How French soldiers saved the National Assembly

In 1789, the king of France convened the Estates General (parliament) to find a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems. The meeting took place in the midst of food shortages, rising poverty and unemployment. The commoners (the Third Estate) demanded changes in the voting pattern and sitting arrangement which had advantaged the First (clergy) and Second (nobility) Estates. The King refused, insisting that each estate must meet separately and vote as before. This arrangement had always benefited the First and Second Estates that voted together defeating the Third Estate 2 to1. The commoners who constituted 98 percent of the total population of France decided they were the nation of France. They established a National Assembly to draw up a new constitution for France that would level the playing field. The king ordered it to disperse. It refused.

Because the king did not trust his royal troops, he mobilized mercenaries. When the people of Paris who had been protesting food shortages and rising prices heard that mercenaries were coming to Paris, they decided to arm themselves in defense of their city. They stole arms from a military hospital and proceeded to the Bastille prison (used as jail for political prisoners) to get more weapons and gun powder. The prison guards began to shoot and some of the rioters were killed. The commoners loaded their weapons and fought back. The prison guards had heavier weapons and pounded the commoners who had light weapons.

However, soldiers in Paris sympathized with rioters. One of the soldiers pleaded with his comrades with the following words: “Brave guards, can’t you hear the cannons? … That villain De Launay [chief prison guard] is murdering our brothers, our parents, our wives and children who are gathered unarmed around the Bastille. Will you allow them to be massacred! … Will you not match on the Bastille?

“… Moved by his speech, 60 soldiers followed him to the Bastille, dragging 4 cannons with them. Facing these heavy guns, the Marquis de Luunay had no choice but to surrender. It was a moment of triumph for the working people of Paris…” (D. C. Heath 1992).

When the king heard about the street fights in Paris he stopped the mercenaries from attacking the National Assembly which drew up a Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen stressing freedom and equality. It added that “The aim of political association is the preservation of the natural … rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. Other articles of the Declaration guaranteed citizens equal justice, freedom of speech and freedom of religion”

In Uganda as in France in 1789, the purpose of political association is to guarantee liberty, equality and dignity. Put differently, Ugandans want freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity. These are natural rights. Museveni and Kayihura and Nyakairima cannot take them away because they are Commander-in-Chief, Inspector General of Police and Army Commander respectively.

We are asking Uganda’s security personnel in intelligence (ESO and ISO), police and army to join your civilian brothers and sisters whose rights are being crushed. Stop tear gassing peaceful demonstrators, stop shooting innocent people, stop giving false intelligence information on fellow Ugandans. Kayihura who is a soldier has failed to serve as a police officer to maintain law and order. He interprets peaceful protests as enemy attacks that must be destroyed. Kayihura has failed and should step down before he is dragged to the ICC.

Museveni must realize that the environment has changed. He cannot continue to abuse Ugandans’ human rights with impunity. The people of Uganda will not let him.

In order to deal with those security men and women who abuse Ugandans, kindly send to us pictures, names of officers who harass Ugandans and the individuals they harass and we shall take appropriate action.

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