From grade five through eight I walked to school through a homestead that had vicious dogs. As there was no diversion, I had to face them every day – early mornings and late evenings – when they were unleashed. My grandmother advised me that when moving in the northerly direction, I should throw a stone in the southerly direction, and vice versa, to attract the dogs there. I would be gone by the time they realized it was a hoax. Her advice worked.
Similarly, Museveni has engaged Ugandans in diversions. Right from the start he knew what he wanted to do – to create a Tutsi Empire or something close to it such as the East African Federation. He prepared Ugandans and increasingly east and central Africans to look elsewhere – at the benefits of East African community and population mobility etc. Museveni also knew how to get there – build a strong army led by relatives, bring Baganda, Catholics and foreigners into the fold and use them against Obote whom he painted as a common enemy, and marginalize the rest. Let us trace Museveni’s plan step by step.
First, Museveni knew that he needed a solid base of trusted people – Bahororo and their Bahima, Batutsi and Banyamulenge cousins. Since then some of his closest advisers are historians who have traced where Bahororo people and cousins are in the great lakes region and beyond.
Although Mpororo kingdom disintegrated around mid 18th century and Bahororo scattered in many places with many returning to Rwanda, Bahororo never lost their identity – they use local names and local languages – but have remained Nilotic Bahororo because Bahororo men do not marry outside their Nilotic ethnic group.
According to the late Samwiri Karugire, Bahororo are (… a people that are still recognized despite their dispersion over a long period of time, but who have also maintained an attachment to their past separate and independent existence to a degree that has puzzled casual observers to the present day”. He added that Mpororo kingdom disintegrated due to internal problems and it went out of use and did not figure on any map of Uganda. “But her people, dispersed as they were have tenaciously remained Bahororo in everything but geographical terminology whose absence does not seem to have made any impression upon them. During the colonial period, right up to independence, petition upon petition was to be lodged with the colonial officials for the creation of Mpororo district based on the reconstitution of their former kingdom [in southwest Ankole and northern Rwanda]. That their attempts failed is of far less importance than the fact that those attempts were made and that proves that they had not lost their identity” (Karugire 1980). So Museveni wants to reconstruct Mpororo kingdom on a large scale – the Tutsi empire – in the great lakes region through the East African Federation.
Second, Museveni knew that given the numerical inferiority of Bahororo and their cousins, he needed a strong army led by Bahororo and their cousins. Consequently during the bush war and since then, the commanders and intelligence chiefs have been drawn largely from Bahororo and their cousins. Please note that some of the people who pose as Batutsi of Rwanda could be Bahororo who returned to Rwanda when Mpororo kingdom disintegrated and have tenaciously remained Bahororo – hence their key role in Museveni’s army. For example, “Fred Rwigyema, the commander of the RPF forces, was a major-general of the NRA and its deputy commander. Paul Kagame was a major in the NRA and head of intelligence and counter-intelligence. Dr. Peter Baingana was also a major and head of the NRA medical services. Chris Bunyenyezi was a major and commanding officer of the NRA’s 306 Brigade. Major Sam Kaka was commanding officer of the NRA military police” (West African November 2002). In Uganda, since 1994, most commanders have been Bahororo and Bahima or those related to them. Powerful non-Bahororo Ugandans who joined Museveni were assigned diplomatic or political duties – far away from the gun, the instrument of power.
Third, Museveni knew how to mobilize mass support in Uganda – he just used the Obote card to get Baganda and Catholics on board easily. Obote abolished Baganda kingdom, forced their king into exile where he died. Obote made Baganda lose the ‘lost counties’ referendum and made other tribes turn against Baganda who also felt marginalized in other ways since independence in 1962. Baganda were therefore ready to join Museveni for the sake of removing Obote irrespective of his other motives which apparently they did not care to check.
Museveni also knew he could easily register the support of Catholics who wanted anybody with military capability to get rid of Obote whom they disliked not only because they felt he cheated them at the polls but he represented Protestants, their arch rivals since the late 1890s. Therefore people who would have distanced themselves from Museveni ended up his bedfellows solely for the sake of dislodging Obote from power. There are stories that one of the carrots dangled at the Catholics was that the next president would be a Catholic as Museveni planned to leave power shortly after security and democracy were in place. Having securely pocketed Baganda and Catholics, Museveni then turned to external sources for support – bilateral, multilateral and private sector – which he needed as the penultimate dimension in his equation.
Museveni entered into deals with powerful business people. Gerry O’Kane has reported that Museveni knew “that to gain power [and retain it]…, he needed some strange bedfellows. Some observers believe that he was backed by millionaire entrepreneur Tiny Rowlands, while much of his weaponry is said to come from Libya, once Amin’s staunch ally” (New African March 1986). It is hardly surprising that his mixed economy strategy assigned 60 or 70 percent of Uganda’s economy to the private sector possibly to accommodate people like Tiny Rowlands. Britain through influential politicians, advisers, experts and institutions like Linda Chalker, Paul Collier, William Pike and DIFD etc has exerted tremendous influence in Uganda making Britain the number one investor in the country. At the multilateral level, the World Bank and IMF influence on Uganda’s economy and society is too well known to be repeated here except to underscore that it has helped Museveni to consolidate his position.
Having secured a strong military, political, economic and external foundation and backing, Museveni then began to strangle Baganda in various ways. From stories circulating around, Baganda have no idea what to do next. The Catholic’s hope of ever securing the presidency is waning fast leaving them bitter but helpless as well. Deserting Museveni, Catholics fear, will open the door to Protestants their arch rivals as already noted above. The rest of the country has slowly been squeezed and rendered powerless and voiceless through division into virtually tribal-based and economically unviable districts dependent on Museveni for survival, rising youth unemployment making them easy to manipulate, poor food security, disintegration of public education and health care systems, excessive drinking, rising youth crime and imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and losing land ownership through economic hardship or incorporation into municipalities.
Ugandans are so diverted and disorientated that they have no clue which direction Museveni is moving in. If Ugandans – and by extension east and central Africans – do not recover quickly and put up collective resistance Museveni will realize his Tutsi empire dream that may be impossible or extremely costly to reverse.
“Zimbabwe President Mugabe, despite considerable criticism from his own cabinet as well as opposition figures, saw the danger of a Tutsi empire in the middle of Africa” (Joseph Weatherby 2003). He entered the DRC war in 1998 and gave us a breathing space. The time to wake up and act is now or else it is lost.