” Upon arriving in Kenya, she Twitter published this poem:

I am a writer
My name was made through writing
I am a freedom fighter
My fight for freedom is liberating
I write to fight against dictatorship
I fight for freedom to write what I like
When I write,
I poke the leopard’s anus with my might!

When I fight,
I use only non-violent methods to fight.
I am a writer in exile.
I don’t need to be home to write.
I am a freedom fighter in exile.
I don’t need to be home to continue fighting.

According to Africa Intelligence, Bobi Wine had hoped to mount his challenge to the election results from Kenya as well, but “this plan was flatly rejected by Uhuru Kenyatta, who is keen to stay on good terms with his Ugandan counterpart [Museveni].” 

Still in Uganda, Wine has filed a challenge  in Uganda’s Supreme Court seeking cancellation of the election results, in which authorities declared Museveni the winner of a sixth term with 59% of the vote. Reuters  reported that Museveni’s party told them that by going to the court, Wine was acknowledging that it could be expected to fairly adjudicate the dispute, but that he did not have much chance of succeeding. (LOL.)

Besigye calls for mass civil disobedience

Dr. Kizza Besigye, the charismatic and ever-entertaining politician who claims to have in fact won Uganda's 2011 and 2016 elections, called on Ugandans to engage in mass civil disobedience to remove Museveni from power at a press conference  in Kampala last week:  

“War will not deliver what we want. War recreates violence. Violence begets violence. So we consciously, ideologically, detach ourselves from violence. But a struggle can be carried out without war, just ordinary people organizing. Our people should prepare to stop any cooperation with the tormenters. How could these soldiers live here in Kampala all of this time if our people refused to give them food? And it's possible. People, if they organize it, then you can refuse to give them food. And our people should start organizing. Even those who transport it. Once we say, 'Now, things are not getting any better today. Today let's start doing this.' 

“I want to hear whether people are ready to free themselves. If they are ready to free themselves, in two weeks, three weeks, they will be free. These soldiers, yes, they just need to be hungry two nights before they will be the ones who’ll chase Museveni out. He won’t even be able to grab his belongings. But they also want to know that our people are serious.” 

Besigye said that the election should have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Ugandan constitution would have allowed the current parliament to remain for another year. But, he continued, the speaker of parliament would then have to serve as president until the election could be held, and Museveni would never relinquish power willingly. 

He also said that Western lenders should take responsibility for knowingly lending the Ugandan government huge sums of money that are being used to hunt and kill them, and that Ugandans should not be obliged to repay these loans. He invoked the international legal theory  of “odious debt,” national debt incurred by a despotic regime to oppress its own people, especially when the lenders know that’s what they’re doing:

“All the money that was spent, that is still being spent hunting our people down was borrowed. It’s not Ugandan money. From March up to now, they have borrowed about 1.7 billion dollars: six hundred million euro from Standard Bank, 500 from IMF, 500 million, 300 from World Bank, and others from smaller entities. It is that money that is torturing us. And yet we are the ones to pay it. Now it's time that we also send a very clear message to the lenders of this junta. Giving loans like they are doing is the perfect description of odious debt. And in the history, there is clear precedence that citizens have a right not to pay odious debt.” 

Can Bobi Wine and Dr. Kizza Besigye serve on the same team?

Dr. Kizza Besigye has been running against President Museveni since 2001. Between then and the 2016 election he became the most prominent face of the opposition. I’ve enjoyed watching him defy authority, get arrested, beaten up, and thrown in prison, all the while building his political base and drawing media attention with his charisma and comic gifts. There was some competitive friction between him and Wine in 2020, but ultimately Besigye chose not to run again. At the press conference, he said that there were only two sides, the junta and the opposition to the junta, and that the opposition must not allow itself to be divided. I’m hoping he means it and wondering what ministry he might assume in a President Bobi Wine’s cabinet.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize   for promoting peace through her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. Please help support her work on Patreon. She can be reached on Twitter @AnnGarrison  and at ann(at)anngarrison(dot)com.

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