Commentary

Those promoting sectarianism are enemies of our people’s security

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By Yoweri Museveni

Posted  Wednesday, July 9   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

By 1965, we had started developing grave doubts about the direction of that blind, irresponsible, opportunistic sectarian politics

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Nantabulirwa yasabala na bwabbumba: Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap.
Uganda started off her Independence, in 1962, on a very weak foundation. This was, mainly, because of bad politics pushed by opportunistic sectarian groups and manipulated by external interests. The sectarianism was based on religion, tribes and gender chauvinism. Within four years of Independence, the then Prime Minister had to abolish the 1962 Constitution because of the contradictions that were getting ever sharper. Earlier on, there had been the conflict on the “lost counties” of Bunyoro.

A lot of blood was shed in the 1966 crisis, resulting in the abolition of kingdoms. Eventually, Amin made a coup detat in 1971 and more sectarianism was generated and much more blood was shed between 1971 and 1979. The late Mwalimu Nyerere, writing about Uganda, said of that period as follows: “If the Ugandans thought they were on the frying pan under Obote, they found themselves in the fire proper under Amin”. That was the perfect description of that time.
Some of us have the advantage of having been old enough to know and understand everything that was going on and yet we were young enough to live for long after 1962 as we have done. Initially, we, as youth, belonged to those sectarian parties - I being in Democratic Party (DP) and some of my colleagues being in Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY). However, by 1965, we had started developing grave doubts about the direction of that blind, irresponsible, opportunistic sectarian politics. As students, that is how we founded the nucleus of the third force - a non-sectarian student body. That student Movement, during Amin’s time, metamorphosed into FRONASA that was part of the coalition that fought Idi Amin and, eventually, evolved into NRM. Right from the beginning, we opposed sectarianism because it run counter to the interests of the people. The core interests of the people are prosperity and security for the entire society. When we talk of prosperity and security, we mean prosperity through production, not through parasitism. When we talk of security, we mean security in pursuing one’s legitimate interests. Legitimate interests mean working, utilising our legitimately earned assets and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

There are, of course, other interests such as cultural, spiritual, etc. However, the core ones and on which all the other interests depend, are prosperity and security of person and property. Prosperity through production means producing and selling what you produce. Your allies in that battle are the people who buy what you produce. The recent insecurity in South Sudan showed the importance to producers of markets. Many businesses suffered. The insecurity in eastern Congo or Kenya usually has similar effects on the producers’ prosperity. Recently, I was in Kanungu and found there prospering farmers because there is now, again, some security in eastern Congo. Even before colonisation, there was interdependence among the tribes - as far as the forest of Congo, South Sudan and the East African Coast. It was only some of the tribal chiefs that were inconveniencing this trade as recorded by the early European travelers - John Speke and Henry Stanley.

Therefore, those who have been in the habit of pushing for sectarianism are the real enemies of not only security but also the prosperity of the African Peoples, the Ugandans inclusive. It is this firm belief of ours that propelled us to sow the mustard seed of non-sectarianism that, eventually, became the mighty tree of NRM/NRA and the present peace in the whole country. It was on account of our non-sectarianism and always working for the unity of the people that, we were able to build a very powerful force.
That force enabled us to bring democracy to Uganda as well as peace and development. We also restored the rights of the different cultural groups in Uganda, if they so wished, to restore the traditional cultural institutions or even create new ones on condition that they did not meddle in partisan politics, administration and legislation. Why did we insist on this? It was for two reasons. First, in a democracy, the population govern themselves - through elections. Yet, when you hear some of the spokesmen of the cultural institutions that we restored speaking, they speak as if it is not the people that govern themselves. Worse still, some of the cultural institutions have been actively fomenting sectarianism and tribal chauvinism - acting and talking as if the only thing that matters are certain tribes to which the respective traditional leaders belong. Yet, the NRM, the Bible and the Koran as well as common sense hold that all people are born equal and must be treated as such.

This now brings me to my two statements above - the Luganda proverb that says: “Nantabulirwa yasabaala na bwa bbumba” and the Biblical statement that “whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap”. The proverb refers to somebody who defied all the advice and decided to use a clay canoe to cross a body of water. The consequences were disastrous for him and for those who travelled with him.
Last Sunday, a group of people in the Rwenzori region carried out coordinated attacks against security forces and civilians. Altogether, they carried out 13 attacks as follows:
(i) At 3.00 pm, they attacked policemen at the weigh bridge, killed 1 policeman, injured another one and took 2 SMGs; (ii) At Bigando, a UPDF soldier that was on leave, was killed and all his family burnt in a house; (iii) In Bigando, they also killed 6 Basongora civilians; (iv) At Karugutu Police post, they injured one (1) policeman and took one (1) SMG; (v) At Kikyo Police Post, they took one SMG; (vi) At Kirumiya Police Post, they took 1 gun; (vii) At Ntandi they took 2 SMGs from Uganda Wild Life (UWA) personnel; (viii) At Kibuku, they ambushed soldiers who were taking re-enforcements to Bundibugyo, killed one of them, and took 1 SMG but 3 of the attackers were killed; (ix) In Bundibugyo town, they attacked Bundibugyo Police Station, killed the OC station and one policeman and took one SMG; (x) They attacked Stanbic Bank but three of the attackers were killed; (xi) They, then, attacked, Lakwena style, the camp of 39BN at Kanyamirima, injuring one Captain and killing one soldier but 45 of the attackers were killed and the attack was repelled; (xii) Attack on the palace of the Bamba King saw one gun being taken and one policeman being injured; and, finally, (xiii) The attack on the shrine where 2 soldiers were killed and one gun was taken.

This means 8 members of the security forces were killed and 51 attackers were also killed. This is a total of 65 Ugandans killed last Saturday by the schemes of some confused or selfish bunch of people. Fortunately, today Uganda has got a capable State that is able to deal decisively and expeditiously with such schemes although, of course, there was a failure of intelligence. However, their main effort, which was to enter the camp of 39BN was decisively defeated.

How did all this start? It started with Mr Charles Mumbere, now HH Omusinga of the Bakonjo, coming to see me some years ago. He is the son of the late Isaiah Mukirane who, together with Kawamara, the father of the new cultural leader of the Bamba and Mupalya who died recently, started the Rwenzururu Movement in 1962 against the Batooro domination. Mukirane, eventually, died and left his young son Mumbere. When Mr Mumbere came to see me, he wanted to be the King of the Rwenzururu. I told him that the Rwenzururu had been a political movement for equality. Why did he want to turn a political resistance movement into a monarchy? His group, however, kept on insisting on the issue of monarchy although there was a big group in Kasese that also opposed the idea. Eventually, in order to create harmony, we withdrew objections to Mr Mumbere becoming Omusinga especially after people like Dr Kiyonga and a large group of people who were opposed to the idea of monarchy, withdrew their objection. However, the Bamba leaders of Bundibugyo were totally opposed to the idea of the monarchy.

In agreeing to Mr Mumbere being Omusinga, we agreed that that cultural institution should operate in Kasese. Those of Bundibugyo and other areas that were interested in the Obusinga could go to Kasese. Even within Kasese, there are groups that did not support these ideas. These are the Basongora, Banyabindi and Bagabo. We encouraged HH Omusinga to have dialogue with these groups. I do not know how far that dialogue has gone. I have, however, been hearing of some chauvinistic positions from some of those who claim to be supporting Obusinga. They seem to insist that the Omusinga, apart from the Omukama of Tooro in his area, should be the only cultural leader in the Rwenzori region. Yet, there are other ethnic groups in the Rwenzori region: Bamba, Basongora, Banyabindi, etc. They have different ideas about this issue and have, in several meetings with me, made this categorically clear.

On account of those chauvinistic ideas, it seems some groups hatched this criminal scheme that has caused the death of so many people. Apart from killing 51 of the attackers, we have captured 65 others. We shall get to the truth and will punish those involved. In the meantime, the country should not get anxious about this scheme. It was defeated right on the first day of its execution. This scheme is doomed to total failure. It is amazing how wrong ideas coalesce into wrong actions. Nantabulirwa ya sabaala na bwa bbumba. Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap.
I thank you.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Gen (rtd) is the President of the Republic of Uganda.