According to the World Book Encyclopedia, dictatorship is a form of government in which an individual or a committee or other group holds absolute power. Dictators usually have come to power under conditions of turmoil and confusion. Often the dictator seizes power by political trickery or military violence.
Once in control, dictators and their followers retain their positions through force or threat of force. They abolish or closely control the legislature, and quickly suppress freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. They set up an elaborate secret-police system to detect opponents of the government. Persons who object to the dictatorship are persecuted by the government.
On the other hand, democracy is a form of government in which the citizens take part in political decisions that affect them directly or indirectly through their elected representatives. Representatives’ job is to transparently represent the people with whom they made a contract in making decisions about laws and other matters that affect constituents including defending and protecting their rights, freedoms and property.
Uganda as a military dictatorship
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power through the barrel of the gun in 1986. Foreign powers imposed democracy on the military dictator through holding regular elections so that representatives take decisions in the interest of the people failing which the dictator and his group would not get international assistance.
Because of this background favorable conditions for democracy do not exist in Uganda and military dictatorship has continued or even strengthened disguised as democracy. In Uganda since 1986 the military, police and secret forces have remained under the full control of President Museveni. Unless and until these forces come under the direct and full control of democratically elected officials, genuine democracy will not happen.
The cases of India and Costa Rica
In India where democracy has thrived, the military developed and has maintained a code of obedience to elected civilian leaders. Consequently, Indian military traditions do not support military coups or military dictatorship. Similarly the Indian police “… are not an independent political force capable of a coup” (R. A. Dahl 1998).
Costa Rica is the country in Central America where there is no military. In 1950 a democratically elected president abolished the military. Largely because of military absence and dictatorship Costa Rica has done very well and has established strong democratic institutions (R. A. Dahl 1998).
Uganda’s military dictatorship disguised as democracy.
Since the foreign-imposed democracy began with parliamentary and presidential elections in 1996, the military, police and secret-services have made sure that the National Resistance Movement government led by Museveni and his inner group of Bahororo (Batutsi from Rwanda) and Bahima of Nilotic Luo ancestry stays in power. The Electoral Commission has been staffed with staunch supporters of Museveni, voter registration has been distorted in favor of Museveni’s party, opposition candidates and their supporters have been harassed and in some cases physically assaulted or killed.
Consequently, the ruling military dictatorship disguised as democratically elected has sufficient majority in parliament and in many district councils to rubber stamp the wishes of the dictator and his ‘secret’ advisers of Bahima and Bahororo who present themselves as Bantu from the south when they are Nilotic Luo people only that they speak Bantu language and use Bantu names.
The way Bahororo and Bahima abuse Bantu/Bairu (slaves) of south west Uganda as inferior only fit for menial work, the way they are denying Bantu/Bairu functional education, the way they are taking away their land, the only asset Bantu/Bairu peasants have for their livelihood is confirming that these Bahororo/Bahima leaders are strangers among Bantu people of south west Uganda and don’t care about the suffering of the latter ethnically different group of ‘inferior’ people.
The suffering of Bairu of southwest Uganda must be heard, stopped and reversed. Many were stripped of their jobs disguised as retrenchment of civil servants under structural adjustment. They and their families are wallowing in poverty as they cannot find jobs and many have resorted to crime and sex work to make ends meet.
To the best of the author’s knowledge there is no unemployed Muhima or Muhororo in a country with over 80 percent unemployed economically active workers actively looking for work daily including 50 percent of university graduates. You cannot have a situation like this in a true democracy. The government would fall at the next election. Not so in Uganda under the military dictatorship.
It is reported that the law requires that military officers must retire in order to participate in political activities. The military officers accepted on condition they continue to wear their uniforms and use their titles with ‘rtd’ (retired) in bracket. To Ugandans, they are for all intents and purposes military men and women still with military force which they use to get what they want with impunity.
Rukungiri municipality as a case of dictatorship
Rukungiri town became a municipality literary overnight. The local government announced well in advance towns in Uganda that were being considered for upgrading to municipality status. This advance announcement provided an opportunity to debate the merits and demerits of municipality and to agree with their representatives in district council on how to vote. The minister of local government then presented the list of towns to parliament for approval which is the normal procedure.
In the case of Rukungiri the procedure was different. The local government did not announce that the town was being considered for upgrading to municipality status. Therefore there was no discussion between district council representatives and the people they represent.
A few days before parliament met to approve the list of towns that had gone through the normal democratic process, the Rukungiri district council abruptly met, passed a resolution making Rukungiri a municipality incorporating rural areas where peasants earn their livelihood without being consulted.
A day or so later the Rujumbura Member of parliament with the rank of Major General (rtd) presented to parliament Rukungiri district council resolution to upgrade the status of Rukungiri town to a municipality. This decision and procedure followed have raised two principal questions which the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament has been asked to answer and has not done so yet.
1. Why did the local government fail to notify Rukungiri people that Rukungiri town was being considered for upgrading to municipal status?
2. Why did the Speaker allow a member of parliament and not the minister of local government to make a presentation of Rukungiri case to parliament?
If Uganda is a true democratic country then the Speaker has a responsibility to answer these questions. We are still waiting for his answers.
Meanwhile the people that have found themselves inside municipal boundaries have automatically lost ownership of their land some of them descendants of Bantu people who settled in the area 3000 years ago. I believe you can imagine the sentimental loss!
Because of these dictatorial decisions disguised as the wish of the people, some Ugandans are beginning to feel that Amin’s military dictatorship was better than Museveni’s because Amin governed by decrees which were easy to reverse like his land decree of 1975. Under Museveni’s military dictatorship disguised as democracy that option may be hard to come by.
The people affected will not forget and will try to reverse it. To avoid that trouble, Rukungiri municipality whose parliamentary approval did not follow procedures should not be allowed to stand. This is a confirmation of a formal protest already sent to the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Prime Minister who is leader of government business, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Uganda’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and to Political Assistant to the President of the Republic of Uganda.