Role of the military in restoration of democracy and human rights in Uganda

As Museveni reminded us, the principal role of the military is to defend the country’s borders against external invasion. He also indicated that when the government denies citizens the right to exercise their democratic and human rights the military steps in on the side of the people. Before considering why the Uganda military should be on the side of the people demanding the exercise of their rights, let us briefly review a few examples where the military has supported the people against oppressive governments.

1. During the French Revolution that began in 1789, sections of the army joined the people in their demands to reduce the excessive power of the king and privileges of the nobility and high clergy. The people also formed a national guard under the leadership of Lafayette to defend themselves. In desperation the king hired mercenaries, an arrangement that made him even more unpopular. This action together with an attempt to flee the country resulted in his arrest, trial for treason and execution.

2. The collectivization of agriculture in Russia under Josef Stalin generated intense resistance. Stalin ordered the army to intervene and force peasants to comply. Some sections of the Red Army refused because peasants had a right to resist and these soldiers came from peasant families.

3. During the riots in Ethiopia in 1974 that were triggered by rising prices of food which the imperial government covered up, sections of the armed forces joined the demonstrators and made demands of their own beyond reducing the price of food. The public was infuriated when photographs were distributed showing the imperial dogs feasting on chunks of meat and information became available that foodstuffs were being exported when citizens were staffing to death. The imperial government was overthrown, the emperor arrested and died in mysterious circumstances.

4. In 1979 there were demonstrations in Iran against the Shah’s government started by students and joined by a broad section of the population. When the government used excessive force, the army deserted and joined the demonstrators triggering the end of the Shah’s government. The Shah fled and died in exile.

5. In 1989 Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania used his presidential secret police force to brutally attack demonstrators demanding food and democracy. The army and sections of the communist party joined the demonstrators, arrested Ceausescu and his wife Elena as they tries to flee the country. They were tried and summarily executed.

6. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in January and February 2011 succeeded in ousting Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak in large part because they had the support of soldiers.

In the same spirit, the soldiers of Uganda should rally behind the people whose rights are being violently abused. The role of soldiers in changing Uganda government is even more crucial now that Uganda has been handed over to foreigners. Economically the modern sector is in foreign hands through privatization of Uganda’s public enterprises and de-nationalization of Uganda’s economy. Because of this transfer of ownership to foreigners who are concentrated in Kampala, 70 percent of Uganda’s economy is generated in this one city alone with a population of around 2 million, leaving 30 million Ugandans in other towns and the countryside to generate only 30 percent of the economy.

The political landscape has also been taken over by foreigners. During the 2011 presidential, parliamentary and local elections over five million indigenous Ugandans were disenfranchised and replaced by foreigners to the tune of some six million that voted for Museveni and his ruling NRM. The next government in Uganda to be sworn in this May will be the government of, by and for foreigners. The government of Museveni will be the servant of foreigners not of Ugandans. This is a major departure from previous elections where massive rigging took place but did not involve foreign voters who are not allowed to vote in Uganda. Museveni’s next government is therefore illegitimate. It should not receive international recognition and no contracts should be concluded with it.

Finally, the latest reports that French-speaking African mercenaries have been hired and are causing untold and unprecedented suffering in Uganda should be enough justification for Uganda soldiers to step in on the side of Ugandans and save the country from foreign ownership. If soldiers do not act, we are going to end up prisoners in our own country. Any reasonable patriotic Ugandan including soldiers should join demonstrators to get Uganda back under a transitional coalition government to arrange for free and fair multiparty elections.

As we have mentioned before, Ugandans have entered the age of enlightenment where reason is rapidly replacing taking things for granted attitude, even from the president and those who support him irrespective of their profession. It is important that Ugandans must understand the background of those who support the government regardless of their profession including religious leaders that have been pushing for a government of national unity dominated by Museveni and his NRM party.

The information that has emerged if true about the spokesperson for a government of national unity has raised fundamental questions. It has sounded an alarm that in future the profile of such spokespersons needs to be scrutinized so that nothing is taken for granted. We need to be more enlightened and dialectical, that is look for the truth in that which is not said in public or private statements. We need to get profiles of state and church leaders to avoid being misled. We also need pictures of all who commit crime so that justice is done when the time comes.

We call upon progressive voices in the public, church and security forces to as well as international friends and well wishers to come forward and oppose the inauguration of Museveni and his new government. We thank those governments and NGOs that have publicly come forward to oppose the violation of human rights including the fraudulent elections. The inauguration day should be marked by demonstrations and grieving for the losses Uganda has suffered including the barbaric treatment of Kiiza Besigye under the tyranny of Museveni.