By Lwetutte Stephen.
Like it was during the peak of the excesses committed and allowed by President Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s, Uganda sadly is back in world headlines for the wrong but quite common reasons; massacres, abductions, disappearances, torture and longevity of a President in office, albeit some 50 years late.
Incumbent President Museveni, who claims to have fled President Amin’s Uganda the day after a bloodless coup d’état to oppose him, is himself at the receiving end of credible accusations of serious human rights abuses.
With volumes of alleged photographic and video evidence graphically depicting some of the most egregious abuses against presumed or real dissenting victims, it remains to be seen how Museveni’s government will wriggle out of responsibility when the moment of truth comes in fullness of time. It would appear that the long-suffering Ugandans are back full circle from where they started when Amin ascended to power in 1971.
In office since 1986 after storming to power by way of armed insurrection under the guise of liberating Ugandans, one would be forgiven for thinking that Mr Museveni is out to outdo his predecessors in terms of abuses meted out on the Ugandan people, especially those who think it is time he gave way for someone new and fresh after 35 years at the helm through a number of dubious elections, none of has never been given a clean bill of health.
Eletions have evidently been staged to satisfy the governance compliance demands by the donor community bankrolling the failing economy, in return for safeguarding their strategic geopolitical interests in the region. However, this would appear to be a tactical error on propping up an unpopular ruler instead of insisting on and investing in institutional capacity building of the state as opposed to investing in an individual.
The deliberate refusal by the Museveni government to account for its actions or omissions has emboldened it to act with unprecedented impunity for the egregious violations committed by state security agents during the electoral process leading up to and after the 14 January 2021 general elections.
In particular, hundreds of unarmed citizens engaging in peaceful protests were mowed down indiscriminately by assault rifles, an act that was promptly justified by Museveni himself without adquate investigation, not unlike his attitude after the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children were similarly executed in 2016 in Kasese, a restive region in western Uganda.
Lately, thousands of opposition supporters, particularly from the National Unity Platform (NUP) which is led by youthful artist and Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, have been disappeared. Many have been held incomunicado in ungazetted detention facilities reportedly run by the security services.
Some have been discovered abandoned on roads in near dead conditions, while the mutilated bodies of others have been discovered dumped in bushes and rotting. While the security services initially denied holding the disappeared, they were compelled to admit having them after the President contradicted them by conceding that the security services indeed held them.
This was apparently as a result of widespread national outcry that thousands of people had been abducted with no trace. The list of those held is however worryingly shorter than the number of documented disappearances!
With claims and evidence emerging that the aging President was floored at the polls and he was allegedly only announced as the winner through massive rigging, Mr Museveni plausibly did not want to leave to chance and had to swing into action to sow terror in opposition strongholds to dissuade people from going to the streets to demand for their victory.
Whether this has succeeded remains to be seen, yet Mr Museveni appears not to be deterred by the many vocal local and international calls for prompt, impartial and credible investigations into the numerous allegations of human rights abuses throughout the electoral process.
He appears only to be prepared to do as little as is sufficient to keep the financial taps flowing as doing more might serve to self incriminate. It is fair to conclude that he will do whatever it takes to prolong his longevity in power whether this means to suppress dissent more brutally, defy financiers or ignore public opinion, not exactly unlike General Idi Amin who believed in his own invincibility when the odds were decisively stacked against, before the inevitable befell him. Forceful longevity at the helm, brutality and change are empirically bedfellows!
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