By Sam Akaki
Look at the fierce fires raging in the nearby Burundi, South Sudan, and glance back at the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya to appreciate how lucky Ugandans are.
That is why we are congratulating you, all Ugandans, for achieving the unprecedented feat of conducting peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections, something that rarely, if ever happens in Africa, (US commends Uganda for peaceful elections, New Vision, February 21, 2016).
We also congratulate President Museveni for his 60.75% election victory, despite some misgivings both from the opposition and the election observers. But which election process in Uganda or anywhere in Africa has ever received a universal approval of both the losers and the election observers?
But Dr Kizza Besigye is perhaps the undisputed national hero whose 35% vote-share has saved Ugandans from the embarrassment of having a president elected by 96.12% of the registered voters.
Nothing demonstrates more graphically the squalid state of participatory politics in a country than a president winning almost all the votes cast. That means the so-called election was a state-managed Coronation in disguise, or the absence of a credible opposition candidate. Sadly, Ugandans would have been placed in that false but humiliating position, if Amama Mbabazi who won 1.4% vote-share had been the sole opposition flag-bearer.
That said, we disagree with some Ugandans who are calling for a “non-violent resistance”, which is the thin end of violence. Others are suggesting that the conduct of the 2016 elections is similar to what happened in December 1980, and that the losers in 2016 could take their grievances to the bush.
This is a monumental self-delusion because the local, regional and international conditions that enabled the NRA to launch a successful guerrilla war 35 years ago no longer exist today. The following questions are instructive:
In which district would the “Uganda Free and Fair Election Fighters” (UFFE) launch their rebellion? Not in Luwero, northern or eastern Uganda, again. The people in these regions are too busy rebuilding their shattered social and economic bases to host yet another armed rebellion. They are more likely to turn against the rebels than donate food and fighters to support the “struggle”.
How would the middle income class react to the emergence of a new armed rebellion? It speaks volumes that, unlike the chattering classes, the middle income class never take part in street demonstrations or make controversial statements in the media. They are much more likely to support the status quo in order to continue not only enlarging their properly, or ill-gotten wealth, but also giving their children best education money can buy at home and abroad.
Which neighbouring country would give the rebels a safe haven for training, receiving supplies or as a fall-back position during a counter-offensive by the UPDF? Note that the objectives of the newly formed East African Standby Force (EASF) commit all signatories to maintaining peace and security in the region.
How would the United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM), which has Uganda and the rest of the continent under a constant gaze from the air, space, land and sea respond? How many times would the rebel commanders blink before they are taken out by a drone based somewhere in east Africa, but fired from an operational centre thousands of miles away?
Would the European Union countries, that are looking after an ever-increasing number of displaced people watch idly as a new Ugandan rebel group massacres civilians and drives them to Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs)?
How would the United Nations Security Council, which now considers an armed rebellion and terrorism as two sides of the same coin respond to a new Ugandan rebel group? Note that under UN Security Council resolution 1373 of September 2001,(http://www.un.org/press/en/2001/sc7158.doc.htm) all member states are obliged to take the following actions:
“Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists;
“Criminalise the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts”.
“Deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts; ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice”.
Without the support of the USA and its NATO allies that funded and directed the Anti Gadaffi rebels in 2011, any Ugandans advocating violence is effectively sleeping-walking Ugandans into a costly but worthless adventure such as the one we have seen in South Sudan. That is why we are insisting that violent or non-violent resistance in Uganda would cost innocent lives and achieve nothing. But peaceful elections will incrementally deliver the liberal democracy that we are craving for.
The writer is a former FDC international envoy to the UK and European Union, also former independent Parliamentary Candidate in the UK, now executive director — Africa-European relations.