By Sam Akaki
It is not a defeatist attitude but a realistic one amid changed national, international climate
As someone who once emotively entertained the dream that Museveni could, and would indeed be toppled through an armed rebellion, I am writing to enumerate the reasons why those who are dreaming as I used to do, should move away from the past and begin to think outside the box, looking at the prospect of a military takeover in Uganda from the contemporary national, regional, continental and international context. (refer to: “Army can surprise Museveni”, Feb.01, 2015).
Nationally, Uganda has come a long way, politically, socially, economically and militarily since the day in 1971 when Idi Amin and his tribal and religious clique in Uganda and South Sudan made an over-night swoop on all the Acholi and Langi army officers before marching to take control the Post office, Bank of Uganda, Entebbe airport, and then Radio Uganda to announce the takeover of government.
Days are also long gone when a young man like the then Yoweri Museveni could threaten to, and later move to the bushes of Luweero where he found ready, practical, and moral support, which enabled him to wage a five-year long guerrilla war against sitting government.And days are long gone when an army Commander like Tito Okello Okello and his cousin Brig Bazilio Okello could mutiny and withdraw to their home district 300 miles away from Kampala before leisurely marching back, unchallenged, and taking over the government.
Nor are we likely to realistically see a day in the near future when the UPDF will emulate the UNLA and violently disintegrate along tribal and ethnic lines.
Against this background, anyone planning an armed rebellion in Uganda should ask themselves and objectively answer the following basic questions:
Which district or forest in Uganda will they launch their rebellion from? Not in Luweero, northern or eastern Uganda, again. The people in these regions are too busy counting the cost of the last rebellion, and struggling to rebuild their shattered social and economic bases to host yet another rebellion. If the new rebellion leaders manage to take over someone’s farm or government forest reserve in western or Busoga region, for example, how will the local civilian population as well the UPDF detachments react?
In Kampala and other major towns in Uganda, there is a body of silent but powerful middle class, whose members never take part in street demonstrations or write controversial articles in the press, but concentrate on enlarging their ill-gotten wealth and educating their children in private schools at home and abroad. How would this group react to the emergence of a new armed rebellion, given their memories of the utter destruction of poverty and lives during past rebellions?
Which neighbouring country would give them a safe haven for training, receiving supplies or as a fall-back position during a counter-offensive by the UPDF?
How will the regional countries react individually and collectives as signatories to the newly formed East African Standby Force (EASF)?
As the African Union’s cool reaction to the recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso as well as Riek Machar’s rebellion in South Sudan graphically demonstrate, how will the continental body react to an armed rebellion against an elected government in Uganda? The United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM) has Uganda and the rest of the continent under a constant gaze from the air, space, land and sea. How many times will the rebel commanders blink before they are taken out by Djibouti-based drones fired from Air Force Command and Control bases in Creech and Nellis near Las Vegas?
How would the United Kingdom, the European Union and the USA, who are tired of funding peace-keeping missions in Africa, and feeding an ever increasing number of displaced people react to a the presence of an armed rebellion in Uganda?
How would the United Nations Security Council, which now recognises an armed rebellion and terrorism as two sides of the same coin react?Under the UN Security Council resolution 1373 of September 2001, all member states are obliged to take the following actions: “Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists;
Criminalise the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts;
Prohibit their nationals or any persons and entities within their territories from making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or other related services available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of persons who commit or attempt to commit or facilitate or participate in the commission of terrorist acts, of entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by such persons and of persons and entities acting on behalf of or at the direction of such persons Deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens; Prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other States or their citizens; (e) Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice and ensure that, in addition to any other measures against them, such terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terrorist acts;
Prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents, and through measures for preventing counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents; Ensure, in conformity with international law, that refugee status is not abused by the perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts, and that claims of political motivation are not recognized as grounds for refusing requests for the extradition of alleged terrorists.”Anyone advocating for an armed rebellion in Uganda is either looking for cheap publicity, or is totally unaware of the changed national and international political climate.
In other words, unless they are guaranteed the support of the USA and its NATO allies, as the hired Libyan rebels did in 2011, anyone organising or in any way supporting an armed rebellion in Uganda today or tomorrow would be applying for a mandatory one-way ticket to The Hague because there would be nowhere else for them to run or hide. That is why I say we should forget about military takeover in Uganda. It is not a defeatist attitude but a realistic one.
Sam Akaki is a former Reform Agenda/FDC International envoy to the UK and the European Union (2001-2015)