‘Museveni will go down fighting’, Gen. Otafiire warns Ugandans
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
Popularly known as Mavi ya Kuku, (chicken droppings) Uganda’s justice minister Gen. Kahinda Otafiire is a man known for saying anything that pops up in his mind.
So when over the weekend he told a gathering of his constituents from Mitooma District that the apex of the instruments of force – notably the army and the air -force would be deployed to crush the wave of opposition led by Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, few doubted him.
“I have heard all this noise about People Power; which power do you represent? We will guard this power using the Army and Air force; whoever tries to disrupt this power, you are welcome but don’t regret what will come next!
“You can attempt to remove the government through violence. I don’t say it is not possible but know that it is not easy and be prepared for the consequences,” Otafiire told the meeting which had been convened to explore strategies for the development and unity of his district.
The change of theme (from developmental issues) was not accidental. For the past one year, Museveni and the NRM have struggled to contain a new youth movement led by Bobi Wine which has trounced the ruling party in three of the five by-elections held in recent months. Bobi Wine and People Power have become such a challenge that Museveni and his minders see them in every shadow.
As a member of the NRM High Command and Central Executive Committee, Otafiire would be privy to the thinking at the highest level of ruling party. And as the man responsible for welfare of the dozens of Museveni’s illegitimate children, he would probably also know firsthand, Museveni’s increasingly diminishing options. Or the latter’s strategy for dealing with relentless opposition to his rule.
Those who know Museveni well describe him as tending towards the suicidal; and that he is irretrievably committed to violence as a means to an end.
Otafiire’s statements gained credence early this week when for the fourth consecutive night, Museveni deployed the military to Makerere University where, under the cover of darkness they unleashed untold mayhem on unarmed students.
Well past midnight on Monday, citizen journalism videos streaming out of Makerere University captured scenes of beatings and loud explosions as the army moved on the university’s halls of residence. The mayhem even spread to private hostels outside the main campus where soldiers lobbed stun grenades and teargas canisters inside the cubicles.
In multiple “uncoordinated” statements, the police have variously tried to link the students who since last Tuesday have been protesting a cumulative fifteen percent hike in the tuition fees, to the opposition.
In earlier statements last week, the police claimed the protesters were being paid by Western donors to disrupt peace and order. When that appeared not to work, they mobilized a handful of suspect figures, who claimed they had been shortchanged by some opposition politicians to cause the disturbances at the university.
On Monday, Police Spokesman Fred Enanga told the media that they were investigating some mobile money agents in town who were being used as a conduit to distribute cash to the protesters. Observers believe that Museveni has decided to project violence which is clearly out of proportion on the students, as a warning that validates Otafiire’s warning.
His gamble is that after seeing what is happening at Makerere, the wider population will be dissuaded from engaging in any form of protest or opposition to his terminally dysfunctional rule.
But there is another side to Museveni’s reliance on the army. It shows the lack of depth in his system. The armed forces are normally considered the last line of defense as the police should, under normal circumstances, respond to and contain civil disorder. But the Police has been shredded to an extent it lacks the capacity to even contain a simple student disturbance.
All that has fed into a chain of events where the army has become the battering ram in Museveni’s zero sum game to cling onto power at all costs.
But would Otafiire don combat fatigues again, when things get tougher?
Students and others are angry enough to not care any more.