Why I think Museveni is a liberal democrat while Bobi Wine and Besigye are potential tyrants
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Last week, police using heavy-handed methods stopped the MP for Kyadondo East, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, from holding a concert. Even President Yoweri Museveni agreed that the brutality police employed was uncalled for. To make a bad situation worse, the Uganda Communications Commission then ordered television stations to fire reporters, programmers and producers who were involved in the live coverage of this event.
There was public uproar from Uganda’s chattering elites on how Museveni has continued to “suppress democracy” and entrench a “dictatorship.” It is cool to denounce Museveni these days, the very reason many Ugandan elites are addicted to it. Naïve-minded diplomats from Western embassies (who have taken over Bobi Wine’s cause) plus media and human rights groups abroad will applaud your “courage”. All these groups look at people like Bobi Wine and project them to be fighting for democracy.
This structure of incentives has created an uncritical embrace of intolerant extremist individuals and groups seeking to grab power and establish their own fascist dictatorship. Bobi Wine and Kizza Besigye have consistently refused to stand for liberal constitutional values that make democracy work best. Instead they have consistently stood for grabbing power at any cost and in disregard to liberal values. In spite of these actions by his government, I find Museveni a more liberal-democratic leader than his critics.
Thus in their pursuit of power, Bobi Wine and Besigye have mobilised groups that are intolerant of dissent, violent and uncouth. They do not recognise honest difference of opinion. Anyone who disagrees with them has been bought by Museveni and therefore has lost his/her conscience and sold his/her soul. In pursuit of ideological purity, they have suppressed every dissenting voice in their ranks.
Armed with a suffocating self-righteousness, they descend on their opponents on social media with fanatical zeal. They indulge in unrestrained cyber bullying: hurl insults and abuses at real and presumed enemies, preach hate, promise revenge and destruction and spread false accusations to inflict psychological terror. They intimidate and physically assault everyone who disagrees with them. If they can act like this out of power, what would they do when they gain command of the repressive instruments of the state – the army with its tanks, the police with its teargas and water canons?
I appear on television often and criticise the government and the opposition. I give government credit where it is due, and credit opposition leaders like Nobert Mao and Mugisha Muntu whom I feel hold liberal values. In response, the supporters of Bobi Wine and Besigye launch petitions to the owners of these stations to block me from appearing there. It is of course their democratic right to make such petitions. But it also suggests that when in power and in control of the state, they will not allow their opponents any rights.
One could argue, perhaps innocently and/or ignorantly, that Bobi Wine and Besigye cannot be responsible for the violence and intolerance of their supporters because they have little or no control over them. Such a person can also argue that Museveni, on the other hand, has direct command and control of the behavior of the police. But Bobi Wine and Besigye have one great power they can exercise: they can consistently and loudly condemn these acts in their supporters, insisting that such behavior violets their values. And I know both encourage and organise these tyrannical strategies.