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I am shocked Ugandan journalists are angry

A journalist runs to safety outside the UN offices in Kampala on Wednesday. PHOTO Lawrence Kitatta TWITTER

Museveni’s violence and what it should teach us

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Yesterday the NRM government, in characteristic style, used military police to unleash violence against a group of activists escorting Bobi Wine to the UN Human Rights office to deliver a petition. It was the same old style with an added level of brutality this time mercilessly employed against journalists. The evening news and some comments from some of our “development partners” made the beating of journalists a big deal.

I am a journalist and I run a newspaper but I find it self indulgent for us to make this about us. Ugandan journalists are angry at being terrorized by security forces alongside other citizens as if they are a special category entitled to an exemption. This is a story of the state use of arbitrary violence against citizens, journalists only being a part!

When journalists position themselves as a special category that should be exempted from the indignities and violence other citizens suffer at the hands of the state, they lose sight of the actual story. The story becomes about them as a profession instead of all the citizens.

I am even more shocked some Ugandan elites think this is new. The use of violence has been a characteristic feature of NRM from its inception. The issue has always been which group in which region is targeted based on its attitude towards NRM. The direction of this violence seems to be changing from the North and North East to Buganda based on recent voting patterns.

The NRM claimed its struggle was against arbitrary use of violence by the state. But it used violence to come to power. I wonder why anyone would think it would restrain itself from employing the same violence to retain that power. It’s admires, like the admires of Uganda’s mainstream opposition today, failed to see this.

This is why it’s critical for us to critique the groups that seek to wrestle power from NRM. What are their values? How do they treat those who criticize them? Without rising these issues we risk rotating on roundabout forever. And opposition activists hate me for this insight.

There is nothing new about NRM’s behavior. Just ask the people in those parts of Uganda like West Nile, Acholi, Lango, Teso and Kasese who at one time of another opposed NRM. What we saw yesterday was chicken feed. In fact this is why we don’t need a mere change from NRM as a group but as a system of rule. We need a group with a different politics – politics of tolerance of divergent views, of accommodation of diversity (ethnic, religious or ideological) etc.

If we do not insist that the forces of change must demonstrate to us a different mode of conduct, then we are giving them license to remove Museveni but not Musevenism, NRM but not NRMism. That has been the persistent tragedy of Uganda and Africa – change of guard not of values which shapes conduct.

A large cross section of Ugandan elites hate me for exposing this, their myths and shallowness; their tendency to be driven by momentary anger (perhaps understandable) and thus embracing one violent group to wrestle power from another violent group and mistaking that for the change they want or hoping that once in power such an intolerant and violent group will change its ways.

Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh in Bulemezi the early years of the Bush War that brought the NRA/NRM to power in the 80s. PHOTO WILLIAM PIKE

I am not willing to trade Museveni’s violence with anyone else’s violence. If I disagree with you and instead of responding to my arguments you hurl insults and abuses at me, you subject me to psychological terror, then you are telling me how you will use state power when criticized. Then I know you are not the change we need!

It is harder to shape the behavior of any group once it captures power – for then it has money to rent political support and armies and weapons to coerce loyalty and suppress dissent. But it is easier to shape the behavior of a group seeking power because all it has is the power of persuasion. So before we join any group to denounce Museveni and his violence, can we ask for the values of this group?

Many Ugandan elites get terrified by this insight because it unmasks their naivety and opportunism. I understand that people feel sympathy for a group being terrorized by the state and that this blinds then to the nature of such a group. They are always focused on the form not the substance, driven by the immediate and ignoring the long term and let their feelings cloud their reasoning. And that is what allows demagogues and opportunists to grab power.

*****

amwenda@independent.co.ug 

11 comments

  1. Long after the dust has settled on our troubled history, there are those who will stand up and say ‘we knew!’ or ‘ we told you’ but what I can say is that. This is not creative thinking and there in lies the tragedy of our elite. Thanks

  2. But you, Mujuni Mwenda, are the cheer leader of the current group of demagogue and opportunists occupying state house!

    Only and only when you join the persecuted, oppressed and dehumanized Ugandans shall we ever believe your “superior” analysis of Uganda’s diagnosis of her dilemma!

    You will never convince anyone for as long as you continue dining with the saddists and oppressors!
    Join the struggle and offer your “superior” ideas from within rather than continue peeing on the oppressed and then turn around to blame your victims!

    It’s a well known fact that you, Mujuni Mwenda always participate in drafting of so-called “manifesto” of our persecutors after every five years. So it’s inconceivable for you to tell anyone that you’re not on the side of your regular client.

  3. Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

  4. Why would any one hate you? some times your opinion oscillates, but again that is your style

    so why do you start an account from Northern Uganda; do trace the activities as far back as when you came to

    know the Hero that you describe on and off. It is only then that this claim “It is harder to shape the behavior of

    any group once it captures power” will be appropriate

  5. Andrew, your logic is upside down. A system that depends on violence to survive will inevitably elicit a militant approach.
    Saying that you cant exchange NRM violence for some other violence is rather selfish! In your logic, we rather continue with museveni violence than anything else that might give us hope! Is that what we should tell the parents, sons and daughters of those who have lost their lives to NRM violence? In developing democratic societies, continous change is what reforms and strengthens institutions so we will vote a different person so as to initiate the change process. Then we will seek to remove them if they deviate from our aspirations. To me, your only hoping to hide from the ineveitable – this change will happen and it wont be what you like. Please plan to work with the to refine and reform it

  6. Mwenda Mujuni. A man living in a glass house can not throw stones to a neighbor’s house. You analysis is upside down and unfortunately you are a trained Journalist who owns a newspaper.

  7. The people who live in Kololo feared that their dogs and cats would be harmed; thats why security reacted the way they did.

    • Dear Lady, how can affluent people have their dogs free during broad day light?

      I like the way you express your feelings

      some time back a daughter of a big citizen made this statement” while at Nile mansion, attending a

      wedding, a “thing covered in blood “ran upstairs, “it” was picked and must have been finished off”

      So much for the Pearl of Africa

    • I like

      • Yes I do like, for there in lies the subject

        when human becomes “it” then harm is justified if dogs pick the smell of certain

        objects [not by the dogs but by human beings!].

        Why not like an air of indifference towards life and pain? it is a reflection of

        diversity of the population structure, not affected by a period spanning over 36

        years!

      • when one throws all care to the wind, cheer them on

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