Tired of repressive Bahororo-led government Ugandans want it removed

Major General Jim Muhwezi, son of an Anglican priest (RIP) and Member of Parliament for Rujumbura constituency, is reported in Observer and Orumuri to have said that he and his friends went to the bush to unite the country, end poverty and sectarianism. That was thirty years ago. Does twenty-five year governing record of Bahororo-led government confirm that? Certainly not. So what was the reason for going to the bush? Here it is.

The true reason is that Bahororo wanted to restore their supremacy over Bairu of southwest Uganda. It has now spread to the rest of the country. How else can we explain that preparations for the 1981-85 guerrilla war started in 1965 soon after independence as confirmed by Museveni himself! This story will be told over and over until a solution is found. Those who are tired of it should find a solution instead of disrespecting me because it will not stop me from repeating it.

Bahororo who are Batutsi from Rwanda are basically nomadic pastoralists. They have one common characteristic. They fight over pasture, watering points and engage in cattle rustling to increase or replenish their herds. Consequently they have a fighting experience – and not much else. Further, Bahororo are Nilotic people whose ancestors came from southern Sudan and spoke Luo. The Nilotic Luo speakers entered southwest Uganda around the 16th century with long horn cattle. Others moved on to Rwanda and Burundi and have ended up in eastern DRC as Banyamulenge.

A section of Batutsi in Rwanda migrated to southwest Uganda and founded short-lived Mpororo kingdom. The people of Mpororo are called Bahororo. They adopted Bantu language, names and religion.

Nomadic pastoralists were poorer than the indigenous Bantu people they found in the area. Using their military comparative advantage they subjugated Bantu people whom they dubbed Bairu (slaves). Bairu were ruthlessly exploited through producing food, drinks and free labor as tribute to the new masters.

Through colonial indirect rule, Bahororo continued to exploit Bairu politically, economically, socially and perhaps worst of all psychologically. Bairu were and still are treated as inferior people using greedy, short-sighted so-called Bairu leaders.

Colonial education was started for chiefs’ sons who would replace their fathers in administering the colony under British supervision. Gayaza High School was started to educate chiefs’ daughters in home economics as wives for chiefs.

Subsequently, it was decided that Bairu children should also get education. By the 1940s, they had done so well and gained confidence so fast that Bahororo and their Bahima cousins got worried. Educated Protestant Bairu got into the administration faster than Catholic Bairu because colonialism favored Protestants – hence antagonism between Bairu Catholics and Bairu Protestants.

Pre-independence political parties were based on religion. Catholics joined Democratic Party (DP) and Protestants Uganda peoples’ Congress (UPC). Within UPC educated Protestant Bairu dwarfed Protestant Bahororo and Bahima. The latter group realized it was in trouble – losing its grip on power pretty fast. Bahororo adopted a two-pronged strategy to recover lost ground.

First, Protestant Bahororo and Bahima crossed from UPC to DP and virtually took over leadership of the party and got elected to parliament – not Catholic Bairu who constituted the majority. Catholic Bairu people were determined to block Protestant Bairu advancement and would rather send Bahororo or Bahima (masters who exploited them during pre-and colonial days) to parliament than their fellow Protestant Bairu.

So, in Ankole, politics to this day is more about religion than ethnicity. Bahororo and Bahima using this religious strategy have kept Bairu divided and exploited. Consequently, Catholic and Protestant Bairu are competing fiercely for Museveni’s recognition which he enjoys very much. Until Bairu correct this folly, a handful of Bahororo will continue to exploit and disrespect them forever.

The second strategy was political fighting within UPC and military aimed at defeating Obote – a commoner – because he designed a development policy that according to Bahororo conferred disproportionate benefits on Bairu than them. By removing Obote, they would take over government, restore their supremacy over Bairu and return them to their inferior status. The campaign within UPC was championed by Grace Ibingira with royal court connections in Ankole. Ibingira would end up arrested with four other ministers and detained until 1971 when Amin came to power. So, the political option was blocked, leaving the military one.

Military preparations started in 1965. They combined education with military and intelligence training. Upon graduation, Bahororo joined police, army and prisons. Their failure to capture power at Moshi and the loss of the 1980 elections left them no other choice but war. The so-called 1980 rigged elections gave them the spark that they needed. During the transitional period between 1979 and 1980 Museveni recruited heavily, accumulated some weapons and identified Luwero Triangle from where to launch his guerrilla war.

Contrary to popular belief, Museveni launched the guerrilla war in 1981 with over 10,000 people and not 27. Museveni obtained massive external support including from Col. Qaddafi of Libya. He also recruited mercenaries and twenty five percent of the total guerrilla force was made up of Batutsi (including Rwigyema, Kagame, Bunyenyezi, Baingana and Kaka) who formed the core that strategized and commanded the war. Other groups were deployed in political, diplomatic and administrative areas, leaving the military in Museveni’s hands and his trusted Bahororo and Batutsi guerrillas who dominated Uganda government until 1994 when they returned to Rwanda taking with them Uganda’s national security information.

To hoodwink Ugandans that were thirsty for new leadership and divert their attention from his real motive, Museveni came up with the ideas of national unity and eradication of poverty and sectarianism. But he stressed that he needed to restore security first, meaning heavy investment in the army, police and intelligence services. The Lord Resistance Army (LRA) gave him a unique opportunity to divert huge amounts of money into building security forces – some of it lining private pockets!

Museveni subsequently divided up the country instead of uniting it, destroyed sectors like education, health care, and food security and institutions and infrastructure such as cooperatives and roads that contribute to poverty reduction. He passed anti-sectarian law so that Ugandans could not complain as he blatantly educated, hired and promoted his Bahororo people, friends and in-laws.

Museveni adopted an economic growth – not development – model which has disproportionately favored his kin and kith. Skewed income distribution has resulted in massive impoverishment, unemployment and misery for the majority of Ugandans – not an accident at all.

Ugandans embraced elections hoping they would defeat Museveni – we have failed four times so far and we shall fail again in the future. To stay in power, Bahororo are not interested in ending poverty and sectarianism. In fact more poverty for non-Bahororo and more sectarianism in favor of Bahororo is what they need.

Ugandans should listen to Bairu (those that can speak up frankly) who have lived with Bahororo for a long time. They sought refuge in Rujumbura around 1800 when they were chased out of former Mpororo kingdom by Bahima. With their military experience and feudal principles and in collaboration with Arab slave traders, they attacked, conquered, sold Bantu into slavery and enslaved the rest who had been living in relative peace, wealth and health.

In order to dominate, Bahororo deliberately impoverish, dispossess and harass those individuals or tribes they do not like. They will graze their cattle in your garden so you starve and move somewhere else and take your land for free or pay you peanuts called compensation. In principle, Bahororo will not eat or drink with you because you are below their dignity. Do not be hoodwinked by one or two beers with you. They do that when they want to extract something out of you. They will cane you as they please. They will call you names – you have heard of primitive people and biological substances.

They do not care whether you go naked, go to bed hungry or fall sick. Educated Bairu make Bahororo nervous and will do what it takes to keep them away or marginalize them to the extent that they beg their gun-wielding Bahororo for a glass of milk in exchange for domination. They will take unilateral decisions on major issues like creating Rukungiri municipality without consulting anyone that hurt peoples’ feelings very badly.

This is the model Major General Jim Muhwezi has re-introduced in Rukungiri in general and Rujumbura in particular. With his gun and military title, he thinks none can touch him. When Jim Muhwezi came under fire for his unacceptable behavior, he quickly reminded his critics that he went to the bush to unite Uganda and end poverty and sectarianism. People in Rukungiri and Rujumbura in particular are more divided and poorer now than they were before he appeared on the political scene. And many believe he is comfortable with that because poor and vulnerable people will keep sending him to parliament in exchange for salt and match boxes. Democracy indeed!

This is the model that Museveni and his Bahororo people are spreading to the rest of Uganda. Museveni wants to subjugate Ugandans as his ancestors did with Bairu in southwest Uganda and Jim Muhwezi has re-introduced it in Rukungiri.

The electoral process of choosing leaders has not worked. Opposition presidential candidates should not embarrass themselves by going to the Supreme Court for redress. Museveni will laugh because he will defeat them again. Ugandans should not even harbor hopes that 2016 will be better. That won’t happen.

But there is one option Museveni cannot defeat if we are determined and brave enough to conduct protracted peaceful demonstrations. If we are ready, let us demonstrate peacefully until we wear Museveni down and force him to step down.

He has seen what is happening north of his country. He knows what happened in the French, Rwandan, Ethiopian and Iranian Revolutions. Museveni is watching what is happening to his mentor – the colonel of Libya. A resolution has been passed to send him to ICC to face criminal charges if he is not killed or kills himself.

The warning to Museveni not to use force against peaceful demonstrators is a signal to those Ugandans that care to read and interpret messages. Similar messages were transmitted before the elections but opposition party leaders except one did not understand them and were humiliatingly defeated. How could anyone have expected a partial electoral commission to behave differently? We cannot fail to read messages correctly again unless opposition leaders have been compromised. Peaceful demonstrations must take place and be sustained until Museveni and NRM are out. If we don’t act resolutely, then we should stop complaining about Museveni’s despotism. We must accept we are cowards.

The heads of police and the army must desist from interfering with peaceful demonstrations. Their main job is to keep law and order. There is no way they can anticipate that violence will occur and disallow demonstrations as a preventive measure. The Inspector General of Police has so far issued two press releases giving the impression that he may prevent demonstrations from taking place. He should avoid creating problems for which he will be individually responsible and liable for punishment at the ICC. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is clear on individual and supervisor responsibilities and accountability.

Let Ugandans demonstrate peacefully. Those who create disorder can then be arrested and taken to court but Ugandans cannot be prevented from conducting peaceful demonstrations. It is their right, not a privilege.