DAVID MAFABI: Ugandans are crying out. Let us listen!

David Mafabi, a veteran journalist (PHOTO/Courtesy)

David Mafabi, a veteran journalist (PHOTO/Courtesy)

MBALE – A video showing Uganda Peoples Defence Forces beating a man for asking for justice has been viewed by many Ugandans with shock.

He said “For the last two years since we were arrested by the government on trumped-up charges, we have been tortured, we have suffered, we have been transferred from one place to another without trial just for supporting Hon Kyagulanyi.  I am calling upon Katikiro Mayiga, Jaja Wo Busilamu Cassin Nakibinge to come to our rescue. Museveni is a dictator, we are tired, and we have been imprisoned because of dictator Museveni. We are rotting in prison,” before he was arrested, suffocated by UPDFand whisked away.

This is just another manifestation that Ugandans are growing sick and tired of the regime. They have finally lost their patience and hope in the judicial service. So they’re making their voices heard with the biggest and most influential tool at their disposal; the mouth.

Yes, he may have been silenced, gauged but Mr Salya made his point clear and made it for others too “We are tired of being moved from place to place, charge us for justice,”

The Bagisu have a proverb that says The cow that bellows does so for all cows” and I think in this line he also bellowed for others in prison over the same tramped up charges.

UPDF carried Mr Salya holding his neck, he could not breathe nor shout, he was tortured as he was being led out of the courtroom he could not talk; tortured for speaking against the government’s delayed justice.

Mr Salya and others have been in prison for close to two years for supporting Mr Kyagulanyi, an opponent to President Museveni during the 2021 national elections.

The question in my mind is, why does a state then organize elections, why does the state arrest people and imprison them because they don’t support Museveni? And why does the state allow people to contest with President Museveni?

Much of the frustration seems to be directed at ‘democratically’ elected leaders like President Museveni who hide an autocratic streak, living extravagant lifestyles despite their poorer populaces.

It is not uncommon for these leaders to change their constitutions for political gain and shutter civic space to block dissenting views.

Unfortunately, this is all happening under the watchful eyes of the ‘pioneers’ of democratic governance — Europe and the US. But, instead of taking action, these Western nations legitimize the dirty habits of these democratic-turned-autocratic rulers by prioritizing their own economic interests over rights abuses and corruption.

Ironically these developed nations pour billions into Uganda to promote good governance and support the fight against poverty and corruption while at the same time offering financial backing to dictatorial leaders in exchange for unfettered access to natural resources.

Please, these double standards have consequences. After 37 years of development aid, Uganda remains one of the poorest countries on the continent and still suffers from the disease, poverty, human rights abuse, and ignorance.

President Museveni was once hailed as a freedom fighter and liberator, but 37 years in power since 1986, he has turned into an autocratic leader, bent on silencing the opposition and suppressing the media in order to maintain a firm grip on his power.

Selfish interests and the lack of tolerance for divergent views — especially from the opposition and civil rights groups — have today tainted Museveni’s image in the eyes of many Ugandans.

It is common that the government uses force everywhere to ensure that the citizens live in fear and cannot challenge those in authority on corruption, injustice, theft, dictatorship and even standing against President Museveni.

My Grand Mother Rest in Peace used to tell us that “A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.

Whatever is happening in Uganda in the political sphere is clear proof that absolute power corrupts and corrupts absolutely like in Animal Farm by Orwell.

 It is a clear example of how some leaders hate their own people — in particular those in opposition — out of fear of being ejected from the seat of power.

Although this has not stopped the media from speaking out on the evils surrounding the NRM ruling government, recently Gen Muhoozi [President Museveni’s son] also promised to crack down on the media

Today despite being held in high regard within the international community, President Museveni will nonetheless go down in the books of history as a freedom fighter who betrayed his people, and a leader who knew what needed to be done but still chose to look the other way.

Even as I write this, I don’t know whether I will be picked by the so-called numberless drones because uncertainty is looming with regard to where the country is heading; there is injustice, arbitrary arrests, rampant corruption, threats from all corners of government, the judiciary has lost its sanctity and police brutality is at its peak.

Mr. President Bagisu have this proverb“To lead is not to run roughshod over people”  think about it, rethink and get sense out of it for the betterment of our country.

More often, police and the army are unleashed on anything against civilians and peaceful demonstrations; tear gas has been imported in large quantities.

Many Ugandan citizens have been humble, ‘singing no change’ just to escape being victimized as anti-government or opposition but one thing I remember about the Bagisu is the proverb that “The humble pay for the mistakes of their leaders.

It’s too early to tell what happens next. More arrests and intimidation will likely follow in the future, and the protests’ energy may dissipate.

But still, this political prisoner has spoken loud and clear and you ought to understand that with more freedoms, we can build a stronger nation; we can survive and be given the justice we deserve, that’s all we want as Ugandans.

With President Museveni as the helm of leadership of this country, the crackdown on opposition leaders and the media is an indication that our country is slowly sinking into anarchy and becoming a lawless state, please cool down your forces, let them go slow because the Bagisu have a proverb that goes; “If while climbing a tree you insist on going beyond the top, the earth will be waiting for you.”

Take it; leave it, the NRM current administration does not care to make a proper effort to understand the problems faced by the citizens across the country.

In an impressive feat of ideological vanity and selfishness, NRM has rejected advise from International organizations and opposition and declined to enter negotiations with other parties over power sharing, something that sows more seeds of discord and revenge among Ugandans.

To ensure his grip on power, Mr. Museveni has systematically usurped the functions of the other institutions of governance to the extent that the principle of the separation of powers has been rendered ineffectual.

Patronage and loyalty, therefore, has remained characteristic of your leadership style which has enabled you to centralize and personalize your rule over Uganda.

With 37 years in power, President Museveni has remained what many have been described as a “tribal paramount chief because in return for patronage, civil servants and NRM officials praise you while sweating on the nose to an embarrassing degree.

Your autocratic patronage system established has undermined the rule of law and respect for human rights in Uganda.

The NRM government is vividly an authoritarian system in which the president delegates no responsibilities and becomes personally involved in almost everything in the country, particularly issues concerning the rights of individual Uganda citizens to speak their minds, assemble without hindrance, write and publish without being molested.

And given the fact that President Museveni has successfully entangled himself with western military interests, the regime’s increasingly brazen and outright brutal behavior is likely to continue.

But African elites need to rethink what multiparty democracy means for them and what form it should take in order for it to prevail.

I want to tell Ugandans that nation-states fail because they are convulsed by internal violence and can no longer deliver positive political goods to their inhabitants.

And that their governments lose legitimacy, and the very nature of the particular nation-state itself becomes illegitimate in the eyes and in the hearts of a growing plurality of its
citizens. I am not saying Uganda has reached this level but I am just a cook like my Grand Mother [RIP] usually said“It is not the cook’s fault when the cassava turns out to be hard and tasteless.” 

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