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How the Movement ended vengeful actions of winners

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Added 7th March 2016 11:32 AM

In successive governments before the Movement, one group removing another would immediately descend on the 'losers' and deny them political, economic and social space

How the Movement ended vengeful actions of winners

In successive governments before the Movement, one group removing another would immediately descend on the 'losers' and deny them political, economic and social space

By Odrek Rwabwogo

When two worlds collide, that of dictatorship and freedom, there is an explosion of energy, which, if not harnessed well, can be misused.

It is akin to a meeting of light and darkness; the former unless it is prism holds firm, can easily be blacked out by the latter. Freedom carries responsibility, as mentioned in our last installment.

It is this responsibility at an individual citizen's level that builds better citizenry for the entire nation. The freedom the Movement fought for and delivered to the country had a new twist, not common in Ugandan politics. This was the end of retributive actions taken by the winner over the loser.

Let me explain. In successive governments before the Movement, one group removing another would immediately descend on the 'losers' and deny them political, economic and social space. Many would even be killed.

As an example, by the end of 1973, 13 of the 23 Army officers abode the rank of lieutenant colonel, who were largely Langi and Acholi, had been murdered by Idi Amin. Eight of the 20 Obote I ministers, by 1972 had been murdered; four had fled into exile! 

Idi Amin moved the country from detentions that were synonymous with Obote's period, to where a state openly killed its own citizens. In this, strangely, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) remained supportive of Idi Amin and in 1975 he even became its chairman.

It was Mwalimu Nyerere who remained the lone steadfast voice against Amin. He boycotted the 1975 OAU leaders' summit in Kampala.

The Movement taught citizens, especially local leaders, to clearly establish the difference between a misleader and the misled.

This helped introduce the notion of full forgiveness which helped forge unity between former belligerent groups and the Movement. Studying Frelimo's Samora Machel, one of the architects of the Movement idea, (see installment number six) gives us an insight into this notion of full forgiveness. Samora popularised an idea he called 'Homem Novo', Portuguese for 'New Man'.

Speaking of Mozambicans who supported the Portuguese rule and reported Frelimo fighters to Portuguese intelligence agents, Samora insisted that even the most compromised 'betrayer of a revolution, needs a country to live in.'

At a time when they were proposing firing squads for people who collaborated with the Portuguese authorities, Samora said 'shooting an external man' is not helpful. 

'It is the teaching and transformation of the inside man that helps create a new man/woman which fully liberates a compromised character'.

Samora insisted that the liberation war had not been fought in order to 'swap one set of rulers for another but to free the Mozambican people from the evils that were bred by colonialism'.

It is the same approach and meaning Yoweri Museveni walked in when he made the famous January 29, 1986 speech:

"No one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard: it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country. In Africa, we have seen so many changes that change, as such, is nothing short of mere turmoil.

We have had one group getting rid of another one, only for it to turn out to be worse than the group it displaced. Please do not count us in that group of people: the National Resistance Movement is a clear-headed Movement with clear objectives and a good membership,"  he said.

In the Movement, this was called 'Siasa' or the ability to work with one's perceived and real enemies and convince them eventually of the justness and correctness of one's cause, helping them change for better.

Just before his death in 1997, Brig. Chef Ali (aka Mwiine Kanjungu) the commander of the 11th battalion in the attack on Kampala in January 1986, who went on to pacify eastern Uganda told me: "the death of Siasa is the beginning of the NRM problems. We have to always practice Siasa if we have to keep in our original direction".

He was referring to a growing lack of re-education of those who joined the Movement over the years, the poor or no teaching and practice of the Movement values to the young and the abandonment of key behavioural traits of frugality, honesty, transparency, accountability and open constructive criticism that shaped the new man/woman in the Movement.

Suffice to say that the principle of forgiveness, gave the Movement another key trait; that of a broad based approach to governing in order to heal the ethnic and Political rifts of the past.

The Movement has over the years, been able to recruit and work across generations, with different political and age groups of various ideological convictions to establish a firm base. Out of what had failed, the leadership of the Movement has been able to craft a new nation.

This base has birthed a new Uganda with less sense of the past troubles and baggage and more optimism about the future. This has helped millions of young people forge ahead building a better future than what their parents had.

Finally, the bust of freedom that comes as a result of a successful political revolution gives birth to a free media. Freedom of expression is one of the most trampled upon right in a pre-revolutionary state.

Freedom of expression embodies all forms of cultural expression including media, the arts, language and entertainment. The Movement leadership was one of the early adopters of free airwaves in Africa even at a time when the state wasn't strong enough to monitor the outcomes.

In 1993, the first private FM radio was licensed breaking decades of monopoly on broadcasting by the government. Shortly after, a proliferation of radio and television stations (Now over 318 private stations licensed - 2015 figures), news magazines and tabloids emerged.

A number of visitors to Uganda are embarrassed to find strange and uncultured titles such as Red Pepper, The Kampala Sun, Kamunye and a number of others sold openly on the street with other broadsheet quality news magazines.

The uncultured press in other countries belong to what is known as 'Gutter press' or news magazines sold only in adult sections. The explanation of this trend can only be the burst of freedom that comes after many years of forcing debate on public matters underground by both Amin and Obote governments.

You do not have to publish Munnansi (the underground 1980s DP newspaper) or commission Radio Katwe (radio rumours of the late1980s) today because you have a right to access information guaranteed by the constitution.

By opening  the market for private media without restrictions very early where other nations still had security and political concerns, the Movement confirms its pluralist credentials and its firm ideological belief in individual and community freedoms.

Even if some of these media houses have eventually become a vent of narrow interests and sometimes are used as platforms for retrogressive ideas devoid of any teaching, the Movement has held firmly to its ideological convictions about the idea of openness as a foundation for constructing a new nation.

Freedom of conscience, thought and expression are all bi-products of a successful political revolution.

Next week, we will see the conversion of a successful political revolution into a new stage for a nation; that of the Economic Revolution.

Writer is a farmer and entrepreneur

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