Is Uganda fertile ground for war?

By Vision Reporter

Legendary theoretical thinker Clausewitz, said in 1831: “War is an extension of politics by other means.”

Legendary theoretical thinker Clausewitz, said in 1831: “War is an extension of politics by other means.”
The thinker went on to explain how war beats all scientific objectiveness because its causes are sometimes very trivial.

Man has always been a war animal. The Ugandan man is no exception.

Since her independence, Uganda has been involved in more than eight wars both internal and external.

There was the 1964 war in Congo, the 1966 war in Lubiri, the 1972 attack on Mbarara by exiles, the 1978-79 removal of Amin, the 1981-86 war in Luweero, the 1986 to date war in the north and the 1996-2001 war in the west.

Worldwide, only 10 of man’s 185 recorded generations have passed without major wars. Millions of people have died in these wars and property worth billions of shillings destroyed.

Still, the war bug in the Ugandans’ minds is still alive and active. Rtd. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye last week spelt out eight causes of war. In a paper posted on the Internet, he said war is caused by quest for freedom, the fight for human dignity, the fight for justice, the need for popular sovereignty, unemployment the power driven charisma of leaders.

“All the eight conditions exist in Uganda. They are present in such a magnitude that does not only explain the presence of war in the country, but also suggests a strong likelihood of more wars,” the colonel wrote.

David Pulkol, the director of External security organisation (ESO) considers Besigye’s statement a war cry. Pulkol says that with all the avenues for peace that were availed to Besigye before he fled, it is unfortunate that he is thinking in terms of war.

“Of course, we know that he has been meeting day-in-day out with other groups to hatch plans of an attack,” he said. However, Pulkol adds that it is not too late for Besigye to seek the way of peace, rather than resort to war mongering.

Alhajji Abdul Nadduli, a veteran of the 1981 war and LC5 chairman of Luweero district does not see any need for a war as Besigye says. “He is just a disgruntled politician. Every politician who leaves power starts thinking about war. We are tired of hungry politicians,” he says. Nadduli points out that contrary to what Besigye said, there is relative freedom in Uganda today.

“There are unemployed people in the developed, there are so many disgruntled people in the developed world, but are they going to war to solve these problems?” he asks.

Nadduli points out that issues like poverty that Besigye talked about are currently dropping at a fast rate.

Betty Kamya, Reform Agenda’s spokesperson, however considers Besigye’s statement simply a wakeup call.

“Besigye just came out and pointed out the conditions that can cause war. In fact, what we should be debating now is whether these conditions are here or not,” she says.

She explains that even if Besigye was to die today, with these conditions still existent, there is bound to be a group that will start war. She points out that freedom of expression was taken away from Besigye, while election malpractices were the order of the day.

“Going to war because of election malpractices has happened before,” she said. “‘War’ is not a dirty word as the Movement clearly knows.”

Ofwono Opondo, the director of information at the movement secretariat, says: “Of the eight conditions, I will touch on three. Is democracy going down or up? We have more than 50 opposition mPs. Is that not a sign of democracy?”

Opondo points out that the poverty and unemployment that Besigye wrote about are not issues of yesterday, neither are they issues exclusive to the past 16 years the Movement has been in power. He argues that on the contrary, the Movement has done a lot to bring down the high rates of poverty in Uganda.

“In 1986, more than 65% of Ugandans lived below the poverty line. Currently, only 35% of them live below the poverty line,” he says.

Lawyer Paul Kasozi sees nothing new in Besigye’s conditions. “These conditions have been here for the last 42 years and through all these years we have been at war,” he explains. The same conditions exist in most African and third world countries, but are these countries at war? He asked. His conclusion? “Besigye simply wants to start a war, using these conditions as an excuse.
Katenda Luutu, RDC Kiboga district, says: “All the issues talked about by Besigye do not warrant war.”

“Much as he talked about unemployment, there are more employed people today than at any one time in history. We have the freedom to speak. We have the freedom to worship. We have the freedom to work. There is no reason anyone should talk about war,” he said.

Sulaiman Busulwa, a teacher, however supports Besigye. “The more you press someone to the wall, the more dangerous he is likely to become,” he says. Besigye was pressed to the wall, his freedom was taken away and I am not surprised that he is thinking of war. War is the only way he can rescue his freedom,” he says.

Nsubuga Nsambu, MP for Makindye, does not also agree with the eight conditions Besigye gave. “Most of the wars in Uganda and the world over are caused by personal differences between politicians, rather than nationally drawn conditions,” he says. “Let us say that there is poverty, lack of education, unemployment, will starting a war solve these problems?” he asks.

But Ken Lukyamuzi contends that the conditions for war are prevalent in Uganda today. “One of the reasons we have had wars in Uganda is repression from governments of the day against the opposition. As long as this continues people will go to the bush,” he says.

He also points out unpopular government policies like privatisation which have deprived many people of their jobs.

“There are so many unemployed people as a result of this process. I don’t think they can refuse to go to war if asked,” the firebrand MP says. He, however, said that he does not support war.

“Let those people who have never seen the consequences of war talk about it,” says Lt.(retired) Sam Mukasa, a Luweero war veteran.

He argues that even if the conditions for war were prevalent, war is no longer a viable way of changing governments. “War will only cause death and destruction among poor people. War will only create a cycle of revenge among Ugandans. We don’t want any more war,” he says.

The Rev. Saul Lubwama wondered: “Why didn’t Besigye write eight conditions for peace? Has he forgotten how many people were killed in the past because of senseless wars and the cost of war?”

Perhaps in advance response to Rev. Lubwama’s fears, Besigye in his statement points out: “Whereas the consequences of war are very grave indeed, it should also be clear that they only amount to a cost. If the need justifies the cost, then the cost, however high, must be paid.”

“I don’t think Ugandans will ever support any other war as they did in the ’80s. Whatever the reasons and conditions for war, the main reason as to why Uganda will never be ripe for war again is that the majority of Ugandans have tasted it and know the consequences,” says Saidi Wanume of Iganga.

But Abbey Ssali, who claimed to be a member of the opposition Uganda Youth Democrats (UYD) says: “For a
s long as there are people who don’t want to leave power, war is the likely option of chasing them away,” he said.

Asked if war can succeed, he says: “Many of us can die in the struggle, but those who will live will take this country forward. Certainly, when an opposition leader starts a war, he becomes recognised because Museveni fears wars.

Sarah Nalubwama, a newspaper vendor from Kiboga wonders why people are talking about war, as if they did not see what happened in the ’70s and ’80s.

“Do they know how far back we went because of these wars?” she asked angrily.

In Africa, war was the main option of changing governments in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. Governments that were changed through civil wars in the ’80s and early ’90s include Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra-leone, Rwanda, Chad and the central African Republic.

However, civil wars have failed to change any government in Africa in the latter part of the ’90s to today.

The only government to fall was Mobutu’s in Zaire. However, it was not entirely through a civil war, since most of the combatants came from outside.

Meanwhile, wars have stalled in Congo, Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Congo Brazzaville, mainly because they lack support from the population.

This is an indication that armed conflicts are no longer viable as agents of government change.

Perhaps, this is why out of 61 respondents asked for their views on the Besigye paper, 27 said that those conditions do not exist in the emphatic way Besigye gave them.

Twenty five said that some of the conditions exist, but are not strong enough to be used as a basis for war, while nine said all the conditions exist and can cause war.

Is Uganda fertile ground for war?