On Sunday, December 1, 2013, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga delivered a sermon at Rubaga Cathedral in which he strongly and rightly condemned police brutality in Uganda in general, but Kampala in particular.
According to a story titled: “Police torture same as Amin’s – top cleric” published in the Daily Monitor of December 2, 2013, the archbishop lamented: “Former President Amin is always referred to as a brutal president, but what some state organs are doing now is not any better than what Amin did. President Museveni in his inauguration speech said he had brought fundamental change, not a mere change of guard but some state actors have forgotten that”.
He added: “What we are seeing on the streets is surprising. Police are beating, mistreating and humiliating people which is far from enhancing the rule of law and human rights. When we see such things, we wonder whether state organs respect human rights!”
Today marks the 28th anniversary of the NRM regime; there will be celebrations in some, but not all parts of Uganda. For the vast majority of Ugandans it’s a sad and dark day to reflect on the agony, challenges, trials and tribulations the wananchi have faced daily for the last three decades. Many Ugandans will observe it as a day of fasting or mourning.
All men and women of goodwill thank Archbishop Lwanga for his bold and timely remarks. One hopes that other senior church clerics from all denominations will sooner than later add their voice to his.
As the Scriptures teach us: “So then, the person who does not do the good he knows he should do is guilty of sin” James 4:17 (GNB).
The archbishop’s message is pertinent for all Ugandans, but especially for Uganda’s political leaders; officers, men and women of the security forces, namely the army, police and prisons. I believe the Catholic Church should consider the possibility of ex-communicating any security officer who knowingly and wilfully brutalises, tortures and kills fellow Ugandans, and obeys so-called orders from above which they know are often illegal and unlawful.
The gross violation of the God-given human rights of Ugandans, often with impunity and relish, has gone too far! It is totally unacceptable for a civilised and democratic society to put up with unprovoked harassment, torture and humiliation of innocent, unarmed and law-abiding citizens whose hard-earned taxes moreover pay for this routine abuse!
Police brutality must not be seen, tolerated and accepted by Ugandans and genuine friends of Uganda as normal modus operandi of Uganda’s security forces!
Twenty-eight years ago, in January 1986, Rubaga Cathedral was the scene of “breaking news”. Hundreds of “internally displaced people” sought refuge on the holy grounds of the cathedral, a few days before Kampala fell to the National Resistance Army.
Brig Gad Wilson Toko in his capacity as vice chairman of the Military Council and Minister of Defence visited the displaced persons; he addressed and assured them of safety and promised them welfare.
Soon after their victory on January 25, 1986, it emerged that those “displaced people” who took refuge at Rubaga Cathedral were, in fact, an advance team of the invading NRA troops who played a key and decisive role in the rapid fall of Kampala to the delight of citizens who had not known peace since the military coup of July 27, 1985, which overthrew the second UPC administration. The rest is history, as wananchi say!
I don’t know whether the authorities at Rubaga, in 1986, were aware of the true identity of the “displaced people” but what a classic irony of history it is that 28 years down the road, the people who were welcomed as heroes, liberators and revolutionaries and treated humanely with dignity by Ugandans, have made an about-turn and are now biting the hands and fingers which fed them!
After wielding absolute power for almost three decades, some of these men now believe they can fool all Ugandans all the time, for at least 50 years! The good news is that they cannot deceive God to whom all of us are ultimately accountable; whether you believe or not, God is watching!
Many Ugandans were disappointed and embarrassed, in 1986, by the enthusiasm with which Rubaga appeared to welcome the men of violence who have since come out in their true colours!
One lesson Ugandans could learn from this tragic tale is to be discerning and inquisitive about self-styled liberators and revolutionaries; stop taking politicians, pseudo-revolutionaries and liberators at face value and at their word. Too many Ugandans are gullible and tend to believe the disinformation, partial-truths and blatant lies which the corrupt and decadent regime routinely and shamelessly churns out on all manner of issues, such as the contradictory explanations about the ongoing deployment of UPDF in South Sudan. How sad it is to witness seemingly well-educated men and women who accept, defend and propagate the lies of the regime.
Three decades of corruption on a humongous scale and the gross mismanagement of the national affairs of Uganda are a sad commentary and a damning indictment on Uganda’s intelligentsia, but especially on the intellectual class which can, however, redeem itself by participating actively in efforts to put an end to our national tragedy and nightmare!
May the LORD save His people from oppression, humiliation and bondage!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. firstname.lastname@example.org