ORGanda is experiencing its worst wave of political oppression in decades. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of supporters of parties opposed to President General Yoweri Museveni have been kidnapped, detained and tortured in recent months. Like many, I bear the scars of the baton, have felt the sting of tear gas, and have endured illegal arrests. But I know this is not personal. It’s not about me.
Many others, whose only crime is the exercise of constitutionally enshrined rights and freedoms, have been beaten, kidnapped, tortured and brought to trial. The atrocities are numerous: the unresolved carnage of the Kayunga shootings in 2009 that saw 40 deaths, the massacres in Rwenzururu where police and military killed more than 150, or the November 2020 murders in which more than 50 protesters lost their lives. Not to mention the shooting my driver, Yasin Kawuma, by police forces on August 13, 2018 at a political rally. He was only 27 years old and left a widow and children. A personal tragedy, but also one more incident in the brutal crackdown taking place against supporters of opposition parties in Uganda.
Before being a politician, he was a musician. They called me president of the African ghetto. Earlier this year I presented myself as the main opposition rival to Musevini. At 39, I hope to represent a new face for Ugandan politics that the second-youngest population in the world can leave behind. I want Uganda to enjoy the same opportunities as countries governed by more sustainable and equal democratic processes.
Many in my generation were too young, or not yet born, to understand what was happening in the early years of Musevini’s takeover of the National Resistance Army. The massive dislocation of livelihoods as a result of IMF-backed austerity measures, the state’s withdrawal from the provision of basic services, and the war between the NRA and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda brought home the glaring contradiction between Museveni’s lofty speeches. and prevailing realities. Seen through our eyes as millennials, it has been a life of broken promises, broken dreams, and dashed hopes.
This disenchantment manifests itself in the age of most of the detainees, including Kenny Kyalimpa (18), Lookman Mwijukye (20), Stanley Kafuko and Saphina Nansove (both 22), Shakira Namboozo (24), Joy Strong (25). ) and Dan. Magic (27), all of whom were repeatedly harassed and are still locked up for expressing divergent political views in recent months. And then there is my musical partner, Nubian Li, and my childhood friend Eddie Mutwe.
In this context, it is not difficult to see why each day that passes in Museveni’s office generates even more opposition to his government. Yet the system does not seem to appreciate the fact that 40 million people cannot be detained indefinitely in an airtight cage of poverty presided over by nepotist ruling elites. Suffice it to say that even if I had not personally indulged in elective politics and outright activism, other Ugandans would have emerged, as they have, to challenge years of misrule and mismanagement of our public affairs.
A reader unfamiliar with the situation in Uganda might wonder how all of the above has been possible. Years of personalized government create widespread malaise, the effect of which is that neither the judicial system, nor any other arm of the government, as it is currently constituted, can be trusted to deliver justice. The very parliament in which I sit has become powerless as a brake on executive overreach.
Court orders are ignored with dazzling speed, as civil courts are removed by general courts-martial, whose jurisdiction is the soldiers. The media are besieged, literally and figuratively, with editorial independence hampered by constant threats of suspension, revocation of broadcasting licenses, and / or prosecution. In such an environment, alternative thinking is frowned upon while dissent is criminalized. Active opposition is a cardinal sin. Laws including the Computer Misuse Act, the Public Order Management Act, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act provide legal cover for prosecuting opponents and muzzling the voices of citizens.
At the beginning of this year, bound by these circumstances, filed a presentation before the international criminal court. As signatories to various instruments, including the Rome Statute, we must uphold the values that inspired the creation of the ICC. Like citizens elsewhere who have sought justice in international courts and tribunals, our complaint seeks a measure of reparation for Ugandans whose national institutions are incapable and, in many cases, unwilling to administer justice in a fair and impartial manner. .
We have listed the myriad violations and excesses that were inflicted on Ugandans before, during and after the failed 2021 elections. Ugandan lives remain unknown after the November 2020 shootings, as do many detainees who have yet to been tried before a competent civil court. It is critical that the weight of personal responsibility be exercised in naming individual commanders and officers who have participated in crimes and atrocities against Ugandans.
It should be clear to the world that these actions do not represent the character of Ugandans. Such blatant illegality cannot be our identity as a member of the global community of states. It is in the enlightened self-interest of the international community to control the Ugandan regime due to regional security and economic implications that the current stance portends for stability and progress. The apparent stability in Uganda is cosmetic and misleading. Washington, London, Berlin and Paris should stop viewing stagnation as stability, especially when autocrats like Museveni are willing to do their bidding in regional politics.
An unstable Uganda creates a dangerous regional climate and, as such, a threat to an already precarious Great Lakes region. The contemporary history of East and Central Africa attests to this fact. The West must end duplicity and realize the threat its inaction poses to its own national interests. As Ugandans, we have spoken repeatedly, in the elections of 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2021, about the kind of leadership we want and the vision we have for our country, only to have our will subverted by the ruling junta.
If for no other reason than to bring to life the dreams of those like Yasin Kawuma, who died for democratic ideals, we are determined to carry this mission forward and bring it to its logical conclusion.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism