Bleeding Ugandans pay the price as vintage Museveni emerges out of the woodwork
By Edith Wandera
President Museveni’s half-hearted response to evidence of widespread violence that was directed at unarmed civilians by members of the security forces reflects a deep-seated dependency on violence as tool for control. That has been glaringly evident throughout his 34 years in power.
Use of violence even subsumes a desire to project the image of the “benign experienced leader” a head of a looming election. Repression is a deliberate calculation; a mentality that the means will always justify the ends – in this case what some are calling a “Rwakitura dynasty”.
During these days of COVID-19 that the regime has handled so shoddily, Museveni has once again resorted to violence. Market women have been absolutely clobbered. Men trying to take children to hospital; doctors coming back from work; people trying to sell foodstuffs…very many people have received some serious canes from police, LDUs, and army enforcers. Even people transporting dead bodies have been hammered!
Who is responsible? “Museveni, no one else!” Museveni has come to regard the Ugandan population as the enemy throughout the decades of his rule, and will always resort to violence – even in any situation that would require more orderly ways of doing things!” said one Ddamulira of Kawempe. None of Museveni’s spin doctors – Ofwono Opondo, Don Wanyama, Tamale Mirundi, Andrew Mwenda and others – can manage to deceive the public that the forces battering Ugandans are not doing so on direct orders from Museveni!
“The chain of command goes up to State House of course,” said a Kampala scribe that preferred not to be named.
In an attempt to quell public anger in the wake of the wanton violence, Museveni was forced to deploy his “firefighter” Lt. Col Edith Nakalema allegedly to investigate incidents of violence against civilians by the armed forces. This was after images of dozens of people bearing terrible injuries inflicted on them by Museveni’s enforcers went viral on social media.
Despite Nakalema’s closeness to the fountain of power, Ugandans remain skeptical. To begin with, despite the legal and institutional options open to him, Museveni appeared uncommitted to do anything to punish the culprits. In his first reaction, he simply dismissed them as “pigs”.
When that failed, that’s when he tasked Col. Nakalema to investigate the incidents. True to her game of subterfuge, Nakalema decided to start her investigations in Elegu, in distant Amuru District more than 400km from Kampala, despite there being many victims of the state’s violence in the capital. While in Elegu, Nakalema rounded up some suspects that were handed over to the military for a court-martial whose decisions are bound to be suspect.
Cases in Kampala where residents were attacked in their homes and even pregnant women not spared the wrath of blood hungry security operatives were ignored. So were incidents in Jinja just 90 km east of Kampala where no less a person than the RDC, basically Museveni’s representative, was implicated in targeting some individuals because they aren’t NRM supporters.
The injuries on most of the victims show that they were attacked by more than one person. In effect, the LDU’s were behaving like a mob that converges on a single victim until that person is almost killed. In all instances, victims were accused of “not respecting the president’s orders”.
Observers are not surprised by this turn of events. Besides Museveni’s orders that have created a situation where even medics that respond to medical emergencies without written sanction are actually in breach of his mostly incomprehensible orders, Museveni has never renounced violence. It is a common theme in his language especially when he is responding to even legitimate questions about his use of power.
The president has always seen violence as a tool of convenience in advancing his ambitions. Throughout his three and a half decades rule he has used the threat of extreme violence to intimidate Ugandans into either living on his terms, or they face his wrath.
To ensure this is not just an empty threat, he has socialized all the instruments of force into ruthless gangs that are devoid of any of the ethos of their professional calling. Just as a fallback position, in case the regular forces balk at his grisly commands, he has taken precaution of creating regiments of common thugs that he has dressed in uniform and armed.
The LDUs are just rag-tag gangs that know nothing about professionalism or discipline in enforcing the law. They are like out of control gangs, selected from elements of the Kampala criminal underworld that used to run the errands of rogue police officers. Although Museveni locked up some of these officers after he feared they were becoming too powerful for him two years ago, their henchmen were too prized to be let go.
These LDU’s are convenient because their motivation goes beyond their assignment.
Barely educated and not trained beyond pulling the trigger and lashing out at perceived Museveni opponents, they already suffer from social envy which drives them to want to settle a score with anyone seen as educationally or socially superior to them.
With a very contentious election just months away, the present circumstances in which he has to enforce a lockdown have given Museveni an opportunity to cow the nation into submission by giving them “a dose” of the kind of violence they will face. While the present display of violence is likely to alienate voters even further and attract international criticism, Museveni does not have much of a choice however.
Having long lost legitimacy, applying fear is the only way he can retain power.