What makes resistance succeed and lessons for Uganda

For resistance to succeed there has to be a national mission or rallying cry supported by the opposition. Here are a few examples.

1. The mission of the Cuban revolution was to free Cubans from exploitation, poverty and repression. The mission had popular support because most Cubans were exploited through poor pay and appalling living conditions including those who worked on tobacco and sugar cane farms. The mission resonated with peasants who joined the war or provided support in other ways. Many more were inspired to join the struggle after they witnessed the savage reprisal meted out by the Batista regime. Charismatic leadership and strict discipline of guerrillas were also crucial.

2. The mission of the Vietnam War guerrillas was to give land, rice and clothes to the people in South Vietnam who were very poor. The peasants rallied behind the Viet Cong guerrillas in large numbers because they supported the mission. Many more joined later because they resented forced resettlement in “strategic hamlets” which they felt denied them their liberty. Whole communities were involved in supporting the guerrillas.

3. The two popular rallying cries against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan were Islam and independence. The war was fought against foreign intrusion by non-believers. Afghans believed that their cause was worth every sacrifice and deprivation for which dying was an honor.

4. The mission of the black people of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa was to rid themselves of white minority rule. It involved large numbers: old and young, men and women. They were even prepared to suffer the negative impact of economic sanctions provided they assisted in getting rid of the minority regimes.

In Uganda the rallying cry is increasingly being articulated as foreign occupation under the NRM system that is systematically stripping citizens of their property such as land, liberty, justice, equal opportunity and dignity, using mercenaries.

The message needs to be disseminated to all Ugandans as soon as possible. Local champions need to be identified to galvanize popular support. We should engage in a self-defense war that does not use guns but heads in the first instance through small, localized and precise hits particularly in the economic sectors where NRM is very vulnerable. These tactics will wear away the NRM regime through reduced goods and services to meet domestic and export demands, government revenue and diplomatic support. Some donors like Netherlands and Ireland have already taken appropriate steps. We hope others will follow soon to register their anger at human rights violation and rampant corruption.

The strategies should be so elusive as to keep Museveni and NRM guessing who the real enemy is and denying him the chance to use his heavy military hardware and demoralize his security forces. It has been done successfully elsewhere. Ugandans can do it too with modifications in strategies to suit local environments.

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