By Stephen Twinoburyo
This is an email I received from a friend, Robert Muyanga, in Pretoria regarding the views I’ve been expressing on the current situation in Uganda. My response follows:
Stephen, I trust that you are well. In response to your mail below (see the email discussion in the first comment box below), I am not attempting and will never attempt to change your opinion to which you are entitled, I would like to challenge your opinion in relation to the so-called ‘’walk to work’’ campaign that is raging on in Kampala and some few towns.
You will agree with me that in any country that has a democratically elected Government just like ours (Uganda), there are bound to be laws that govern that territory. In this case the leaders of this campaign should have fulfilled the requirements of the law in the land e.g. inform the Police of their intention to walk, ask the Police for permission to walk if they knew very well that they were not going to walk alone but with their supporters (big crowds). By so doing they would have prepared the Police to make arrangements to guide and protect the walkers while ensuring that the rest of the population is not affected by the actions of the minority.
If there is any claim that the permission was not granted or would never have been granted, then I believe there are other means such as approaching the court of law, Parliament, and other institutions inside and outside the country. I believe that the leaders of the opposition or the organizers do not have the capacity to control their followers and yet Ugandans have witnessed, since the beginning of this so-called ‘’walk to work’’ thugs as part of the walkers, break into shops, barricading roads, throwing stones etc. one of my few questions is,
1. what plans did the organizers have to protect those who did not share their views of walking?
2. What was the real intention of the organizers/opposition for organizing the ‘’ walk to work’’?
3. Did the organizers/opposition believe that they can address the issue of inflation through by walking to work?
4. was there any attempt by the organizers/opposition to seek and use alternative platforms that would have made the public understand issues of inflation better and to find a solution to the rising inflation challenges?
5. Is the inflation the work of NRM as a party?
6. Have the organizers/opposition come up with any roadmap that seeks to address the challenges of inflation in Uganda so far?
7. When is it suitable for the organizers/opposition to work with a democratically elected government in addressing challenges that are affecting Ugandans such as Economic, health, illiteracy etc.?
One thing I know for sure is that, Ugandans are not fools much as we may be having a large number of people who are illiterate. They will soon or later turn against the very so-called organizers/opposition who are trying to mislead them and shame them again just as they have doing in all previous election. I am a product of democracy and I would like to see things done democratically. We all know that the constitution accords us all various rights and one of them is the ‘’freedom of movement’’. In other words, you and I to move freely without hindrance. But as you may be aware, Every right can be limited if it infringes on another person’s right. The organizers/opposition are not just ordinary citizens, if within their constitutional right, their actions are bound to cause or lead to public nuisance and encroachment on other people’s rights, then the government has every right/duty to limit such rights of the organizers/oppositions be it in their individual or as a collective as on organization/s.
I regard it as a tired argument with reference to your statement I quote ‘’ There has not been any fairness towards the walkers in the way the authorities have engaged with them. Even if they wanted to demonstrate, it was their right. Only if they broke the law, then they would have been held liable. Here we are not talking about the law made on a stool in Rwakitura as the cows are setting’’. I would like to believe that you were not destructed while crafting out this statement. If you don’t see any law broken here then it is not worth for me to engage in such debate. Why should the Police of our government have to wait until an individual or a group break the law so they can hold culprit/s liable when they can prevent them from breaking the law?
I have listened to you talk and I have read most of your articles, I gather a sense of inaccuracy in your facts on very many occasions. One of the occasions is when you called in a South African talk show radio. Fortunately, I was tuned in that radio station and I had you talk total wrong facts that I may not repeat here. I picked up a phone and called you and I know you remember very well what we discussed although, I have not found time yet to engage with you one on one so we can exchange ideas and I very sure I will learn a thing or two from you. I don’t ask you to be patriotic for your country when you feel things are not going well, but let us be patriotic for our country and stick to the facts. Let us present facts rather than sensational and defamatory words/statements especially when we are beyond borders because we become ambassadors of Uganda in our own rights.
It is my view that that if you are a devoted writer, who want to change Uganda and who is not committed to go to the bush to see the change you desire, I would like to suggest to you that be fair in your writings, have facts, do not appear to be biased and don’t write to appease some of your readers. I quote from your statement ‘’ I see Museveni as a power-hungry autocrat and nothing more’’. I know that this is your opinion, but what informs you that a Democratically elected leader of Uganda is power hungry and autocrat? I would like to share with you, your source of information. I also believe that many of your readers would like you to share with them your source of information to such a conclusion.
Let us respect democratic processes and their outcomes for a better Uganda and ultimately a better world. If the majority say yes M7 we want you let the minority accept and avoid using other platform to undermine the will of the majority.
M7 Oye, Uganda Oye and all Ugandans who believe in democracy.
Thank you Robert for your response and I appreciate the fact that you took time to respond.
First of all, my take is that this walk did not require any permission as it was a normal walk to work. It’s only when the police intervened that it became violent. The authorities, I don’t know whether out of paranoia or ego, over-reacted. Why didn’t the police observe those walking and intervene if they saw violence? What makes them read people’s minds to assume that they will do something undesirable? How come Museveni managed to move with a group of boda-boda hooligans covered in banana leaves through the city last year? I personally think if the walk had been left to go on without any attention, it would have probably not amounted to much. Now courtesy of the knee-jack reaction, it has hit all major news netwoks internationally. It was covered in all S African major newspapers over the days and in fact Independent Newspapers (Star, Pretoria News, Cape Times, Cape Argus e.t.c) has a link for “Uganda police brutality in pictures”: http://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/uganda-police-brutality-in-pictures-1.1056881?image=2). All this was unnecessary. Museveni’s response itself was not helpful and reminds me of Mubbarak’s addresses during the demonstrations.
Today Olara Otunnu walked to town with his supporters and nothing happened, and indeed police accompanied him. That’s what they should have done with Besigye.
People forget that this walk is not just about rising food and commodity prices. It’s about the president spending Ug Sh. 3.3 billion on his coming inauguration, spending US $1.2 on fighter jets, pouring the country’s resources down his re-election campaign & allege rampant corruption within his circles as Ugandans suffer. This walk is in part an expression of frustrations the majority of Ugandans have been facing after elections.
Time and again Museveni is not listening because he either feels comfortable (mistakenly) or he is misled by people surrounding him that things are fine and that Ugandans are indeed happy. Is it little wonder that after the “68 % victory” the country has not been stable? Look, the man has had 25 years to do something and has been given numerous chances. If he could not do anything in that time, even in 100 years he won’t. The government has failed people in many ways and people have a right to express themselves on this – even if they choose to walk. After the government claim they were voted into power to manage – if they can’t manage, as is happening, then they should quit. The walk is in part an expression of disapproval of government.
Time and again, through different fora, the government has been given suggestions to solving some of the country’s ills but they don’t pay any heed or even care. I have been in a number of discussions where various suggestions have been raised over time.
I agree with you that Ugandans are not fools. They are turning against the government of Museveni. I side with those who contend that this government has passed it’s time – and usefulness to Uganda. The following was my latest status update on facebook:
“It’s unfortunate it has reached this level. I see Museveni as a power-hungry autocrat and nothing more. It is a stand that I am not going to change and yes, I cannot hold a gun but my bush will be the tools of modern technology – a keyboard and a phone.”
Robert, when you talk about freedom of movement or expression, I think you are not talking about Uganda. Otherwise scores wouldn’t have been in prison or Museveni would not be making those unhelpful statements he does from Rwakitura. I am for a Uganda which is democratic and free. The current Uganda is not. The Museveni of 1980 went to the bush to fight the Museveni of today.
I made that statement you highlighted very consciously. Even Mubbarak could have contended that the demonstrators were breaking the law. Gbagbo could have easily charged Ouattara with treason. And yes, they had hordes of youths that did the bidding for them – mostly violently and irrationally.
I spoke on 702 Talk Radio about MTN in Uganda. Swaziland opposition has accused MTN of blocking their communication when they were organising demonstrations that took place there. What I said on radio is that MTN is facing similar accusations from Ugandan opposition in relation to the past elections in Uganda and I explained the accusations. That’s a fact. Those accusations exist and that’s what I said. I was in fact planning a follow article in the newspaper. 702 later asked me to connect them to some people in Uganda they could speak to and I did. They were also going to speak to MTN Uganda to get their side. I also got in touch with Business Day newspaper about the same issue.
On this statement “I see Museveni as a power-hungry autocrat and nothing more”, oh yes, that’s my opnion. That’s my personal summation of him and nobody else has to agree with me. The only mistake I made was, I was supposed to write “..and nothing less” instead of “nothing more”. That’s just a grammer bit but it does not affect the fact as I see it. My blog https://ugandaspeaks.wordpress.com/ carries many of my opinions and analyses. Look, Mubbarak was an autocrat, but he was elected with over 80% of the vote at his last election. Ben Ali was elected with close to 90% only a year before he was thrown out by popular people’s revolts. Yes, 68% of 40% is still something but if more registered voters, including those on the NRM register, stayed away than those who voted Museveni, then I would be very cautious before jumping around with champagne. Is there any wonder that the country hasn’t settled and people haven’t been free since that “popular” vote?
Yes, I am for a democratic Uganda, a Uganda where leaders work for the country, a Uganda where people’s liberties are respected and a Uganda where I will be proud of my leadership.
Today, I asked that “Is Museveni becoming the new Amin?” and somebody asked that “Is Kayihura the new Maliyamungu?”, and I am really pondering over these questions.
I hope to see a Uganda that will make our children proud of the work we did.