Uganda’s transition from speeches to action

Greetings fellow Ugandans and friends

History repeats itself and in Uganda it is about to happen.

In the 1980 Uganda elections, Paul Ssemogerere and his DP were expected to win general elections. Yoweri Museveni warned the late Milton Obote and his UPC that if they rig and win, Museveni would wage a guerrilla war and remove the government from power.

Obote won and formed Obote II government in December 1980. True to his word Museveni waged a very destructive guerrilla war. In July 1985 Okello and a section of the national army removed Obote and his government from power. In January 1986, Museveni entered Kampala and formed NRM government.

While in the bush, Museveni also waged a vicious attack on Obote’s structural adjustment program for its contribution to poverty, unemployment, hunger, poor quality education and health care services.

While in power Museveni has repeated exactly what he accused Obote of. He has rigged elections against Paul Ssemogerere in 1996, Kiiza Besigye in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Museveni also launched a structural adjustment program which has aggravated poverty, unemployment, hunger, poor quality education and health care services and environmental degradation.

It was expected that Kiiza Besigye and IPC would win the 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections that took place on February 18, 2011. Museveni was warned that if he rigs the election and gets elected, Ugandans would take appropriate steps to remove him from power. Indeed Museveni has massively rigged the election.

What Uganda is going through right now is not unique. Common grievances like poverty, unemployment, hunger and anger underlay revolts, rebellions, revolutions and demonstrations which are triggered by unacceptable events. And in the majority of cases security forces remained neutral while the people and their unpopular leaders sorted out their differences.

In England there was a peasant revolt in 1381. The rulers and their families had exploited peasants or serfs ruthlessly through tribute, free labor and low wages. Peasants were reduced to poverty, hunger and anger. The imposition of a poll tax was the last straw. Peasants could not accept further exploitation and rebelled.

The French revolution of 1789 was caused by exploitation of peasants and working class by French kings and the nobility including heavy taxation to build palaces, fight wars and provide comfort for the king, his family and the nobility. Peasants were reduced to poverty, hunger and anger. The peasants and working class rebelled when the king tried to increase taxes. The French Revolution ended the ancient regime. As in England an attempt to increase tax on peasants and working class sparked the revolution.

The Ethiopian imperial regimes mercilessly exploited peasants for the benefit of the imperial family and the nobility. In 1973 famine added suffering to extreme poverty, unemployment and general poor living conditions. At the height of the famine, Emperor Haile Selassie was photographed feeding large chunks of beef to lions in his palace compound.

The angry and hungry peasants took to the streets and were joined by urban unemployed youth, students and taxi drivers and rebelled against the emperor. Junior military officers joined the long suffering peasants. The emperor was toppled in 1974.

The imperial guard and army generals watched as the emperor was dragged out of the palace and whisked away. The 1973 famine sparked the rebellion.

In January 2011, poor, unemployed, hungry and angry Tunisians took to the streets and demonstrated against the president and his family for enriching themselves at the expense of the people. A street vendor who set himself on fire to protest police brutality triggered the demonstrations throughout Tunisia that forced the president to step down. Until this moment Tunisians had been regarded as passive and docile people in a stable country. The security forces remained neutral.

In February 2011, poor, unemployed, hungry and angry Egyptians took to the streets and demonstrated against the president for enriching himself and his family at the expense of the Egyptian people. The president was forced to step down. The demonstrations were sparked by the killing of a blogger by security officers. Until this demonstration, Egyptians had been considered as Tunisians to be passive and docile in a stable country. The army stayed neutral.

The general message being conveyed is that the rulers and their families exploit peasants and working classes. The exploitation is manifested in poverty, unemployment, hunger and anger on one hand and accumulation of wealth by the leaders and their families on the other hand. Uganda under Museveni has behaved the same.

As a general rule, rebellions, revolts and revolutions occur in places of extreme inequality and are sparked by major events such as new taxes, catastrophes and abuse of human rights.

Contrary to rosy promises made in his ten-point program, Museveni has systematically impoverished and marginalized the people of Uganda with impunity. The ruling class has accumulated huge wealth at the expense of the majority of Ugandans.

Consequently, there are high levels of poverty, unemployment, hunger and anger similar to what obtained in England, France, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Egypt as illustrated above.

Rigging the 2011 elections has triggered demand for Museveni to step down. Museveni’s credibility had already declined because of the failure and abandonment of structural adjustment, loss of regional leadership in the great lakes region because of resource plunder in DRC, political interference in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC as well as allegations that Uganda troops committed genocide against Hutu people in DRC.

The disproportionate attack and killing of unarmed demonstrators in Kampala in 2009 further damaged Museveni’s credibility.

Various options for unseating Museveni are being discussed including waging peaceful massive national demonstrations.

Some western powers have already warned Museveni not to use force against peaceful demonstrators.

We appeal to Uganda security forces that took oath to protect Uganda citizens against internal and external aggression to facilitate peaceful demonstrations should they take place.

As agreed yesterday, from now on discussions will focus on concrete actions to be taken, avoiding speeches on Uganda’s problems which are sufficiently known.

This is our moment.

Thank you for your attention.