The Star, July 20, 2005
As a Ugandan-South African, I would like to thank The Star for serialising the northern Uganda crisis through Beauregard Tromp and Anton Harmmel.
It has brought the plight of the people of northern Uganda to the fore in South Africa.
When I was growing up in Uganda, I never saw peace. This was Idi Amin’s time, and my father spent time in prison for disagreeing with him.
Then later came the extremely turbulent times of the early 1990s.
In 1986, Yoweri Museveni came in and ushered an unprecedented period of peace. Every Ugandan cheered this new son of the soil.
Tribalism was a big issue in Uganda, with many northern people uncertain of what a southern president would do to them. Resistance therefore fomented in the north. President Museveni, being a man who has never shied away from war, went for it. Since then, that region has never seen peace. Scores of people have died and many more have been displaced.
However, the government is also to blame for the perpetuation of the war because many people in government – the president included – have stood to gain from the war.
Museveni got money from US because the US wanted to launch a proxy war with Sudan.
His brother – then head of the army – made huge financial gains by, among other things, tendering for obsolete, dysfunctional helicopters at an inflated price and then pocketing millions of dollars.
There have been reports of government soldiers committing serious atrocities among the people of the north. One of them was an instruction to clear anything that moves because the local population was considered an enemy.
Government troops have also reportedly butchered people in the night only to return the following morning as their saviours in order to win their support – a tactic allegedly used by Museveni during his guerrilla war to capture power.
Then there has also been the scorched earth policy.
But one of the worst things that has happened to Uganda is institutionalised corruption.
Uganda is now ranked among the top five corrupt dictatorships in the world.
Museveni controls every institution in Uganda – from the army right down to the primary school. His son now heads an elite military unit that is tasked to protect the president and is not answerable to any organ of the state.
Recently, using his influence parliament moved to amend the constitution to allow Museveni to contest for presidency next year after 20 years at the helm.
Ugandans are resisting this but they are being arrested and detained in so-called safe housesâ that are kept secret and full of torture. Ugandans are saying they cannot allow this to continue.
However, all this is happening with the world – and more particularly the AU – looking on and seemingly giving a nod of approval. So many things have been allowed to go wrong in Africa with the end result being spending so much effort and resources to heal the wounds. A very clear case is Zimbabwe nearby.
President Mbeki has spent so much time and money solving Africa’s problems. Surely South Africans don’t want to spend more taxes sorting out Africa’s problems which we have seen coming and failed to prevent.
There is a Mugabe in the making in central Africa – Museveni.
Like Mugabe, he is an intellectual, he can talk, he can write, he can plunder and he is an autocrat.
Let us Africans, especially the leaders, learn to tell our colleagues that what they are doing is improper.
I would expect this to be one of the greatest tenets of the peer review mechanism.