Sunday January 14 2018

What if the 317 MPs undid intentions of freedom fighters that stormed Kabamba?


By Victoria Nyeko

Recently on December 20, 2017, an overwhelming number of 317 Ugandan Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour of amending the 1995 Constitution through Article 102(b) enabling removal of the presidential age limit.

Initially Article 102(b) barred individuals aged 35 years and below or 75 and above from contesting for president. Article 102(b) was amended by Parliament and soon after signed into law by President Parliament on December 27.

The 317 MPs who played a significant role would later be compared to the 40 freedom fighters armed with 27 guns that attacked Kabamba Barracks in Mubende District on February 6, 1981.

It was understood and accepted by Ugandans that the trauma caused was the price paid for democracy, end of intimidation, violence and the disappearance of Ugandans who were forcefully taken, driven to unknown locations, never again seen by their traumatised families.

The manner of voting on the age limit Bill itself would have seemed normal to most people except for the traumatising events surrounding the constitutional amendment Bill. Marred with intimidation, fist fights and violence not previously seen in our Parliament, the shocking and new dimension of unidentified assailants that invaded Parliament on the September 27, 2017, left incriminating evidence of life threatening injuries to some members of the Opposition.

Many people were convinced that this was the return to a dark horrific time in our history when violent regimes caused injury to innocent Ugandans with arrogance and impunity. The act of MPs fist fighting each other without outsiders in Parliament is nothing new, since it has happened before in different parliaments around the world.
In August 2007, in the Bolivian parliament, fist fights erupted between MPs over a debate on whether or not to put corrupt judges on trail. In 2010, Nigerian parliamentarians fought over the allegations that their speaker was corrupt.

In February 2017 in the South African parliament, a simple presidential key-note session spiralled into fist fights after Economic Freedom Fighters questioned president Jacob Zuma over his involvement in multiple financial scandals.

The act of violence in any form by individuals, economic or revolutionary freedom fighters using fists, guns or technological advanced weapons is always traumatising, not only to the victims but also witness as was the case on September 27.

The word trauma was believed to have originated from the Greek word “traumatizen”, which means to wound. According to the Oxford dictionary, being traumatised is described as being subjected to shock as a result of a disturbing experience or physical injury.

Therefore, medically, trauma is understood when explained as though someone was removing an old dressing or bandage from a painful wound, a warning of being careful not to traumatise the newly forming healing tissue, thereby causing further harm to the injury would be appropriate. Many Ugandans were deeply traumatised by the violence seen in Parliament associated with the removal of the age limit.

It was as though a bandage had been brutally ripped off a healing wound representing strong painful memories of brutal previous regimes that has not yet healed in the hearts and minds of many Ugandans.

It would seem 31 years on the violence in Parliament almost threatened to undo the heroic efforts and brave intentions of 40 freedom fighters armed with just 27 guns, hauled up in a lorry driven by Lutaaya waiting to attack Kabamba Barracks with the fragile hope of ending undemocratic rule, brutal violent attacks with impunity and arrogance against Ugandans.

Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.