The mood is shifting from armed struggle to peaceful regime change

As Ugandans struggle to unseat the failed NRM regime – and all opposition groups agree – that has made Uganda vulnerable to internal and external shocks, two strategies for regime change have emerged. There are those who want war in the first instance by invading the country because according to them that is what Museveni and NRM understand.

But there are many obstacles to the military strategy. The mood in Uganda, in Uganda’s neighbors, in Africa, in Europe, in the Middle East and in the rest of the world is not in favor of changing regimes by military means – regardless of how they came to power. We have seen what happened in Mali and more recently in Central African Republic – the coup leaders were dispatched into oblivion.

In Spain the Basque Separatists (ETA) have abandoned armed struggle. In Palestine various groups (… have all de facto adopted non-violence as their principal method of choice in recent months – albeit to different degrees in terms of formal endorsement and irrevocability” (Michael Broning : The Politics of Change in Palestine: State-Building and Non-Violent Resistance 2011).

Furthermore, Article 8 (1) of the Protocols on Peace and Security in the Great Lakes Region states “Member states hereby denounce all armed groups in the Great Lakes Region and repudiate any association with such groups, and agree to strictly combat all activities undertaken by such groups”.

Article 23 (2 & 3) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance denounces “Any intervention by mercenaries to replace a democratically elected government” and “Any replacement of a democratically elected government by armed dissidents or rebels”.

Article 4 (j) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union (2000) endorses “The right of Member States to request intervention from the Union in order to restore peace and security”.

The United Nations believes in resolving disputes by peaceful means in the first instance.

Thus, Ugandans contemplating the use of force in the first instance (there is more room in the use of force in self-defense) to remove NRM from power should keep in mind the obstacles they face and the likely heavy destruction in lives, institutions, infrastructure and properties. We should not easily forget the high costs in the Luwero Triangle, Northern and Eastern Uganda.

There is a second school of thought – and I belong to this group – which believes that if properly organized non-resistance campaigns will topple NRM regime. All we need to do – as the people of the Philippines did in 1986 – is come together under able, dedicated and patriotic leadership – not silent pseudo-leaders who want power for themselves. One attempt that didn’t go well in Uganda that used a few methods after the 2011 fraudulent elections and in large part because of lack of coordinated effort among various opposition groups shouldn’t be used to undermine the potential of non-violent resistance campaigns.

Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) have demonstrated that civil resistance works based on evidence collected since 1900. They state “In addition to their growing frequency, the success rates of non-violent campaigns have increased [and] “the success rates of violent insurgencies have declined”. It is important to note that “… in the case of anti-regime resistance campaigns, the use of a nonviolent strategy has greatly enhanced the likelihood of success”.

Civil resistance campaigns have failed when and where “… they are unable to overcome the challenge of participation, when they fail to recruit a robust, diverse and broad-based membership that can erode the power-base of the adversary and maintain resilience in the face of repression”.

At The Hague conference in November 2013, Ugandans from home and in the diaspora resolved to remove the NRM regime through non-violent resistance campaigns after which a broad-based transitional government would be established under a presidential team instead of one person as has been the case since independence in 1962 which has not produced the desired results.

Besides running the daily affairs of state, the transitional government would conduct a comprehensive population census, consult with Ugandans how they would like to be governed, convene a national conference and agree on the way forward, build institutions including a truly independent electoral commission and then organize free and fair multi-party elections.

A follow-up Peace Conference is being organized under the leadership of Dr. Henry Gombya in London on June 28-30, 2014. This conference has been advertised broadly for transparency, participation and accountability. We urge those interested to attend this conference to design a road map or strategy for non-violent regime change instead of wasting time preparing for 2016 elections – elections that the opposition can’t win under present conditions (the recent DP victory in the Luwero by-election shouldn’t for a moment be regarded as setting a new course for 2016 elections to be won by the opposition). The venue and agenda of the conference will be made available in due course.

For further information, please contact Henry Gombya and his team in London; Moses Byamugisha in Kampala and Molly Mugisha in The Hague.

Eric Kashambuzi