On February 3, 1960 former Britain’s Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan addressed both houses of parliament in South Africa. He warned the Nationalist Government of South Africa of ‘the wind of change’ blowing through the continent. He served notice that Britain could no longer support the policy of apartheid. He stressed that Britain rejected the idea of any inherent superiority of one race over another. He added that ‘individual merit alone is the criterion of man’s advancement, political or economic” (Fifty Correspondents of Reuters, Putman 1967).
Museveni came to power in 1986, at a time of economic and political crisis. The leaders of Africa had been discredited for economic mismanagement and one party political system. There was a search for political and economic stability. The new breed of African leaders shot to the scene through the barrel of the gun including Museveni.
Economic reforms through structural adjustment necessitated curbing freedom to make sure opposition groups did not emerge. In order to implement the austerity program of structural adjustment in Uganda Museveni with tacit support of proponents of structural adjustment allowed abuse of human rights. His abusive actions were conveniently described as boldness. Museveni unlike other leaders was given room to postpone multiparty politics, enabling him to crush DP and UPC.
Museveni used this opportunity to rig elections, torture opponents, send others into exile, silence the rest and militarize the police. He set up an intelligence system at home and abroad that made it difficult to communicate lest a story is created that sends you to jail or worse. The civil and political rights of Ugandans were severely restricted. This was interpreted as political stability.
With opposition out of the way, Museveni embarked on a shock therapy (severe) version of structural adjustment that violated economic, social and cultural rights of Ugandans. Keeping inflation in single digits by raising interest rates was interpreted as economic stability.
After more than thirty years of political and economic experimentation in Africa, the world has recognized that the civil, political, economic, social and cultural price to achieve political and economic stability has been very high. So a wind of change is now blowing across Africa as in 1960.
Western governments will no longer support governments that trample civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. President Obama has been clear on this in his statements at the United Nations General Assembly, at the University of Cairo in Egypt, in Ghana’s Parliament and other places. He has been joined by other western governments. Peaceful demonstrations against economic and political malpractices have been accepted as a way of effecting change. Tunisian and Egyptian leaders understood this wind of change and stepped down when peaceful demonstrations in the two countries demanded it.
The leader of Libya and his sons refused to accept the wind of change and threatened ‘Rivers of blood’ using mercenaries from friendly countries. And they have shed blood! The United Nations Security Council has been forced to step in declaring that any means should be used to stop killing civilians. We gather the government of Uganda has taken a wise decision to condemn Qaddafi for abusing and killing civilian population. There is also talk of dragging Qaddafi before the International Criminal Court.
While condemning the use of force against the people of Libya, in Uganda, Museveni and his police chief and army commander have not yet felt the wind of change. They think the status quo of so-called political and economic stability will continue to trample human rights as it has been over last twenty five years. But western support for political and economic stability has evaporated in favor of human security – liberty, equality and dignity.
The people of Uganda are demanding freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity. The February 2011 elections whose results are illegitimate denied Ugandans those freedoms. The use of millions of foreign voters went too far!
That is why the people of Uganda have mounted peaceful demonstrations at home and abroad. The use of force including tear gas and live ammunition to prevent, disrupt and disperse peaceful demonstrations will not be tolerated at home and abroad.
When the communist regimes in Eastern Europe realized that the game was up, the leaders in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany etc allowed peaceful change and end of communism in 1989. In Romania where the leader resorted to force, he was unsuccessful and ended up losing his life.
Economic and political dictatorship in Uganda based on superiority of one group over others is no longer tenable. Ugandans are generally peace loving people. Uganda leadership should therefore not force them to resort to violence in order to restore their liberty. Compromise is the best way forward.
For God and my Country.