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Can Besigye do a Mandela?

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Why the opposition leader cannot dare seek a compromise with Museveni because he would be accused of selling out

Now that we have finished mourning and burying Nelson Mandela, we can celebrate his life by asking ourselves: can opposition leader Kizza Besigye act like him? If he tried, what would happen?

I use Besigye because he claims, like Mandela, to be fighting a corrupt and repressive government.

Besigye has been jailed many times; charged with heinous crimes like rape, murder and terrorism. He is always being beaten, teargased and pepper sprayed by police. His brother has been killed, his wife and siblings sent to exile, his supporters killed and imprisoned and much more. There is not a single scar of repression one can think of, that Besigye does not carry.

 

Mandela’s greatest act of political boldness was in initiating secret talks between him and the apartheid government. This was against the stated policy of his party, the ANC and without seeking its approval.

Assuming Ugandans found out that Besigye had contacted Museveni secretly suggesting talks about political reform; that he did this through Kale Kayihura, the chief of police, who actually torments Besigye. Consequently, that Museveni and Besigye have held a couple of secret meetings. That Museveni even put Besigye in a nice house near Entebbe with a swimming pool, a personal chef and other comforts so that he can be nearby whenever they need to meet.

Remember that when Mandela initiated the talks with apartheid rulers, he was removed from Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town to Victor Verster Prison in 1988. Here, he was put in a beautiful house with sofa sets, television, cooker, freezer, refrigerator, microwave, a swimming pool, a personal chef, and a wine cellar filled with all clans of wine.

He was allowed to receive and entertain visitors. He held regular meetings with the chief of intelligence, Neil Bernard, and the minister of justice (who was in charge of police and prisons), Kobie Coetsee. He would be driven around Cape Town and taken to shopping malls and restaurants “so see how things had changed.”

What if during discussions with Museveni, Besigye realises something deeper inside Museveni; a fear of the consequences of leaving power. What if Besigye comes to realise that to promote political reform, the opposition need to appreciate the anxieties of Museveni and those close to him?

That may be their brutality is not driven by greed for power but the consequences of losing it; and that rather than fight them, they need to be seduced to give up power. (This is exactly what Mandela realised in prison talking to apartheid leaders).

Then Museveni stops beating Besigye on the streets. He openly declares that Besigye should be left free to appear on every radio and television and address rallies at every place of his choice.

In return, Besigye now begins to address rallies, appearing on television and radio and writing in newspapers. Everywhere, he says that Museveni and his people have genuine fears; that their ill-gotten wealth will not be confiscated, that their crimes against the people of Uganda will not be punished.

That he has talked to Museveni and finds him a man of integrity (Mandela actually said this of F.W. de Klerk). Besigye then makes a case that Uganda needs to reconcile popular aspirations for democracy with deep seated fears in Museveni and his people for justice and retribution. That to bridge this gap, the opposition must put in place “structural guarantees” that all property that Museveni and his people accumulated corruptly will not be touched.

I actually believe that whatever political reform Uganda seeks will require a leader or leaders willing to take such a position. The Museveni administration cannot be compared to the apartheid regime and Besigye’s suffering, though high, is not like that of Mandela.

Therefore, there is greater chance for political bargaining in Uganda than was under apartheid South Africa. What would be the reaction of opposition activists to Besigye’s new stance? Of course they would denounce him as sell out.

Mandela faced this challenge. The ANC in a semi-official circular accused him of selling out and instructed its leaders not to deal with him. Mandela remained involved in the talks because of his belief in the correctness of his decision, his integrity and his willingness to risk his political career in pursuit of what he thought was the right thing to do.

People forget that both Botha and de Klerk also risked everything to talk to Mandela because their supporters considered any such move as selling out to a terrorist and also as a show of weakness. The lesson is that often, our leaders are held from doing the right thing because of fear of being misunderstood by their followers.

All too often, we forget that Mandela is seen as a hero today because he succeeded. If his efforts had failed – and there was a high likelihood they would – he would have gone done in history as one of the world’s worst sellouts of the 20th century.

With the benefit of hindsight now, we see all his actions as having been right. Without hindsight, Mandela was indulging in an extremely risky undertaking. However, Mandela realised from the outset that the worst risk was fear to take any risks at all.

In 2011, I and Besigye’s close friend Conrad Nkutu tried to organise talks between Museveni and Besigye and almost succeeded. Besigye sent Museveni seven conditions for them to begin talks. Museveni accepted all of them without amendment.

Museveni sent Besigye four conditions; Besigye rejected all of them. Museveni was undeterred and agreed to withdraw all his conditions so that talks could begin. Besigye failed the talks on a very minor technicality i.e. to declare that there was a legitimate government to negotiate with. Indeed, everyone I have told this has sighed and grieved.

This was not because Besigye did not see the necessity of the talks or the potential contained in the opportunity. The attempt failed because Besigye feared his own supporters would misunderstand him; they would think he had been compromised to admit that Uganda has a legitimate government in power.

At a meeting at his home (attended by me, Nkutu, Winnie, Sam Njuba (R.I.P), and Augustine Ruzindana), these FDC leaders told Besigye to be transparent and inform the party instead of doing things secretly.

Yet the best way to kill such delicate talks is to make them transparent and democratic. For then people begin playing to the gallery rather than to their conscience. There is still a chance for such talks but it requires someone to place their political career at risk. Can Besigye do it?

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Comments (61)Add Comment
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written by pacol, December 21, 2013
Oh please! Delusional crap!
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 21, 2013
I absolutely agree: negotiating political concessions for the ultimate price of political reconciliation, national unity and stability is the best way for Uganda. The reason why this is necessary but extremely difficult is paradoxically the same. Those in power hold extreme drive to retain it at any cost; those who seek to wrestle power seek to do it at any cost! This creates two hostile extremes with the effect of political stagnation and polarization that cripples any meaningful desired political reforms. Yet this would be the most easy and less costly option at all fronts. Unless both sides are willing to offer such political compromises through negotiated fora, we'll remain condemned to our same sad old history of political turmoil and bloodshed.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 21, 2013
Uganda and not Apartheid South Africa
The conditions that pertained Apartheid South Africa were totally different from those that are currently rocking Uganda's political boat. I think Mwenda has addressed himself more to the methods of violence meted out by the minority government of S. Africa than focusing on the issues (causes) that framed those reactions. Apartheid had only two colours- anything that wasn't white was regarded as "Black." This created a bi-polar S. Africa and Mandela was the de facto leader of the Africans, Asians, Hispanics and anything that fell in-between.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 21, 2013
This did not only give him leverage in mobilizing support but also an edge in formulating and articulating his grievances towards the oppressive regime. The same cannot be said about Uganda were the Museveni government has opened up a number of oppressing fronts. Unfortunately, Besigye is not the only victim of Museveni's oppressive rule. For instance, the Buganda Kingdom saw the wrath of the intolerant government during the Kayunga riots. So, if Besigye were to meet President Museveni , whose views would he be representing?
Secondly, out of the 10 Pollsmoor Prisoners, it was only Mandela who was still in jail by 1990.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 21, 2013
There are two extractions that I would like to draw from this. One is that, if Mandela was to be labelled a 'sell out' he was the last 'buy' after the likes of Sisulu, Mlangeni, Mhlaba, and Kathrada among others. However, if Uganda was to hold any arrangement towards reconciliation such arrangements would place that person in a precarious position of someone advancing personal views/interests other than those of the group that he seem s to represent. This is compounded by the fact that we have a fractured opposition (not that it not issue based.) The other derivative is that, though Mandela was willing to reconcile, it is the government that initiated the negotiations.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 21, 2013
This is brought out by two facts, 1) Mandela being the last person to get out of jail and 2) His unconditional release out of jail. This was manifestation enough that the jailers were ready and willing to let him free at no cost. Could they have realised their mistake? I do not think that President Museveni has realised any mistakes. The counter argument would be that, the President accepted all the 7conditions presented by Dr. Besigye even when Besigye quashed those of the President. The President's gambit was one of 'legitimacy' and had Besigye fallen for this, we would by now be visiting him in limbo- political limbo.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 21, 2013
In all this I am trying to draw away the sentiments of "individualisation of politics" and focus on "institutionalising of politics." In Uganda, it is not the time and place to play a 'Mandela.' In a country of more than 56 tribes, different religious affiliations and where the oppressor is part of us demands a situations more than just a 'bi-polar' country and we stage a united front of a true national reconciliation committee which will formulate the agenda and modalities therein. I beg to move.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 21, 2013
Going by your story, I would wish to implore you and Nkutu, the chief mediators, not to lose the ground but press further for political reconciliation. While Besigye is portrayed in the story as the negotiation's spoiler, his position can be understood for mistrust of Museveni and fear of hostility from his supporters, especially in the event that the process flops. What's most needed now is for you the architects to build confidence (and trust) in the process, and engaging a few other key stakeholders to accord the process the national character and importance. The road-map to achieving this would be negotiated by all the actors; and allowed as much flexibility as to the dictates unfolding during the process. For this noble duty to our nation's future, I would pledge to play part!
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written by STEVEN NSUBUGA, December 22, 2013
Rajab Kakyama’s poignant analysis is patently truthful. While Uganda’s situation pales in comparison to that of apartheid South Africa, Uganda has borrowed extensively from the torture rules that apartheid South Africa employed. One would wish that m7 would actually borrow from the realism that engulfed the minority regime when their political calculus determined that to deviate from negotiations would extinguish their future and that of their children into a bottomless abyss, the arrival of which was just a matter of time. Conversely, M7’s calculus is not realism but trickery. He is a trickster whose line of thought is that “we win or they lose!”
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written by STEVEN NSUBUGA, December 22, 2013
He is not capable of being magnanimous to give the country Uganda , a fresh start. He believes that he can drug this till his demise. There is no history in M7’s DNA of having negotiated with anyone in good faith. Indeed there are so many references for anyone interested to retrieve. How many times has he negotiated with Kabaka? How about Lutwa? Kabila? Kikwete? How can I spite Besigye for being cautious then?
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
In its telling of the political calculus of State House in its dealings with the opposition, this piece represents a break from the narrative traditionally hawked in this rag. The typical telling casts the opposition as an extremist and violent fringe element of Ugandan political life divorced from the concerns of the majority of the nation's citizens.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
That the opposition should amount to nothing more than a political 'fringe' is important to this portrayal for at least two reasons: first, it works to undermine the notion that opposition demands arise from a base of significant popular support and so to imply that the opposition is the property of a selfish, anti-democratic elite; the second is to insulate the government from calls to engage with the opposition and hence to encourage the government into asserting a disputed authority earned in elections the legitimacy of which the opposition challenge.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
So, given the usual story that seeks to project the government's power, we have something very different here, a tacit concession that the administration is embattled, that (with good reason) it does doubt its own legitimacy, that it has arrived at a grim endgame the worst consequences of which it now seeks to avoid by way of negotiation. Why, after all, would a popular government with a renewed electoral mandate voluntarily negotiate away its power to a constituency that it thought presented no threat to its standing?
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
The answer, of course, is that it would not. And that is why the importance of the attempt to sound out a negotiated transfer of power must be acknowledged (if indeed that was what was under negotiation). Because it concedes what to many has been obvious for a long time: that heat is being felt by the ruling party; that its anxieties are running high.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
It does say much that, in the midst of the NRM's dark night of its political soul, the apparent fixation of its leadership is with the retention of their wretched property, their silly trinkets - the tank-like cars and tasteless mansions, the frivolous baubles that most did nothing to earn but over which almost all are willing to hold Uganda ransom. It should surprise us little that a den of idle crooks who would founder under conditions, not even of perfect, but of slightly less rigged competition, should seek to hold fast to their diminishing power and angle for terms that seek to preserve their advantage.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
Contemptible as most of these NRM know-nothings are, I say take the deal and hustle this unimpressive crew out of office. If to let thieves make off with their swag is unconscionable to some, those with offended sensibilities should know this: without the shield of power to protect them, most ruling party operatives (who lack skills and, in any case, are demonstrably ill-suited to productive work) will never be heard of again. Then can Uganda move on. For Uganda must move on.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
And I for one am not prepared to die or to see my family and friends killed in the course of a violent political showdown that could have been avoided if some status anxious generals and their civilian patsies had been allowed to keep their Range Rovers.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
Incidentally, Andrew - if indeed, as you allege, Besigye did reject 'talks' with M7 without preconditions because he feared how his base would react to his participating in such an affair, do you think that Besigye will be more or less inclined to entertain the offer of another such negotiation in the future if he thinks that one of the brokers will blame him in the press for the talks' failure, as you have done here?
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
By ignoring all political sensitivities (the same sensitivities you accuse Besigye of failing to show to his adversary M7) and blowing the cover on the offer of such talks, do you think that you have made future such talks more or less likely to happen? Is it not you who is the spoiler?
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written by Raymond, December 22, 2013
Negotiations make sense when parties are not only willing to accept their mistakes, view issues clearly,(but)and more so willing to take steps to redress them. Museveni is on record for not respecting agreements that significantly reduce his grip on power. He relies on illegal institutions so much to retain his grip on power. Thus it is highly unlikely that Museveni would implement an arrangement that ensures good politics as this would reduce his grip on power and make him vulnerable.
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written by Raymond, December 22, 2013
It is most likely that Museveni wanted to use negotiations as an opportunity to trap and dup Besigye, and then expose him & make him irrelevant by refusing to implement the resolutions like what Mugabe did to Kyangalayi. Obviously such a move wld have increased Museveni's legitimacy. Thankfully, Besigye was visionary enough. Like he has always been since breaking away.
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written by Raymond, December 22, 2013
Negotiations also succeed where parties in conflict have exhausted each other or where there is an existential threat & a genuine desire to correct the wrongs. In Uganda, the situation seems not to ripe ( even though it cld be) as far the ruling party is concerned ( from how they behave & out of touch with reality). In such a context, to achieve any genuine outcome esp. by the opposition was always going to be hard. Therefore, not entering the negotiations was as good as entering them.
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written by Ricky Peter Nabende, December 22, 2013
That was a thoughtful article. However it errs in the important point of comparing the two situations of Apartheid South Africa, and the brutal dictatorship in Uganda. The fundamental point is that in South Africa the negotiations commenced with an implicit acknowledgement- by both sides- that the effect of a successful negotiation would be for the illegimate Apartheid government leaving power(BOTH PARTIES UNDERSTOOD THAT)
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written by Ricky Peter Nabende, December 22, 2013
Secondly as Mandela himself acknowledged, the fundamental point of the negotiations was not Mandela's personal situation, but South Africa's future as a majority black democratic state. I agree with Besigye's rejection of the negotiations, because the equally- illegimate Ugandan dictatorship- seems not to be interested in negotiating itself out of power. You cannot expect Besigye to sacrifice his most precious possession( the trust of the Ugandan people) for anything less.
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written by Omeros, December 22, 2013
Dear Mr. Nabende, great post, Sir. You are quite right.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 22, 2013
From my reading, Mwenda's posting is underpinned by the fundamental assumption, to which I principally agree, that negotiation offers the best way out of the current political stalemate between the ruling NRM, which retains herself in power by flouting all the principles of democratic citizenship, and the belligerent opposition, which seeks to wrestle power at any cost, including the ultimate price of innocent bloodshed. The article assumes, quite correctly, that the stalemate, which seems to grow worse with its corresponding horrendous effects, is both undesirable and avoidable. From this stand-point alone, the article makes a strong realistic base.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 22, 2013
It is abundantly obvious that apartheid South Africa and current dictatorial Uganda offer different cases realities, in certainty no two different settings can offer accurately the same situation, but the effect of both to human suffering is fundamentally the same; and credible lessons can surely be drawn from Mandela to inform the right course of action in Uganda today. Fear, though genuine, should less be on government’s ability to acknowledge its faltering legitimacy, but being made, if need be, coerced, to concede as such. This is why the role of, preferably, an apolitical mediator, becomes crucial.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 22, 2013
Certainly intricacies of any mediation process will abound, much so in Uganda where both sides would seem less inclined to engage for reasons already articulated in the above postings. Beyond public chorusing of popular support, am sure NRM is fully aware of its misgivings although its stalwart cadres may not be willing to publicly acknowledge. However, once a trustworthy process is enunciated and made a matter of public concern, within it overwhelming admissions would be generated. My belief is that meaningful commitment to noble cause should easily overcome the fear to begin.
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written by Rwasubutare, December 22, 2013
Truly, does Besigye, a Makerere trained medical doctor deny that there is a legitimate government leading Uganda? I did not know that politics is that filthy; or that a medical professional with prospects of being a world class person with option of being any country' s national and a respectable person of any cream society could sink so low as to go in the trade. It is like a priest turned pickpocket. Come on Dr Besigye, it is time to stop the circus. You could even get some word-sharp guy to publish a bestseller and swim in gravy from proceeds.
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written by Patrick Mutebi, December 23, 2013
Can Museveni do a Mandela (leave power and go back to his home and rest)???????
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
"the belligerent opposition, which seeks to wrestle power at any cost, including the ultimate price of innocent bloodshed". This is phoney centrism at its very worst. A certain type of erstwhile Movementist simply must construct the image of a violent and menacing opposition if only to give himself the psychological space to admit that the party he once supported has "flout[ed] all the principles of democratic citizenship".
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
That characterisation of the opposition, however, comes at the expense of the truth. The opposition does not send kiboko-wielding thugs onto the streets to rough up their opponents. It does not send armed paramilitaries to the courts to arrest suspects had up on politically motivated charges whom it fears the judges may acquit. It does not spit in the face of habeas corpus and consign citizens guilty of no crime to safe houses.
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
It does not beat and harass its opponents' leaders, kill their family members and force their kin into exile. None of those things does it do. Those are the sins of the ruling party. It is appropriate that the excesses of the ruling party should shame their supporters into contrition (at any rate the public-spirited ones). However, a fear of the popular resentment that those excesses have caused need not force one time Movementists into embracing a dishonest account of their opponents.
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
The NRM's need to tar the opposition with the brush of its own squalid example speaks of its own acute anxieties. If Uganda's broken politics are to be mended, NRM folk will have to set their cares aside and negotiate in a spirit of openness and honesty. That means not pretending that the crimes of the government were committed by the opposition.
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written by OJA, December 24, 2013
In this article it is again Besigye who ends up being the black sheep! Who didn't expect that?
Apartheid, by the time of Mandela's secret negotiations, was a derided organisation slapped with economic sanctions and all sorts of international dislikes. The leaders had no way because partly the economy was now in shambles.
Mr Mwenda, which M7 gov't is being ridiculed by the international community, slapped with sanctions and the economy in shambles because of political oppression, so boxing it into a corner-thereby forcing it to accept talks? You know your master and benefactor very well. He is the greatest hypocrite of our time. Don't think you can sweet-talk and mollify us with your insipid article!
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written by peter, December 24, 2013
if u realize mwenda is point here is to let theives thrive with their loot.....we say no..let them be accountable....mwenda have u stolen anything yourself? why are you so afraid...
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 24, 2013
I soulfully enjoy Omeros's writings, I wish I had half his skill. Even in disagreement, I feel fully graced. When the opposition chose not to go to court after the 2011 polls –I would have done the same, had I been in their shoe –they promised to bring down the 'contested' regime, before even the end of its term, through an Arab spring-like tsunami. Certainly, this dream was to be executed on streets through demonstrations. I feel inclined to admit, with utmost regret, that demonstrations on Kampala streets with the sole aim of toppling a regime aren't as entertaining as attending the Ndere traditional dance or enjoying the Ebonies' theatrics at Theatre Labonita.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 24, 2013
Aware of the opposition’s avowed intention, the police, faithful to its constitutional mandate of keeping law and order, could not, understandably, take anything for granted. The police might be accused of all its heinous excesses, but there was an underlying genuine cause for action. As a distant observer, who is affected in many ways, am pained to believe the opposition’s extreme option attracted a corresponding extreme for regime’s self-preservation. Without apportioning blame, both extremes are exercised with ultimate price: bloodshed. It is these extremes that to me justify the need for a negotiated way forward.
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
Denis, do you really think Besigye's rhetorical flourishes to be the equivalent of the actual deaths meted out by the government? Does the act of walking to one's place of employment in the morning amount to a plot to oust the government which must be brutally repressed? Intransigent Southerners thought Dr. King a violent troublemaker for his campaign of civil disobedience. Would you have been among those calling him a terrorist? Would you, like the British colonial administrators, have branded Ghandi a security threat?
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
Even the sainted Mandela who never renounced the MK - an actual paramilitary outfit that carried out bombing campaigns, would you have called him a warlord and merchant of death? Besigye has nothing of the organisation of a King, a Ghandi or a Mandela, but like the adversaries of all three, you attempt to undermine his legitimacy by writing him off as a terrorist even as you pretend to favour entering into negotiations with him. Such an attitude - one replete with a justificatory logic - casts doubt on the seriousness of the intent to reconcile.
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
Please do not hide behind constitutionalism to defend the actions of the police. If the police really were to act within its constitutional mandate and so uphold freedom of association and freedom of assembly, it would not rush to arrest opposition politicians and their lawyers without just cause. It would treat opposition demonstrations as legitimate civil gatherings, not as conventions of treason and their attendees as traitors and enemies (which explains the brutal approach to crowd control).
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written by Omeros, December 24, 2013
The police are very much part of the problem. They are far more executive-minded than the executive - a thing of little surprise since it is an organisation has been commanded by a succession of soldiers and regime loyalists. At an institutional level it is a partisan organisation. Surely that much you would not dispute.
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written by Namara, December 25, 2013
Denis & Musinguzi, you two carry on. I admire the brilliance of these two chaps. A good German friend of mine who started following events about Uganda from the Ugandan lens & also a admirer of you and Obbo, wondered in our conversation recently, why all the brilliant chaps Uganda has cannot challenge the existing status quo in our polity. Living in German and watching only hungry kids used by NGO's to fundraise, she thought Africa had a human resource capacity constraint not to ensure the reversal of such and was so surprised to find such a level of debate. Congs brothers & AM who brings various topics .
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written by Namara, December 25, 2013
Sorry the first sentence above should read (Denis & Omeros). Moving on my response to a German friend was simple: I referred her to Bates Urban Thesis & to dig deep about our social structure and how elites are co opted by leaders. We then debated about the prevailing situation in Uganda and both concluded that Besigye made a very good decision to decline the negotiations. I won't go into the reasons why, as omeros in his superb writing, Raymond et. al, have pointed them out. Denis, I wish I could also match you are writing skills too. Your style is really good but you need to try and see things in broader perspective.
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written by Omeros, December 25, 2013
Dear Namara, thank you very much for your kind comments. Just to be clear, I am very much with Andrew Mwenda and those who would rather that a deal be done with the NRM to secure a peaceful transfer of power. I will wretch watching such a deal be done. But, frankly, even to wretch will be a self-indulgent response because the trivial consumer fripperies that most high level NRM functionaries are fighting to defend are not worth the potential loss of life that a destructive war to bring about their removal will entail.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 25, 2013
Omeros, that the police is part of the problem is beyond dispute. Certainly, not for police's own sake, but as an agent and regime’s chief architect of mischief. I contend though police's brutality is not the primary problem, but the problem's most manifest symptom. Honestly, I wouldn't wish to be carried away by symptoms, neither in analysis nor activism, but rather face the problem itself. By the way, it would be utterly erroneous to hold many police officers pride in what they do. A deliberate sharing revealed, with shock and surprise, most operate under the regime’s heavy handicap.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 25, 2013
To this extent, I find the problem unfortunately far more complex than Namara would want me surmise. The problem is the regime hell-bent on retaining power, as I said, by flouting all the principles of civilized and democratic citizenship. Sadly, I also believe part of the problem is the opposition’s failure to understand the ultimate nature of the problem and its complex manifestations, and hence devising appropriate strategy to deal with the problem. Walk-work-work campaign, legal as it may be, only passes as mere rhetoric to someone oblivious of its political organizational capacity and the potency of its destructive effect in the face of the repressive regime.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 25, 2013
And, if I must admit, I hold with contempt many human rights analysts and activists, who decry police’s brutality, defend political right to demonstrate, but fail to acknowledge the rights of many unconcerned actors whose livelihood is disrupted or life lost during political confrontations. And for record, my friend Omeros, NRM won my support only during 1996 and 2001 polls, not anymore thereafter. This doesn’t mean I don’t vote some NRM leaning leaders, if for anything but my belief in their ability to deliver. To be clearer, I found a political home in People’s Progressive Party (PPP), whose non-confrontational culture I treasure and have played role to nurture as party policy.
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written by Denis Musinguzi, December 25, 2013
I wish to hold, with sorrow and yet with utmost firmness, the solution out of the political stalemate that our generation was unfortunate to live with, and which continues to tear down our motherland unabated, would be not to roundly castigate the police and other regime’s brutal agents, but rather to articulate their fragile plight and reach out to them as affected citizens. This may not stop their brutality under command, but would win significant part of their secret vote during polls. NRM is not unaware of its glaring pitfalls, and would succumb if credible process is mounted. This is the very reason I would bet for negotiation, both as feasible and less costly solution.
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written by Omeros, December 25, 2013
The police are very much worth condemning because they do their job very badly. They are political actors and their actions directly affect the political climate. Most political demonstrations would pass without incident were they more sensitively (or sensibly) policed. There would be little if any loss of life or property if the police acted like a national agency rather than armed appendage of the government (or, in your words, the 'regime's brutal agent'). For as long as the police dispense two tier justice: one type for the ruling party and its cadres and another abridged form for the regime's opponents, it is worth exposing their role in prolonging Uganda's political crisis.
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written by Omeros, December 25, 2013
I do not know that the issues that constitute Uganda's political crisis are especially complex. At its heart, the issue is a relatively simple if old one: one group of people hold power and have become accustomed to exercising that power unaccountably to the extent of regarding that power to be theirs as of right; another group of people, shut out of power and deprived of its privileges, resent those who rule over them. The first group, conscious of their own abuses of power, fear reprisals should they ever relinquish or lose that power and so guard it jealously against those whom they fear would visit upon them the self-same abuses that they themselves have perpetrated.
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written by Omeros, December 25, 2013
The opposition are fully aware of the power dynamic at work. They have not been successful in adapting their tactics to fit the circumstances. But not every opposition movement ever settled upon the most appropriate tactics from the first.
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written by Erongot Moses, December 26, 2013
Blessed are the peace makers , says the Bible, for they shall be called sons of God. It is apparent that Uganda is bereft of peace makers.May God help us that in 2014 we should have more reconciliation among our leaders.If we had more peace makers a cross the political divide, Uganda would be a different place.
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written by pacol, December 27, 2013
Great debate guys! But a midst all this high level diplomacy and intellectual prowess I see the potential for genocide ! We are probably too old to get up and arm ourselves with pitchforks for the purpose of change and we are certainly lacking in the brain department as a nation to deliver "national reconciliation" M7 must make haste to go away peacefully and quickly on the nations terms! Otherwise the common man I speak to every day is livid, willing and able to create mayhem!
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written by pacol, December 27, 2013
And by the way this kind of genocide would be between the haves and have nots!
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written by Steven Nsubuga, December 28, 2013
Great insight Pavel and Omeros.Yours are arguments of those who have totally broken free of this murderous regime. Some in here are double speakers just like Muhenda hiding behind the constitution while people's rights are being abused. If I may remind these gentlemen how Hitler hid behind constitutional laws and how apartheid was constitutional, they may probably appreciate that sometimes you have to break the law to bust out of a despot's
oppressive chain.
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written by Steven Nsubuga, December 28, 2013
I meant Pacol....my bad bro.
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written by Omeros, December 30, 2013
Andrew, you had better have the goods on that person you excoriated on Twitter. You had better be prepared to show that that person is a genocidaire. Your claim is no small allegation to make against a person. If your evidence makes out your claims, then you should have no hesitation in bringing that evidence to the attention of the appropriate authorities so that @rwandankunda may be 'brought to justice' as you desire.
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written by Omeros, December 30, 2013
If you don't have the evidence, then you will have shown yourself to be every bit the cynic, willing to invoke the horror of one of the world's great human catastrophes to settle disputes with people whose arguments you find objectionable (objectionable as those arguments may indeed be). The implications for you are serious should your claims prove groundless. People will have less cause to consider you as a thinker and stimulator (in any constructive sense) of public debate or indeed as someone capable of partaking critically in disputations.
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written by Omeros, December 30, 2013
Rather, you will have given people cause to think of you as an authoritarian of the intellect, one whose capacity to influence is achieved by the negative means of threats and denunciations and an enforcer of conformity of thought. Needless to say, you don't want a rep as a policeman. So you had better have that evidence ready for inspection should you be called upon to offer it up. Please do not disappoint those who, however vociferously they may have disagreed with you in the past, think of you as a cultivator of the mind.
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written by atwiine, January 03, 2014
Menda, can Museveni even do a de Clark, negotiate himself out of power? why does the blame have to end with Besigye? you should really ask yourself whether you think M7 had the right motives for the talks other than to humiliate KB and leave him in the gutters. I honestly think it's not yet time to negotiate with M7. wait when all his grip on power is loose.

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