Stop faking holiness. You supported and defended a government that banned all activities of political parties
THE LAST WORD:
Last week, Oxfam Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, accused me of losing my soul by “supporting dictatorship” and “defending gross human rights abuses”. I asked her to name a single incident where I had defended human rights abuses or dictatorial actions and she could not. I suspect that for Ms Byanyima, writing an article arguing that Uganda’s economy has sustained growth of 6.7% over the last 30 years means “supporting dictatorship” and writing another article criticising her husband, Kizza Besigye’s, campaign proposal equals “defending gross human rights abuses.”
However, the immediate spark of the Twitter spurt was her claim that police blocked her from accessing her home, an act I immediately condemned. But I had reminded her that use of police to harass opposition politicians in Uganda is not new. In fact, it was much more rampant in the early years of NRM when she was close to President Yoweri Museveni – both literally and figuratively. Her husband was the Minister of State for Internal Affairs (in charge of police and prisons) and later National Political Commissar and blued-eyed cadre of Museveni.
In response Byanyima tweeted: “My record on human rights is in the CA and the parliamentary Hansard. Get me right Mwenda, I have used every platform I have had to advance human rights.” That is of course true and nothing but the truth. But it is also true that in 1986, Byanyima lived in Museveni’s State House as a closet First Lady and also wore military fatigues as a soldier in the NRA. During this period human rights were an exotic luxury not enjoyed by many Ugandans, especially in northern Uganda. The NRA was fighting remnants of the defeated army. It sometimes conducted a scotched earth policy – burning granaries, looting cattle, and conducting mass arrests called panda gari. Suspects were tied Kandoya, summarily executed, and in some cases, like in Boro-Coro allegedly burned alive in a pit.
In 1991, NRA declared Operation North commanded by Gen. David Tinyefuza (now Sejusa and a leading anti Museveni soldier-cum politician), an operation that human rights groups condemned for its brutality. Before this, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, George Kanyeihamba (a new face of the democracy movement) went to the NRC (then-parliament) and pushed through a law that gave the state unlimited power to arrest without trial anyone suspected of collaborating with rebels. He even went to Makerere University to defend this law.
As Byanyima enjoyed the pleasures of power inside State House, the NRM government banned all activities of political parties through Legal Notice Number One of 1986. Meanwhile police under Besigye was arresting scores of opposition politicians: Yona Kanyomozi, Paulo Muwanga, Samwiri Mugwisa, Edward Rurangaranga, James Rwanyarare, Adonia Tiberondwa etc. They were all sent to jail for no other reason except that they were in UPC. Police arrested even DP politicians that were allied with NRM – Andrew Adimola, Andrew Kayiira, Zachary Olumu, Ojok Mulozi, Evarasto Nyanzi, Tibero Okeny etc. Those who were not in jail were in exile. Today, there is not a single senior politician in jail – even Besigye is either free or occasionally under house arrest in his luxurious home.
@Winnie_Byanyima So why did u remain for a decade and more supporting a govt that violated your core principles?
— Andrew M. Mwenda (@AndrewMwenda) May 7, 2016
There were more people (politicians and ordinary people) charged with treason in the period 1986-1990 than in the entire history of Uganda before and since. There is no record of Byanyima or Besigye denouncing these gross abuses of human rights and draconian policies and practices. How then can Ms Byanyima accuse me of supporting dictatorship and gross human rights abuses yet refuse to name just a single incident to substantiate her allegations? On the contrary, the evidence of complicity in human rights abuses against Ms Byayima is overwhelming.
Byanyima joined the NRA in 1985 when the government of Milton Obote was accusing it of being a terrorist organisation that was looting banks, cooperative stores and blowing up ambulances. These were violent actions that were causing deaths of innocent nurses and patients. In fact Obote and many UPC have accused NRA of conducting most of the killings in Luwero. Byanyima says this illegal and violent usurpation of power was “liberation.” Why did Byanyima think that NRA would somehow employ violent means to acquire power but would somehow hesitate to use similar methods to retain it? If Uganda has a “criminal regime” as Ms Byanyima and her husband claim, they were instrumental in constructing and consolidating the culture of criminality as an instrument of politics.