By Joachim Semanda
To get a good measure of the lawless and anarchic nature of President Yoweri Museveni, the best point from which to begin is the recent threat that he would do away with parliament entirely and rule without it, if it tried to stand in his way. Museveni made this threat ahead of an anticipated debate by parliament on the findings of an investigation into the torture of Ugandans. According to media reports, Museveni reacted angrily to that possibility by sending a warning, “between 1971-79 there was no parliament! Do not think you are in heaven; in fact I can do away with the parliament!”
It was then very clear that by referring to the years 1971 to 1979, Museveni was, and is, thinking of turning to Idi Amin methods to rule Uganda as a life president.
Amin is arguably the most brutal man to have ever ruled Uganda. However, recent events suggest that Museveni has clearly let loose his security forces to walk in the footsteps of those of Amin. Those old enough remember the horrors of the seventies when Amin’s military and secret police, such as the State Research Bureau (SRB), terrorized Ugandans.
In today’s Uganda, Museveni’s secret services, such as the CMI, headed by Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho, and Kaka Baguenda’s ISO are the new SRB! Operatives from these agencies are now brazenly shooting people at political events, abducting MPs and torturing them. Their MP victims are the modern-day Benedicto Kiwanukas, Archibishop Janani Luwums and Ministers Oboth Ofumbis, which means Museveni is not too far off when he says he would emulate Amin by suspending parliament.
Museveni’s admiration for Amin’s methods extends to the latter’s political methods that relied on assassination of perceived political enemies. The only difference is that Museveni is a better liar than Amin ever was. Where Museveni has mastered the art of deception, Amin was far too direct and lacked the sophistication to conceal his brutality. In other words, Museveni has copied and then bested Amin on his own methods.
What then made Museveni so angry that he threatened to trash the constitution, without turning to his usual deceptions? Why did he openly reveal the real Museveni below his usual veneer of a sophistee when in the past he preferred to rely on deception?
According to news reports, Museveni was outraged that the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga had gone ahead to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the growing instances of torture by Ugandan security services, the army and police, including brutal arrests and torture of MPs, as well as torture of Ugandan and Kenyan fishermen by the army. Ms. Kadaga demanded explanations from the UPDF and, when this was not forthcoming, suspended parliament.
In suspending parliament, Kadaga was calling Museveni’s bluff.
Ugandans on social media opined that Kadaga was touching the Leopard (Museveni’s self-description) in dangerous places. This was seen as especially dangerous considering that Museveni is currently cornered to the point where he is convinced his life is in the hands of the military; which he can’t afford to offend, lest it turn on him in the same way Robert Mugabe’s did against its master. As a result, Museveni has been going out of his way to ostentatiously appease the military, even where it would appear unnecessary for someone of his stature.
Is Museveni scared of his own army?
Scared and paranoid
“This threat to overthrow the constitution is intended to pre-empt any thoughts of overthrowing him. It is what stopped the president from travelling to New York for the UN General Assembly” according to a former public servant, before adding that, “By threatening parliament in a conflict it has with the military, Museveni is signalling his solidarity with the latter.’ Like Amin, his latter day inspiration Museveni seems determined to mow down Ugandans without anyone pestering him with questions about it.
This spiral into Amin-like behaviour that started with much of the law-enforcement operations being taken over by ISO, CMI, and, laterly the SFC, has surprised many who never thought Museveni would ever descend this low. Older people however long began to see patterns similar to the times they had lived as haunted citizens, and sounded warning bells that many dismissed. However, it is now Museveni himself who is openly boasting that as Amin used to run the country without parliament; so can he.
In his own words: “I can disband you!” “Don’t think you are in heaven!” “I can rule like in 1971 to 1979 when there was no parliament!”
In the 1970s Amin used to say that his brutality was in self-defence against imperialist interference, mainly from the British. Today, Museveni has bested Amin at the latter’s diversionary tactics; Museveni, like Amin, now says that he is forced to torture MPs, beat innocent people in the streets like cows, assassinate his perceived enemies, and threatens to outlaw parliament because of the infiltration of “a neighbouring country.” How convenient! Amin must be really proud of his protégé.