In his article titled Uganda in 2017, Daily Monitor columnist Timothy Kalyegira raised a couple of serious and correct observations about Uganda.
He noted that Uganda is a low thinking and slow-moving society; that Ugandans find it difficult to maintain interest in one topic for more than a week. At most, the quality of reasoning for the elites is erratic and childish.
Compared to South Africa, Kenya, DRC, Ghana, Nigeria, etc, most Ugandan elites are generally naive and inherently opportunistic. For instance, while ordinary Ugandans, for example, were able to reject NRM leadership from Kasese, reject NRM from Masaka, reject NRM in Kampala, reject Jim Muhwezi, reject Kahinda Otafiire, etc, the elites spent time over frivolous issues such as who should lead the opposition, who is acceptable to Museveni, and all the childish gimmicks.
The elites have even failed to zero in on a basic social malaise of the unwarranted brutality of security forces. For example, we have all witnessed the undressing of Fatuma Zainabu, the groping of Ingrid Turinamwe’s breasts, paralyzing of journalist Andrew Lwanga, clobbering of Kizza Besigye’s supporters, pre-election point-blank executions in Kasese, and recent undressing/humiliation and blatant executions in Kasese. All the elites do is keep quiet and a few call for dialogue.
Instead, the Kenyan elites stood and led ordinary wananchi and they succeeded to have the Electoral Commission dissolved. In DRC, they have pinned Joseph Kabila to the wall and he has to hold elections by the end of 2017, get a new electoral commission and new opposition prime minister.
For the past 16 years, either out of opportunism or sheer naivety, many elites have pinned the failure to have change on Dr Besigye. Like any other leader, out of his intellect, patriotism and charisma, Besigye arose among many others and has towered and continues to do so not out of his excessive ambition to be president but because ordinary patriotic Ugandans feel he has what it takes to lead this country.
Mugisha Muntu has competed for the leadership of FDC ever since it was formed. Norbert Mao has competed for the presidency of Uganda; Amama Mbabazi came recently and so many others before him. One wonders how Besigye has prevailed over majority Ugandans across the political divide to refuse them from voting any other opposition figure to replace Museveni.
It even surprises when some elites even suggest that for Museveni to hand over power, he has to do so to someone who believes in his philosophy and someone who appears weak and non-vengeful.
Nelson Mandela was tough-talking until apartheid agreed to negotiate; the opposition leader in DRC has insisted to date that Kabila is a Rwandese, but the elites are standing behind him.
In Uganda, Museveni tolerates no opposition; why should Besigye kneel before him when he doesn’t even appreciate that he is equally capable of leading Uganda or that another Ugandan is capable of leading our country.
But most interesting is the parochial interpretation of the defiance campaign – dubbed Besigye’s! ‘Defiance’ as a political weapon is not a creation of Besigye. Any normal society faced with an intolerant, exploitative and oppressive leadership at a certain stage draws a line in the sand.
Whatever arsenals are used against the regime, they are all a form of ‘defiance’. It might be through drama and poetry – literature; it might be through war, civil disobedience, destruction of infrastructure, etc. ‘Defiance’ was used by Mahatma Ghandi in India and by blacks in South Africa. In Uganda, leaders such as King Kabalega, King Muteesa I used defiance against colonialists. Ugandans used the same tool against Idi Amin and Milton Obote.
One, therefore, fails to understand why ‘defiance’ against Museveni should be such a singular-source disaster for the country as if it has just fallen from hell. Similarly, the character of Besigye has nothing to do with change. People idolised Mbabazi but ordinary Ugandans did not buy the facade round him.
How can we discuss Besigye when we have what some consider an illegitimate president, when Janet Museveni is a minister for education, when the president appoints a hopeless Electoral Commission without electoral reforms?
Why concentrate on Besigye when policemen/soldiers recklessly and mercilessly attack, massacre people and burn a palace full of unarmed and untrained village guards and then strip people, arrest and incarcerate the king and other innocent citizens?
As a country, we need to wake up, agree that Uganda belongs to all of us, not to Museveni, his family and friends. We need to be angry and serious. We either defy or submit to Museveni and forfeit the future of our country.
The author is a Ugandan living in South Africa.