Revolutions succeed when the people are galvanized

There is sufficient evidence in time and space to confirm that when people are sufficiently galvanized and fully understand the causes of their pain, and who is benefitting from their sweat, they will revolt spontaneously. They only need a spark such as the enforcement of poll tax in England that led to a countrywide spontaneous revolt in 1381. In Rwanda, the Social Revolution of 1959 was sparked by Tutsi youth assault on a Hutu sub-chief. The introduction of Afrikaans in Black schools sparked student unrest that enhanced the demise of apartheid system in South Africa. The eviction of a dissident priest from his residence sparked a revolution that ended communist rule in Romania.

Galvanization of people takes place inside and outside the country. Archbishop Desmond Tutu galvanized Black South Africans from home. Oliver Tambo did so in exile. Civic organizations such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia galvanized their citizens from home. Radio Free Europe made a significant contribution to the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe from outside. In turn, the 1989 Revolutions influenced the introduction of multi-party politics in Africa.

People must fully understand the underlying causes of their pain and who benefits from their suffering. The peasants in France were fully aware of what caused their suffering and they blamed the nobility for exploiting them mercilessly. The middle class knew that the nobility gained disproportionately by getting jobs in government and church establishments and exemption from paying taxes. They blamed the nobility and higher clergy for their lack of political influence and lower social status. When the revolution began in 1789 the Third Estate (peasants, middle class and proletarians – commoners) knew exactly what it wanted and whom to target.

What is the situation in Uganda now? In 1986, upon becoming president, Museveni assured Ugandans that his administration would end the long-suffering of Ugandans caused by Obote’s sectarianism, divisionism, neo-colonialism and socialism. All Ugandans would have enough to eat, enough decent clothes including shoes, adequate shelter, good education and jobs based on merit and good health services. He underlined democracy based on free and fair elections so that Ugandans choose their leaders. Government would be the servant of the people. The security forces would defend the state and maintain law and order. They would not engage in politics, Museveni stressed.

Museveni moved quickly and introduced anti-sectarian and anti-corruption legal instruments. And the people of Uganda applauded because Museveni said and did exactly what the majority wanted. Then came implementation of his policies and he completely forgot what he said.

Without shame Museveni recruited and promoted people from his Bahororo tribe in Uganda and Rwanda (some Bahororo live in Rwanda and call themselves Batutsi). Those positions he could not fill immediately with his tribesmen and women, Museveni recruited foreigners especially from Britain. Well educated and experienced non-Bahororo Ugandans were retrenched under structural adjustment program especially Bairu from southwest Uganda.

In March 1992, Museveni hosted at his residence in Rwakitura a meeting of Bahororo representatives from Ntungamo and Rukungiri districts to agree on a road map for Bahororo domination of political, economic, public, military and foreign sectors. Bahororo have since then methodically undermined growth prospects by non-Bahororo people and reaped economic growth benefits. The rest have paid taxes and reaped poverty – still over 50 percent in 2011.

By the 1996 presidential elections Ugandans had understood what was causing them pain. During campaigning Museveni realized he was less popular than Ssemogerere, his opponent. Ssemogerere and his supporters were harassed and intimidated. When that did not work, Museveni threatened that if he lost he would go back to the bush and bring hell on Uganda soil. He rigged the elections in order to pull through.

To stay in power indefinitely contrary to what he had said at the start of his administration, he diverted disproportionate amount of public funds and personnel into political activities leaving very little for development. He neglected agriculture that caters for some 90 percent of Ugandans for livelihood including food security. Social sectors particularly education and health have been starved of resources causing massive school dropout, increasing mortality especially of mothers and children. He believes that keeping Ugandans poor, sick, unemployed, hungry and illiterate would guarantee his stay in power indefinitely. If we go by what caused the French Revolution, he could be mistaken!

An increasing number of Ugandans lost interest in Museveni and his regime, forcing him to use security forces in 2001 presidential elections that caused loss of lives and many injuries. He rigged massively to get re-elected. The decline in Museveni popularity was measured when Kiiza Besigye returned from exile to campaign for 2006 presidential elections. Huge crowds greeted him wherever he went. NRM panicked and Museveni had to cut short his official visit in Europe. Besigye was arrested and campaigned literally from prison.

As Museveni’s popularity continued to plummet especially after he abandoned the failed structural adjustment program and allegations of Uganda troops committing genocide on Hutu people in DRC became known, he wondered how he would win re-election in 2011. He knew for sure he would not win on a free and fair basis. He therefore decided to openly rig the entire electoral cycle by doing the following things.

1. He refused to appoint an independent electoral commission, clearly confirming his readiness to rig the election.

2. He inflated the voter register by a wide margin through busing into the country foreigners from neighboring countries. Refugees and illegal immigrants and ghost voters were also registered. Over four million registered voters were foreigners (Ntungamo and Kawempe alone had close to 4 million voters!). He also took the unprecedented step of inviting Kenyan senior officials to campaign for him, tarnishing neighborly relations and raising suspicions about what is in store between the two governments.

3. Through various arrangements, some five million voters (most likely supporters of opposition presidential candidates) were disenfranchised.

4. Generals in the military threatened some opposition candidates with arrest or worse.

5. Museveni invaded the public treasury to obtain campaign money far in excess of his opponents and massively bribed voters even on the elections day.

6. The palling day witnessed the heaviest military presence, air force and helicopters hovering over some polling stations, late start of polling in many stations, stuffing ballot boxes, blocking opposition agents from some polling stations and returning officers failing to get forms to fill out results, etc.

7. The Commonwealth and European Union Observer Teams reported that the electoral cycle lacked a level playing field. Consequently, there were serious irregularities including massive presence of the military and use of public resources to fund Museveni’s campaign. Thus, the elections were not free and fair and therefore unacceptable.

8. The presidential candidates took the wise decision and refused to concede defeat and did not go to the Supreme Court to seek redress because it has lost credibility as an independent legal institution.

9. Peaceful demonstrations in exercise of political right have begun inside and outside Uganda.

10. The people of Uganda have been sufficiently galvanized and are ready to strike. To avoid bloodshed and destruction of property, a transitional coalition government of all stakeholders to prepare for truly free and fair elections has been suggested. Museveni must understand that the rules of the game have changed and he cannot continue to do business as usual and escape accountability.

11. We appeal to security forces to desist participation in politics on behalf of Museveni. As professional members of security forces (army and police) you should stay neutral and when there is a conflict between the people and government, your mission is to protect the people, not the president and his government.

12. Until Uganda’s house is put back in order, we suggest strongly that contracts with illegitimate Uganda government be suspended to avoid unnecessary political and legal fights later on when a properly constituted government is in place. We should draw a lesson from Kabila’s contracts he entered into before he became president of DRC.