Political attacks worry Museveni’s cabinet: Observers say government is to blame over the growing political intolerance
Kampala, Uganda | AGATHER ATUHAIRE | Simeo Nsubuga, the Kasanda South Legislator is a short, small man with a gift of speech. This gift most likely earned him the parliamentary seat. But it appears the same gift or specifically how he has chosen to use it, has also earned him very angry enemies.
Like an enraged bull, a one Kyuma KyaYesu, jumped out of a crowd and pushed Nsubuga out of a queue of fellow legislators who had lined up to great the Kabaka of Buganda during his coronation ceremony on July 31 in Mubende.
Nsubuga’s crime, according to Kyuma KyaYesu, was campaigning for the removal of the age limit from the constitution—a move that has been heavily criticized as intended to allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his stay in power.
The incident, part of a growing trend, has sparked debate with critics saying government sowed its seeds and cabinet calling for strong action against such behavior.
The incident was so worrying to those in power—they scheduled and discussed it in the Cabinet meeting of Aug 4 and even issued a public statement.
“Cabinet took strong exception to the incident which occurred in Mubende at the celebrations to commemorate His Highness the Kabaka’s coronation where a one Ntege (aka ‘Kyuma Kyayesu ’) attacked Hon. Simeo Nsubuga in full public glare allegedly on account of the views Hon. Nsubuga holds on the proposed amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution being discussed in the public arena,” reads the statement issued by ICT and National guidance Minister Frank Tumwebaze.
While cabinet singled out the Mubende incident, it acknowledged a trend of “politically motivated intolerance among sections of the political class resulting into physical attacks on targeted people.”
Cabinet was right to be concerned. The incident is not isolated. Increasingly ordinary citizens have been attacking government officials whom they previously respected and feared in equal measure.
The most high profile attack was against Justice and Constitutional affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire at Namboole Stadium on July 21.
Otafiire was heckled by local leaders of local governments who had gathered at Nambole and one of them hurled a water bottle, splashing the water in it all over him.
The local leaders didn’t want the minister to address them because they preferred to have President Museveni listen to and address their issues.
A few days later on Aug. 11, another Minister, Betty Amongi of the Lands docket survived lynching when residents of Amuru led by local leaders and legislators blocked her and ministry surveyors from accessing a venue where she was scheduled to launch the survey of land for Amuru Sugar Works.
Again on Aug. 13, retired Brig. Kasirye Gwanga, sprayed fuel on a tractor that was grading disputed land on Entebbe road and fired shots using his pistol setting the tractor ablaze. Kasirye has defended his actions as intended to protect the land, which he says belongs to his daughter.
Some youths in Kasese had also earlier attacked Youth Minister Nakiwala Kiyingi and stopped her from addressing them.
These incidents have sent shockwaves and shaken those in power. Some government officials have expressed fear and sought state protection.
For instance, after the July 31 incident, Simeo Nsubuga cried out to parliament and to the police for protection. His colleague and major proponent of the removal of age limit Ibrahim Abiriga, the Arua Municipality MP has applied for a gun. He says a boda boda cyclist rammed into his car and ordered him out attacking him for his support of the removal of age limit.
This article reminds me of what Marie Antoinette allegedly said just before the French revolution. When told that starving French peasants lacked any bread to eat, the queen is alleged to have callously declared, “Let them eat cake!” There is no evidence, however, that Marie Antoinette ever uttered that famous quip. The short point is that she was part of the monarchy/ruling class that was so out of touch with the people that it inevitably led to the French revolution. Uganda today, it seems to me, sits on a precipice of a violent change, not because of ideological reasons but simply for survival. You cannot insidiously take away (in no particular order) peoples’ dignity, freedoms, identity and means of survival as has happened over the past 31 years and expect them them to sit back and applaud. When the scales fall from their eyes, there is no telling what they are capable of doing. BUT as there is a solution, one of which has been able put forward in the final paragraph of the article.