As the canisters of tear-gas lays in the street; remembering the day I first felt the fear of speaking against Mzee; I Still have hope for political change in Uganda!
“I will not say the fact that there are no European Union observers at an election means that it will not be fair and free” – Olesegun Obasanjo
In the midst of and in the end of the pre-election period 2016; the town of Kampala went into turmoil. The Military Police and ordinary Police went into a violent streak. That manifested itself at Jinja Road which turned into a war-zone like scenario; as in the aftermath the blood of the hurt and the diseased. Visible was the empty shells, the dust and dirt, even metal-boxes as murals of the tear-gas.
As the Police used force and hurt people to the extent that some blood touched the scorched earth and dust; the people in the area scattering in fear while the police continue to push them away as the resilience to the violence committed by the state. The sounds of bullets and metal hits the ground makes the tarmac shake. People we’re running; mixed sounds of shoes knocking grounds while the sounds of gas flowing into the air as the area goes from being casual to pink.
This is the signs and scenes of the 15th February in Kampala. The reactions and chaos as the Police went into the procession of Forum for Democratic Change to the planned rally at Wandegye and Makerere. So the continuation of violence from the state security outfits as the military, the police and the military police; as they have been tools in the machine hurting the public as they want to greet the opposition leaders in the sub-counties, towns and districts. There been steady violence against from the Police as the execution of the Public Order Management Act is more used then paper-towels at the Police Headquarters in Kampala. The sadness is all the hurt people and shot people during the pre-election period.
The reason why I got into Ugandan Politics was because I became a board-member or council member in a project supporting and building a library in the town Uvira in Southern Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Later I became an exchange student to Uganda. Where I read the Daily Monitor and the New Vision Daily; that together with the books I had read about the adventures of UPDF in DRC, I was still ignorant about the politics there. But the moment after staying in Uganda for month changed it for me.
What changed me:
I was on the way with a group going for a training conference in Mbale. On the way we stopped at a Total or any gas-station. While the Hiace we’re getting fuel. I was looking around the area as I lived in Kampala was curious about the environment. This was on the road and no big place. We had passed Mabira forest, but were not too far on the road to the bigger Eastern town. As I was looking it was this GIANT ad for NEW VISON. And saying something similar to this: “‘I am the only one with a vision” and “Publishing the Vision every day”. When I saw that and hadn’t thought well about it. I asked polity with a grin: “Are they serious, only one man with a vision?” The little moment of silence before he answered me: “You can say that, but I can’t; and please not speak about it”. That ate me and made me wonder; why we couldn’t speak about the wonders of the” man with a vision” in public by a gas-station. And why he wouldn’t’ say anything and asked me to not speak about it. On the broad daylight without anybody near us; hours later on the same day we would be stopped by Police and had to convoy to nearest police station; reason missing valid insurance card in the window. The same brother who wouldn’t want to speak about politics gave the Police men some money because of the hunger of the Police men. The first introduction to the bribery culture of East Africa! This day was an eye opener for me. How he could not speak his mind and question the one man with the vision that The New Vision printed his Vision every single day. I started to questioned the vision that they printed every single day.
The election violence in Uganda is massive and has been in all corners of Uganda. In Kabale, Soroti, Jinja, Maska, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Bukwo and so on. More than twice in Kampala as when Hon. Erias Lukwago started his campaign the Police shot a Journalist when he was planning to campaign. Later was the election violence ushered in by the Police before FDC campaign convoy could come to Makerere Rally on 15th February. The was violence at Jinja Road and at Wandegeya as they demonstrated that Dr. Kizza Besigye wasn’t allowed to campaign there. There been so many times during the calendar-year as the consultation meetings and also campaign rallies has been shut down by the Police and Army. Even campaign venues has been closed for the opposition leaders, while days before been open for NRM and President Museveni as Makerere, Kyambogo and Lira where opposition leaders at one point was not allowed to take part.
There is so many malfunctions and hurt people by the way the government security outfits has hurt both emotionally and bodily hurt that they have inflicted during the recent time. As the canisters and the left clothes is still lying in the corners of the streets. As they did in days after the Rukungiri where the FDC cars was demolished and the police shredded a woman’s respect.
The bullets and the tear-gas towards the general public is not an security issue, but an democracy issue, freedom of speech issue, and issue of trust between the public and the security organs. As the Electoral Commission is not trusted as the high payed leadership prays on the loyalty towards the regime. The NRM electoral Commission is highly flawed and the reactions to the primaries has been burning offices and membership cards, that was even happening in Nakawa Division as the Police turned against the happy celebrating people looking forward to be parts of Besigye’s rally that day. The result of the tear-gas and dispersing of the public instead of proving any steady progress! So the certified message is the tarnishing the venues of opposition while the ruling party keeps up as business as usual.
As my brother told me that day, that I should be silent and not talk about; I feel it still is the same and the reports make it feel the same; as the opposition has not the same rights as the ruling party. The violence ensures the fear and insecurity of a volatile state instead of bringing the positive changes the government might already have brought. Without the Police State and the Militarization of the Politics it might even brought in other type of investments that could have raised the economic climate in the country. As the export of natural resources and natural products instead of finished products and industry; as the assembled industry happens in other parts of the world, it could been in Uganda if the Government tried to pull that in and facilitate it or even used stronger Co-Operations between farmers to bring educating to earn more and yield better quality agricultural output instead of ending struggling to get the maize and matooke to the market. That is not bringing the men with cash-money in (to invest).
Certainly the fear and semi-democratic environment isn’t making the bargain, the talk I had with my brother; I am sure people are still having today even in the midst of the polls that starts in hours-time. As the conversation stays put in my mind and still eats my heart out. The issue of not letting the truth out or speaking their mind out; as the people has to stay put and silent as the ruling regime does as it please. Only giving away money to the villagers in pre-elections period to buy the votes, but when the ballots are gone, the representatives are long gone and forgotten the promises like old-sweethearts who never got the ring. The same seem to be with the talk of choice of the people and the right to speak your mind.
My brother and the conversation is why I am focused on Uganda Politics, as I can’t help that he didn’t have the ability to even comment the “only one man with a vision” paradigm in the country. The canisters and the shattered metal should not be stories. The blood and the toil of the people should not be story of the elections. The story shouldn’t be sad as the violence and spoken fear from the ruling party as they have the only man who can control the army and run the government; as the opposition doesn’t have the manpower to do so; which is lie the ruling party lives on. The ruling party uses security outfits to hurt the public and blame the opposition parties for their activities to deflect the issues of the campaign. Christopher Aine the diseased security agent for Hon. Amama Mbabazi the now opposition leader is the epitome and manifestation of government violence against civilians together with the one that lost his life on the streets of Kampala on the 15th February. Two people who have lost their life for a struggle that is far from over. The Democratic values is rendered down by time and cronies that has spoiled the potential as the movement system turned into the big-man system built with the head-of-state deciding it all; while giving when needed and taken the rest for himself or to his loyal fellows. This here together with the semi-autonomous and militarized politics as there so many former military men in the parliament the public knows the value of the elected or hand-picked men from on top is on the scale they can follow the chain-of-command instead of delivering the pledges and governmental service they deserves.
As it ate my heart out when my brother said he couldn’t talk about it years ago. It hurts to see the same state of affairs and struggles still, and it continues. It is time to let it pass and move to the next level of democratic values; and also good governance with state institutions serving the public instead of making the government officials fat and rich. That is not why the state and government exists; they exist because they supposed to serve the public, not for the governmental officials to take the money supposed to go. The same with the Security Organization as the Police and the Army, they follow the orders up high instead of serving the people and generating peace. As we saw on 15th February Kampala the Military Police didn’t secure the public, but made the citizen in fear and hurting them instead. That is the hurting to hear again and again, as the day is different, the place is different, but the opposition party and supporters are the ones in the cross-fire getting hurt for supporting the leaders of opposition instead of the old-man with the hat.
I never want to hear in any state that you can’t comment towards a ruling party, when that happens I know something is wrong. And knowing it still is like that with the canisters in the streets, the burned yellow membership cards in the bins and the people getting healed after police violence. The families losing their loved ones during the calendar year should not only vote, but only mourn the loss of the valuable people who was a part of the struggle to gain true freedom and respect for the people; as they now are now in invisible chains as the government keeps them tight knit in fear and in a police state using the militarized politics that ate my heart that day and haven’t let go. As I also understand is that the people who has lost their family members because of political affiliation; I understand if they don’t want to do their civic duty, still we all should and shall not forget the people who died for the cause. As we should not forget the people who are jailed and detained for following a political belief that counter the ruling-party and the NRM-Regime. And it wont until change that gives progression and let the accountability; the true transparency and let the will of the people shine as the template of the representatives that deserve to work-hard to be there for the citizens. Something that not been important, what has been is to be loyal to cadre-line and to Mzee! Peace.