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Uganda must resist violence at elections

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th September 2010 03:00 AM


JANUARY 26, 1986, was a day of “firsts” for many things in my life. My first time to move out of my village, Rwanyangwe in Nyabushozi sub-county, my first time to see and touch a soldier in uniform.


JANUARY 26, 1986, was a day of “firsts” for many things in my life. My first time to move out of my village, Rwanyangwe in Nyabushozi sub-county, my first time to see and touch a soldier in uniform.

Dick Kamuganga

JANUARY 26, 1986, was a day of “firsts” for many things in my life. My first time to move out of my village, Rwanyangwe in Nyabushozi sub-county, my first time to see and touch a soldier in uniform.

My first to hear a gunshot from the celebrating triumphant National Resistance Army (NRA) soldiers, abasongambere as we used to call them in my village.

I had accompanied my mother to Kagongo Hospital in Ibanda when news of the fall of Tito Okello arrived in Ibanda town with NRA soldiers. Kampala was in the hands of the liberators, the NRA, and the triumphant mood was everywhere and with everyone, young and old.

As a 10-year-old, I remember the NRA soldiers easily mingling with the citizens and this has stuck with me to-date.

It is no surprise that the NRA, now the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) set a record as the most successful army to fight a protracted guerilla war on African soil in the entire African history.

The UPDF has been instrumental in exporting peace, security and stability to the entire Great Lakes region. Currently, it has the largest number of peacekeepers in Somalia. The UPDF remains one of the most respected institutions in Uganda now. I know some people will disagree with me but by far, the UPDF outshines many national forces in sub-Saharan Africa.

The source of legitimacy of the UPDF is the social capital the army built with the wananchi (citizens) right from the start. This constituted a fundamental departure from the oppressive forces of the previous regimes.

The army’s inclusiveness, discipline and trust made the people perceive them as protectors of the ordinary people.

As the guerilla war advanced it gave rise to a moral consensus among the people of Uganda who were tired of the panda-gari soldiers and their self-seeking political masters in the 1970s and early 1980s. As a result the NRA received massive wananchi support.

The political wing of the resistance movement constituted the chief architects of the informal, moral connections between the NRA forces and the people of Uganda.

The group was constituted essentially to oppose opportunistic, divisive, self-seeking politics that prevailed at the time. A culture of power scheming, factionalism, sectarianism and manipulation of military power which had particularly infected the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) with Obote at its helm.

The nationwide moral consensus and promise that ushered in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) on January 26, 1986 meant that the pages of Ugandan history, characterised by a culture of violence and manipulation of the masses using the national army, would be torn into pieces forever.

From the recent NRM elections, we have seen worrying signs of the past repeating itself. The violence that has marred the ruling party’s primaries have shaken our confidence. The “social capital” that took NRM and NRA five years of protracted guerilla warfare to build is on the verge of being eroded by factionalism, political manoeuvring, electoral malpractices and violence.

Several contestants were beaten up and some ended up at health centres.

There has never been a chance in Ugandan history to modernise the nation’s politics, shape a generation of new players with a culture of respect for democratic values, protection of individuals rights and accountable leadership like the one the NRM has had in the last 24 years.

The key question is, can the NRM stop the ugly repeat of the culture violence in politics characterised by individual rivalries and self-advancement at the cost of building a civil and modern nation?

Many of these politicians are mothers and fathers. What gift are they prepared to give to their children who see them involved in violent acts like kicking ballot boxes and exchanging gunfire on voting day?

We all need to behave in a civil way and know that Uganda belongs to us all so any of us has a right to be a leader.

A public policy expert based in Geneva, Switzerland

Uganda must resist violence at elections

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