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Are Ugandans docile?

The failure of effective protests to support the actions of MPs on the floor of parliament is evidence of its ideological nature and the uncertainty over its consequences.

Why last month’s scuffles in parliament excited the public but did not lead to popular protests

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Last week, poorly trained security operatives entered the parliament’s main chamber and removed opposition members who were protesting plans by the ruling party to amend the constitution to allow President Yoweri Museveni run in 2021. The issue in this debate is not really about allowing 75 year-olds to run for president. Rather people are concerned that this amendment will give Museveni a chance to extend his rule from 35 to 40 years. For many Ugandans this is a path to a life presidency.

The debate on the floor of parliament degenerated into fist and stick fights between security operatives and opposition MPs. Many MPs were bundled out of the House like chicken thieves, dumped into motor vehicles and taken to prison. All this drama was broadcast live on national television and streamlined live on social media. Yet there were no protests on the streets to support the position of MPs in parliament.

Meanwhile, on social media; especially Facebook, passions are running high. Ugandans are angry that Museveni wants to turn our republic into a monarchy. They call the amendment “rape of the constitution.” But if Ugandans are so passionate about this issue, why were they docile when MPs seeking to protect the constitution were assaulted and bundled out of parliament?

The behaviour of Ugandans is even more intriguing given that this debate was taking place in Kampala City which is surrounded by Wakiso District. This is the most urbanised area of Uganda with over two million registered voters. Its residents are the most educated, youthful, exposed and articulate sections of our society. And they have universal access to newspapers, radio and television and near-universal access to social media.

If this amendment spells doom for our country, how could the struggle of MPs in parliament not precipitate reaction from the public? It is not convincing to say the opposition could not mobilise because of the police. The residents of Kampala and Wakiso have access to Facebook, Twitter, Whats App and SMS, the best platforms for mass mobilisation. The government did not shut down social media. And no one censored newspapers or television and radio debate on this issue.

Let us accept, just for arguments sake, that the opposition actually tried to mobilize the masses to protest but people were afraid of being beaten by the police. Yet Uganda has had large protests before that lasted days in spite (and also because) of police brutality – the arrest of Kizza Besigye in November 2005, Kayunga riots in 2009 and Walk to Work in 2011.

The argument that Ugandans fear to protest because of police brutality does not hold. I agree that it is still early in this debate; so it is possible that as the debate progresses we may see larger protests. Yet I am inclined to believe this will need another issue (other than Museveni’s desire to rule for life) to galvanise many people to take to the streets. Hence, holding other factors constant, there is likely going to be no protests.


  1. I think the cause for lack or limited mass protest lies in what Paul Collier explains in his two books, The Bottom Billion, and War, Guns and votes. The main issue in the books is about political participation & income. When you consider his revised threshold of $2700 per capita for meaningful protests & Uganda’s current per capital of $615 you realize we have a long way to go. Kenya current income per capita is $1455 little wonder we have started seeing ‘some changes’. When people are so poor, the challenges are so immense & they easily surrender their rights.

  2. Andrew, you thought Museveni & Kagame would hand over before their current terms. For kagame you put a bet of $10,000. For Museveni you wrote many articles about his ‘forgiving’ & linked it to the his plan to retire then. You even asked Onyango Obbo to write about it & he bashed what you were thinking. He was proved right & so are many people who argued with you about that. So, always try to be evidence based & view things from a wider perspective. That will make your analysis balanced, convincing & less subjective as it usually comes.

  3. ejakait engoraton

    The reason why UGANDANS have not taken to the streets, despite their anger and dislike for M7 and his intentions to rule for life, either through spontaneous mass action, or through actions organised through a group or an individual, is because they know the reality.
    They have come to know that M7 is prepared to rule at ANY COST, including the killing/death of any number of people.They have seen/saw this with the Luweero war, to which the skulls , whose images he used in the 1996 elections to scare the masses, are testimony.
    Going to war with just 27 men and attacking a barracks and taking on the might of a national army , which had the support of the of the army Tanzania, where M7 had sought sanctuary and support during his exile 71-79, was an act of MADNESS.
    M7 knew very well that OBOTE did not have the EVIL streak in him to mount the kind of operation that was needed to flush him out of the bush, and he M7, knowing the sentiment of the people toward the OBOTE administration,literally held them hostage.
    The people of Uganda are not mad to commit an act of suicide against a person who is prepared to do anything and everything to stay in power.
    Nor do we have a person who is MAD and STUPID enough( Besigye has tried though he seems to know the limits) to want to lead people into what would be a MASSACRE as was the case in KASESE.

    • Now ejakait, it is important it iimportant that people be enlightened to stop wasting time in elections but spend time and money in more productive matters. I was arguing with a group of taxi drivers in Bakuli and my point was “If you cannot defeat him,join him,infitrate slowly and then tame him to your side”
      1. People ( a small enlightened group easy to form on whatsapp) should get a clever clean independent MP.
      2. Get him to introduce a motion that will intend to unite Ugandans who are opposed to each other. The only possible uniter is the Fountain of honour. Don’t mind about his shortcomings, a traffic policeman eats bribes 24/7 but still controls traffic and flow is smooth.
      3. Suspend elections of all elective positions for 15 years… of course replacements will be there where there are vacancies.
      4. Change the oath of allegiance and include “real potent words” so whoever deviates is punished swiftly and severely. Elders know the wording from which one cannot escape.
      5. Get the leaders to adhere to a certain mathematical performance contracts that anyone can assess and show performance or lack of it.
      6. Suspend for 5 first years all foreign persons,ideas,material and finance so they go back whence they came and reapply for entry.
      7. Form a MInistry of Implementation which will be have staff in every service provider (public and private) and empower it like the traffic police…their charge no appeal.

      • ejakait engoraton

        RWASUBUTARE, what you are suggesting now, is exactly the situation we had in 1986 when these people( even though unfortunately I count myself among them) came in.
        The goodwill that the administration had was immense, save for maybe some of the hardcore UPC and people were willing to give them a chance and they did in deed give them a CARTE BLANCHE.
        That is why we had the NO PARTY system, which was at that point MERITOCRACY.
        Even the so called WEST gave us the benefit of doubt, and if you know this greatly angered the KENYANS who were being told to open up their political space and a lot of what was being offered to them was on the basis of embracing multi party politics.
        AND yet UGANDA had the no party system and the AID taps were flowing at full capacity because we were considered a SPECIAL CASE.
        This would have been the time to consolidate those advantages and if M 7 for instance had got 2 or 3 corrupt persons and shot them at Nakivubo, no body would have said a thing.
        Instead he wanted to play to the international gallery, endear himself to the US, IMF, World Bank and ended up doing all the right things.
        If he done all the right things nobody would have wanted all this multi party business and every body would have seen them as spoilers trying to spoil the party.

  4. ejakait engoraton

    KYEYE, in his recent article, says what most people have known. That M7 cares for ABSOLUTELY no one, not even, or probably least of all, members of his family.
    M 7 only cares about himself and his desire or insatiable hunger to stay in power. It is claimed that the only person he cared about was probably his MOTHER and even that , I am not so sure.NO body who cares so much about their parents would wage a war against a regime they accuse of being evil, and leave their defenseless parents exposed. But this goes back to the fact that he knew well enough that OBOTE was not evil enough , just like AMIN was not evil enough to harm OBOTES parents, who instead were killed during M 7 s time.
    That is what informs the decisions of the people of UGANDA.
    HAPPY 55TH

  5. 1. Mwenda has more followers on Twitter than all opposition MPs on twitter combined even that Bobi Wine who is about to die coz of excitement just has 60,126 followers compared to Mwenda’s 213,316 the only IT skill the youth have is to install pass words on their phones so that their girlfriends don’t check messages on their phones.
    2. Ugandans are comfortable therefore; any uprising or rebellion will not happen soon.
    3. 70% of the population are youth who are in an era where life is good for example the ICT facilities are great,the hospitality is good tell me which youth would want to miss such facilities and what will they be doing in the grave??no youth will risk their lives for politics the ones who are pretending to die for politics are paid by activists. The rest of the Ugandans are so understanding and are taking one day at a time.
    4.Countries where uprising have been successful e.g Libya,Egypt,Tunisia it was because the youth there were just bored thats why they are into terrorism. In the Arab world, food and accommodation are not a problem.
    5. The world need good humanitarians activists like Bono,Maddona and Angelina Jolie
    6.Besigye was also dying to also be beaten like the MPs.
    7.Its good that govt is enforcing the dress code among civil servants we Lawyers are always so smart but at times you find ladies in office dressed in short skirts with slits as short as the tail of a goat.
    8. Pornography is at times used by gynecologists and obstetricians especially for the IVF treatment i hope those enforcing the pornography bill are aware of that.

    • I could agree with you more Winnie. I admire the way you put facts straight.
      1. Truly Mwenda asleep is still stronger than all those chaotic MPs who thought their violent acts would attract an embargo yet the REST of the world need Uganda needs the rest of the world. FACT
      2. Ugandans are not rebellious naturally, whenever there is a problem, they will seek a way out and being creative, a solution temporary or short time will be got.
      3. Youth,by virtue of not knowing the past always are content with the status quo… they know no past to compare it with. So even if you switch off all power generating stations, youth will do with the darkness, after all they adapt faster and better than elderly.
      4. Besigye may have been dying to be in Parliament but I think he is now outlawed there even in Public gallery; riotous people are not welcome anywhere.
      5. Gomesi was meant to make women decent. All men worth the name know what is inside the Gomesi, a man can even undress a woman who is dressed in concrete. it is the mind that works.
      6. Pornography may be used to treat dysfunction but so is radiation. It must be left in the hands of the trained ,qualified, certificated and licenced. porn is bad to kids.

  6. ejakait engoraton

    RWASUBUTARE, are you trying to put yourself in pole position for that WINNIE threat of hitching someone from this forum, and I guess you must have meant I could NOT……….
    Anyway, it is quite a shame when the well being or how far a nation has gone is measured by the number of youths who have mobile phones, and when the only time ones nation is on top of the charts is to do with people who can not read, write and do arithmetic (3Rs), or the highest intake of illicit brews
    FYI the ownership of mobile phones is just as high in Timbuktu or Burkina Faso, so that is not something to write home about.
    And someone talks about HOSPITALITY. Uganda is rated as one of the countries with the lowest level of CUSTOMER SERVICE , even just across the border in KENYA without talking about RWANDA, the level of customer service is that much higher and my brother RWABUSUTARE will bear me out in that not only the big hotels but even the roadside restaurant to nyama choma joint.
    That is why despite all the hype about gifted by nature and pearl of Africa rubbish, we have one of the lowest repeat /recommended tourist ratings.

    • Exactly ejakait (I could not agree with her more) and I also meant that The REST of the world need Uganda more than Uganda need the REST of the world. Uganda of the 60s and 70s was not heave but it was Paradise. Kenyans used to come by train to Busembatia,pick wild oranges,lemons and mangoes, fill bags and wait for the train from Kasese, load and take to Kenya ; without paying anyone a cent; noone extorted a bribe nothing. Uganda is suffering due to corruption and mismanagement but that can be rectified. What it requires is a leader with absolute powers. This democracy is introducing brilliant thieves or idiots as decision makers in affairs of state management. ejakait I once saw in Kenya a certain UN agency give ADRA (you know the nononsense Seventhday Adventists NGO) a logistics assignment and theft became history. There are very straight managers in Uganda and you know some of them yourself. A strong and no nonsense leader can remake Uganda the Paradise it was and even better.

  7. ejakait engoraton

    The best form of leadership/ governance is DICTATORSHIP, the type I presume that you and I and most people have in their homes, the same that our parents had.In that you try and do what is best for them and sometimes even prepared to sacrifice or even die for them if it means a better life now and maybe in the future for them.
    ONLY that it is preceded by a very important word – BENEVOLENT .
    And this in the case of UGANDA unfortunately we can not get from someone who has publicly professed that he is working for HIMSELF and his family, and that he is not anybody’s servant and that he all along had HIS own personal motives and if you thought his intentions and yours were the same when he went to the bush, and have found out the contrary, TOUGH LUCK.

  8. ejakait engoraton

    I think we have deviated a little bit from the main topic. I can also see that RWABUSUTARE is annotating his posts, as the Baganda say “ekwata omuganzi………………”

    Back to why UGANDANS may not riot, as I said, they know the character/s they are dealing with. In KK, M7 has found a very loyal servant , who I think M 7 only had to give a brief and he knows what his master wants without having to bother him for the so called orders from above. This is the reason his own son KAINERUGABA, MUHOOZI the person who is supposed to avenge for him, and the only avenging he dose is to **** the daughter of the man who defeated him in the 80 elections.For us cattle people, it is a great victory if your bull “climbs” the cow of your foe.At least MK has managed to do that.

    He was demoted because he was not as ruthless as the likes of ELWELU, and in fact even an embarrassment by hunting for KONY and only coming back with his guitar and rasta wig.
    A story is told how a commander who had been given a bloody nose by the NRA in the OBOTE days went to OBOTE and RWAKASISI to try and see how they could sort out this menace called M 7 , the leader of the bandits.
    So the commander was asked what he wanted to do. So he told MO and CR that the best way to flush M 7 out of the bush was to get his mother and father and send him a message that they were being held hostage and that he should abandon what he was doing.

    To the commanders amazement, the two burst out in prolonged laughter. He just could not understand the humor. They asked him if he knew the person he was talking about. They told him that if he knew and indeed managed to get the message to him, they knew what his response would be.
    They told him that the character would tell them to chop up his parents if they so wished and he would send them a SUFURIA big enough to boil them in, and a pickup of firewood from Luweero.
    THAT is the person we are dealing with.

    • Never mind Kakyama’s dig ejakait. His sense of cattle is when it meat on a plate. I will be insistent that M7 did not know or did not intend to convey what his words meant to the listeners when he said he works for himself or that he is not anyone’s servant. I will give you reasons and you may analyse.
      1. M7 spoke in English and you know the said language is foreign,challenging and is full of slips (count mentally those you have made) and is not the right language to use when one is angry.
      2. M7, even if he meant it was wrong on two counts namely (i) since he has but one personal stomach to fill and that too for less than 20 years, why does he toil like a slave, knowing only too well that he won’t take his accumulated wealth (never mind its source) on the other side. (ii)why does he bother assisting people who are so far divorced from his immediate gains (like South Sudan, Rwanda,South Africa or Indians) while his chances of ever being reciprocated by some are minimal or zero? It is because he has other motives that are not personal at all whether he is aware or not.
      3. As for the military commander’s story, it must be a caricature. MO or CR in their most cruel state could not even in their dreams consider harming a harmless person like the elderly pastoralists who M7’s parents were….not even if they(MO and CR) had information that the parents sent M7 assistance in the bush. Do you know Sebadduka shot MO, intending ti kill him, was caught and sentenced to death but MO refused to sign his death warrant? Any killings that were done during MO’s reign were incidental not deliberate by MO. Differentiate between the man and his office ejakait.
      4. As for your bull climbing the enemy’s heifer, it is reconciliation. And remember M7 says he is a chameleon; has no permanent enemies or friends….don’t know whether that includes his family but it can’t be because those who have lived close to him say he has the most sensitive feelings. He gets attached to even widows and orphans so deeply that he weeps in secret. A man who assists such vulnerable people arising from his acquaintance with their past parents does not do things expecting returns. Like I said , differentiate between a man and his office.
      5. Gen Elwelu was doing what was militarily necessary. If you will recall a few days earlier when he had led a team to the Omusingha to negotiate, he was so humiliated that everyone who saw the video cursed Gen Elwelu. Filthy barefooted urchins were touching him all over, taking his personal effects etc… yet aven a Colonel is allowed to board a civil aviation aircraft with his pistol. gen Elwelu showed such professionalism by submitting to the humiliation that people were touched. As for the day of assault, he did his duty just like if it were Gen Mbadi who was in charge of the assault. You know a soldier is like a ferocious dog…..friendly to friends but terrible to enemy(including friends who have turned enemy) Gen Elwelu is so faultless that I can vouch for him even in front of God. Firefight has no limitation of damage.

      • ejakait engoraton

        BROTHER,you have just yourself a job as my counsel.
        All said and done, exceptions to any rule allowed , how do you then explain the treatment of people like Mzee Byanyima, even that of the Colonel ,our Besigye and even that of the late Eriya Kategaya, even though later rehabilitated , it was the initial treatment that was really unacceptable , for someone with whom you have been through thick and thin.

        • But you must absolve Gen Elwelu ; in your mind. It pained me how he was being pawed by filthy mbu guards of the Obusingha. If people start disrespecting such personalities as Gen Elwelu, then we emasculate then and they may resign to popular pressure. The next thing you know they won’t even shoot enemy.

  9. “it is a great victory if your bull “climbs” the cow of your” Are some cows made out of hills to be “climbed?”

  10. Kenyatta is a real statesman and businessman after the nullification of the elections,all that was on his mind was how the judiciary could not envisage the dilemma they were putting the country in and the wastage of money for another election which he would still win. What has Odinga gained from the Kenya elections all this time?Is he normal?he speaks as if he is chewing his words The guy confused the judiciary and the Electoral commission any way,its never that serious in Africa.

    Companies give bonuses when workers perform well,a father will spoil his son with a play station when he performs well in class now why shouldn’t Ugandans reward M7 with 10 more years in power coz of his superb performance?

    @ Ejakait: in developed nations waitresses are normally given tips thats why their service is good but in Uganda most men tap and touch the waitress’s butt how do you expect her to serve you with a smile?

    The youth in the Arab world used ICT to change govt so the elite in Uganda thought they would use the same tactic to bring down govt they have really blackmailed the govt but we are now immune to their insults .

    Why are NGO’s still in Uganda?Kony’s war ended long ago their offices should be shut down we instead need development partners.

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